National University of Singapore: TMSI Research Associate Mr Koay Teong Beng showing off the NUSwan's sensor

Singapore to Track Water Pollution with Robotic S.W.A.N.s

  • 31 January 2018
  • Sam Mire

When designing their Smart Water Assessment Network (SWAN), the National University of Singapore and the Singaporean government apparently made the decision to marry the design of their water pollution-gauging robots and their acronym as literally as possible. When designing the body of the SWAN, the robotic engineers and designers naturally made the decision to go with an actual swan as inspiration.

The NUS Environmental Research Institute and Tropical Marine Science Institute researchers had to come up with a robot intelligent enough to carry out the desired toxicity-tracing functions while remaining aesthetically suited to Singapore’s urban environment. The SWAN fits both of those needs perfectly.

After testing the swan-bots in 2016, the fleet is ready for full-time deployment in five reservoirs across Singapore. Singapore’s history with water shortages has led it to innovative water conservation techniques as it has developed a reputation as one of the fastest growing wealth hubs in the world. It is also one of the cleanest and greenest cities on the planet. Singaporeans are so advanced in their cleanliness, in fact, that their toilet-to-tap water system seems to be actually trusted by its people, and that is saying something.

This reliable toilet-to-tap system illustrates the tiny Asian Pacific nation’s dedication to water conservation, and the Smart Water Assessment Network is yet another step in ensuring that Singapore’s people don’t overly pollute what water it does have access to. The nation also recently announced the earmarking of an additional $22.68 million for water treatment-related tech.

The network of robotic swans will replace the jobs traditionally done by humans in boats, conserving both time and money as a result. Though the swans are autonomous and aimed at minimizing oversight to the greatest extent possible, human pilots will also have the power of directing their movements.

Characteristics such as pH, turbidity, dissolved oxygen, and chlorophyll levels will be measured by the swan-bots, with the data being wirelessly uploaded to the cloud and analyzed in real-time. These aren’t your grandfather’s swans.

The newer Marina, Punggol, and Serangoon reservoirs, along with the older Pandan and Kranji reservoirs will employ the services of five swans initially. The project will be overseen by the National Water Agency, and there is no word on whether more swans will eventually be deployed to provide a greater set of data. For now, the swans will operate specifically in certain areas of interest.

Combined with real data delivery, the NUSwan potentially serves a wide range of applications, such as water body surveillance, autonomous spot water sampling, and pollutant tracking, and has the potential to be integrated as part of early warning and decision support systems, the Public Utilities Board said on its website.

About Sam Mire

Sam is a Market Research Analyst at Disruptor Daily. He's a trained journalist with experience in the field of disruptive technology. He’s versed in the impact that blockchain technology is having on industries of today, from healthcare to cannabis. He’s written extensively on the individuals and companies shaping the future of tech, working directly with many of them to advance their vision. Sam is known for writing work that brings value to industry professionals and the generally curious – as well as an occasional smile to the face.