Nanyang Polytechnic collaborates with Microsoft to open Centre for Applied AI to help SMEs experiment, conceptualise and deploy artificial intelligence solutions

 |   Singapore News Center

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The collaboration will drive AI adoption through hands-on learning and real-world AI experiences

SINGAPORE, 14 June 2022 – Nanyang Polytechnic (NYP) recently collaborated with Microsoft to open the Centre for Applied AI (C4AI) to empower small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) with the platform, tools, and expertise to drive AI adoption, as they embark on their digitalisation journey. Supported by SkillsFuture Singapore (SSG), the collaboration will also nurture AI talent for the workforce through co-certification of full-time diploma courses with NYP for a resilient, digitally inclusive Singapore. C4AI will offer SMEs the opportunity to experiment, conceptualise and deploy Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions, as well as learn from similar AI adoption from other local SMEs in a range of sectors including manufacturing, urban farming, logistics and retail.

AI gives computer systems the ability to mimic human intelligence and perform tasks at accelerated rates based on the information collected using math and logic. In the age of rapid digitalisation with global revenues for the AI market expected to cross the USD$500 billion mark by 2024[1], C4AI plays an important role in realising Singapore’s Smart Nation goals. At C4AI, NYP learners are trained to curate plug-and-play AI solutions on Microsoft Cloud that SMEs can use responsibly and safely. By embracing tech intensity through AI, SMEs can increase efficiency and productivity by reducing repetitive and labour-intensive tasks. Learners are also equipped with the latest AI skills, to become enablers of AI adoption in Singapore.

NYP will work closely with SMEs to identify their business needs before recommending ready-to-use AI solutions and developing a roadmap for effective AI implementation through Microsoft Cloud solutions including the Microsoft Azure Kubernetes Service, Azure Container Registry, Azure virtual machines and Microsoft Power BI. NYP will also help companies to develop workplace learning practices for AI and train staff to adopt AI solutions sustainably to improve their operations. At C4AI, NYP will also work closely with other AI solution providers such as Tiger Analytics, YITU, and Senquire when needed, to accelerate the AI adoption for SMEs. Supported by SSG, C4AI will also conduct relevant training or workshops to help SMEs better identify, analyse, and adopt relevant AI solutions in their digital transformation journeys. The Centre is an example of how market leaders or SkillsFuture Queen Bee enterprises can work with Institutes of Higher Learning to develop AI-related skills and capabilities for individuals and companies, particularly SMEs.

NovaGlobal, a SME that provides AI, High Performance Computing (HPC), and Microsoft Cloud solutions to companies, is one of the early adopters tapping on C4AI’s expertise. In collaboration with NovaGlobal, NYP developed the XpanAI Platform, which curates all relevant AI resources – including software, data, and tools – to accelerate the workflow used to develop an AI application. This solution has made it easier and faster for aspiring SMEs to develop their own AI application. Fully integrated with Microsoft Azure, XpanAI works for the development of any type of AI applications across industries – from designing conversational AI chatbots to manage customer queries in the retail and F&B industry, to developing credit risk models that can help SMEs with limited resources and expertise minimise cash flow disruptions.

Shoppers who prefer fully stocked shelves will also benefit from C4AI’s solutions. C4AI developed an AI-driven smart shelf and store management system in collaboration with OMRON, SKALE, and ACCSS Digital for the retail industry. One of the key features of this use case is an auto-stocking AI robot, which identifies items that are running low in the store and determines the right time for a restock. This has helped retailers with sales maximisation and happy customers.

Retailers can also customise AI solutions to further enhance the robot. Through a virtual assistant feature, the robot can offer personalised instant recommendations to customers based on their purchase history. The robot is also able to showcase the complete collection of items available for purchase, including bulky items that are unavailable for viewing in-store due to space constraints. With diverse technology partners and interest from companies such as Pet Lovers Centre, shoppers may soon enjoy a whole new shopping experience.

Mushroom World, a local SME with commercial farms in the region is also working with C4AI to curate AI solutions to enhance food production processes via smart farming. Currently, in the conceptualisation phase, the AI solution will leverage the Internet of Things (IoT) and Azure platform to monitor the growth of mushrooms and trigger harvesting when ready, to enhance the growth cycle of mushrooms in a controlled environment.

The C4AI solutions are also a boon for manufacturers, especially those involved in Computer Numerical Controlled (CNC) machining – a process involving the use of computers to control machining tools. Coolants are one of the most important components of CNC machining as they prevent overheating and help extend a machine’s lifespan. As such, it is important to accurately monitor the coolant conditions such as concentration levels, acidity and temperature to ensure they are not higher than the recommended levels. To help manufacturers such as the RLC Group (Singapore) Pte Ltd – a manufacturer of components for the aerospace industry – better monitor the coolant conditions of the CNC machines, NYP developed an AI dashboard powered by Power BI and Azure. Instead of having to manually analyse data of the different parameters of the coolant, the AI dashboard analyses all the information automatically and presents the data in a user-friendly manner for manufacturers to accurately determine the conditions of the coolant in the manufacturing process and perform quick intervention if necessary.

In addition to having the opportunity to work on industry collaboration projects at C4AI, NYP students will also hone their skills by participating in projects led by AI Singapore, a national programme dedicated to building Singapore’s AI capabilities.

NYP will work with Microsoft to develop and nurture future AI talent, drive innovative AI solutions for real-world problems, and enable more companies to incorporate and adopt AI solutions into their current business practices as they embrace tech intensity for a resilient, digitally inclusive Singapore.

Through integrating skills into the curriculum, students enrolling in the two courses at NYP – the Diploma in Applied AI & Analytics (previously known as the Diploma in Business Intelligence & Analytics) and the Diploma in AI and Data Engineering – will receive the Microsoft Certificate in Visual Analytics and Azure AI Fundamentals certification upon completion of the pre-requisites in their diplomas. Both diplomas will be taught under the new NYP Professional Competency Model (NYP-PCM), which structures the diploma course based on workplace competencies instead of subject lines. The Diploma in AI and Data Engineering is also the first engineering diploma in Singapore to integrate the development of engineering, AI, and data skills holistically. The co-certifications are a testament to NYP students’ future-ready skills in the AI field, giving them an edge over their peers.

Principal & CEO of NYP, Ms Jeanne Liew, said: “The last two years have delivered various shocks to many industries, hastening the need to constantly innovate and enhance their operations to remain competitive. The Centre for Applied AI will be a key resource centre for companies to leverage expertise from both NYP and Microsoft as they learn, curate, and adopt AI to boost productivity and capabilities in a sustainable manner. The co-certifications from Microsoft and the hands-on experiences for our students here will also equip them with future-ready AI skills to support industry needs.”

Lum Seow Khun, Director, Public Sector Group, Microsoft Singapore added, “We are committed to building a resilient, and digitally inclusive Singapore, and are grateful for the opportunity to work with NYP and SSG as our nation continues on its digital transformation journey. Through deep robust ecosystem collaborations with institutes of higher learning and the public sector, we are best placed to drive innovation, improve productivity, create economic value, and contribute to our society as we empower every person and organization to achieve more.”