SATS Ltd - SATS Technology Innovation Centre

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Name of Organization / Company: SATS Ltd, Singapore
Category: N01 - N02 - Award for Innovation in Technology > N01. Award for the Innovation in Technology Development > Other Service Industries

Entry Title: SATS Technology Innovation Centre


The SATS Technology Innovation Centre (TechnIC@SATS) was set up in early 2015 to trial and implement new technologies for SATS Ltd, a leading provider of Food Solutions and Gateway Services with over 70 years of experience. The current team is 10-strong and supports the entire group in technology innovation initiatives. There is no physical centre/lab to test out these new technologies as we believe in trialling them in the live operational environment.

The charter of the team was to
1) Track and understand technology trends to better plan technology roadmap for SATS
2) Trial and/or integrate existing and future technology solutions to create new solutions for SATS
3) Build up a war chest of inventions and patents of technology solutions developed and deployed in SATS

The team aimed to do so by focusing on non-tried and tested technologies, or technologies which had not yet been proven in the industry. We did so by conducting proof-of-concepts or conducting a call-for-collaboration to the industry.

This approach was new to SATS, and required new process and governance structures to be established.

At the onset, the team identified key technology areas to focus on based on the needs of the businesses. These include autonomous vehicles/robots, Internet of Things (IoT) and data analytics. Over time, there were changes made to this as technologies matured and businesses evolved. Technologies such as augmented reality and virtual reality became key focus areas as well.

Many of the projects required collaboration with these partners to co-develop a solution which was not yet available in the market. The collaborations over the last 3 years have resulted in many new solutions being trialled in the live operations environment, including in Changi Airport. There were several first-in-the-world solutions which were also developed as part of these collaborations.

One of the more successful projects that resulted from a Call-for-Collaboration for Autonomous Vehicles/Robots was the development of a follow-me wheelchair convoy system, where a staff would be able to lead a convoy of three wheelchairs with passengers. This will allow us to increase productivity by allowing one staff to handle more than one passenger who require special assistance, while maintaining the same personal touch that SATS is renowned for. The project culminated with trials with actual passengers from selected flights and it was very satisfying to get 100% positive feedback from them on the concept and technology. The team is now planning for operationalisation of the prototype, so that more passengers will be able to experience this first-in-the world concept.

In December 2016, SATS was also the first in the world to use smartwatches for airport operations. All 140 Technical Ramp Services staff were issued smartwatches so that they could receive real-time flight information and updated work assignments. Paired with a bone conduction headset that is integrated into their safety helmets, staff were able to receive and make hands-free calls while on the move.

In September 2017, SATS also became the first in the world to use smartglasses for airport ramp operations. The existing paper-based loading plan was digitised and displayed on the screen of the smartglass which allowed staff to refer to the plan easily while carrying out the operations. By scanning visual markers on the cargo units, augmented reality overlays would indicate information specific to the unit, and guide the staff into loading it into the correct sequence. The video streams captured from the cameras of the smartglasses were also streamed back to the operations control centre, allowing better operational visibility. Through the introduction of the smart glasses, aircraft loading time were expected to be reduced by up to 15 minutes, a 25% improvement.

TechnIC@SATS is still growing to support SATS digital transformation efforts and we expect more innovative solutions to be developed in the coming years.