Singapore, like many other nations around the world, is concerned about rising threat  levels facing its citizens from terrorism, cyberattacks and other forms of potential harm.  In response,  the Singapore  government has set aside huge amounts for security (up to 30% of GDP by one estimate) allocated to cover everything from cyber-attacks to physical security. 

There are multiple ways to prepare for possible attacks and threats.  A typical example is to carry out detailed table-top exercises to explore and plan for different emergency scenarios.  

These exercises bring together multiple agencies – from building owners and their security team to the police to emergency teams and to the nation’s military forces – to work through potential security situations and crises and work out how they should most effectively respond. For instance, the planning may focus on a specific group or individual in a given context – a lone gunman, knife attacker or an organised terrorist group –  and allocate roles to see how the different forces and agencies would act in that scenario. The challenge with exercises like these? They take months to plan and require substantial resources to stage.  

So we asked ourselves a question: could technology help to reduce the complexity and cost of running security planning scenarios? To find out, we collaborated with a large organisation that runs a multi-user facility comprising many different buildings. They wanted us to help them understand how they should plan for and respond to a diverse range of potential security incidents, ranging from a fire to a terrorist attack. How, in the event of any number of different security issues, could they minimise casualties and evacuate their buildings most effectively?   

We created a solution  - Code X -  to simulate complex environments. Its aim is to enable planners to understand how to most effectively protect a diverse and transient population that may be in the buildings at any one time. What’s more, people respond very differently in response to an emergency as the ‘fight or flight’ instinct takes hold – so accounting for different types of behaviour as well as people’s relative mobility is also extremely important. 

There are a huge number of variables to factor into any given scenario. To address those we created a highly complex simulation logic that mimics the vast number of permutations for any event. And by running and comparing multiple different variations of the same scenario, it’s possible to identify those that result in, for example, the lowest casualty rates or the fastest evacuation times. We took the same approach that informs traditional table-top exercises, put AI behind it and then ran thousands and thousands of variations from which optimal response strategies for a specific type of security incident were deduced.   

Our solution is applicable to any number of other public situations where large, diverse groups of people are gathered  - from airports and other transportation hubs to shopping centres. What’s more, by linking the solution to other technologies such as CCTV it will become possible to provide real-time feedback and responses to emergency situations.  

As governments around the world focus on keeping their citizens safe, the ability to plan for all the different potential threats they face will become increasingly critical. Code X points the way to the use of new technology to help planners explore infinite possibilities – and maximise their ability to ensure citizen safety and protect critical infrastructure.   

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For more insights on new technologies to combat threats, visit the Innovation Centre for Situational Awareness in Singapore.

Wu Chun Wei

Managing Director – Technology, Health & Public Service Delivery Lead, Southeast Asia

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