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Driving automation in and beyond healthcare

As a smart hospital, Changi General Hospital (CGH) invests in innovation, automation and robotics to complement our care team in clinical care and operations.

With data exchanges between robots and lifts through the Robotics Middleware for Healthcare standardised by the TR93, robots can navigate autonomously and deconflict their routes with other robots to execute their individual tasks in a coordinated manner.

As Temi-Bot, a telepresence robot, approaches a lift lobby, it pauses and allows its fellow robot of another make, Missy-Bot, to exit the lift before entering itself. These robots are able to communicate with one another and synchronise their movements seamlessly by leveraging a technological advancement known as Robotic Middleware for Healthcare (RoMi-H). A world’s first, RoMi-H was developed by the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technologies team (CHART) at CGH, in partnership with the Ministry of Health, engineering firm HOPE Technik, Open Source Robotics, Integrated Health Information Systems, and the National Robotics Programme.

The innovative RoMi-H interface enables robots to navigate autonomously in human-rich environments, communicate with one another through common data exchanges, proactively and independently de-conflict their navigation routes with robots of different makes across narrow common pathways, and execute their individual tasks in a coordinated manner. This also allows for a universal charging system and fleet management to be developed so that the different robots can be more efficiently managed.

RoMi-H has been successfully test-bedded for deployment at public sector hospitals and at COVID-19 Treatment Facilities to augment operations and care. This has opened up endless possibilities to scale up RoMi-H in settings outside of healthcare. CGH Chief Executive Officer Prof Ng Wai Hoe says, “We are excited that RoMi-H — which first started as a solution for healthcare — can now be integrated with smart infrastructure, potentially accelerating the scaling up of automation and robotics technologies in Singapore and the world.”

Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies Mr Heng Swee Keat taps on Temi-Bot to activate its ‘follow-me’ function.

Rules for robots

To guide robot manufacturers and building owners in deploying multiple robots in smart buildings, and accelerate the take-up of robotics technologies in multi-storey buildings, CGH’s CHART and local engineering firm HOPE Technik spearheaded the development of the Technical Reference 93 (TR93) with support from the National Robotics Programme and Enterprise Singapore.

The TR93 sets the standard for the architecture, communications and data exchanges between robots and lifts, and between robots and automated doorways, regardless of the model of the automated door system, lift and robot. These standards allow for the safe, efficient and integrated deployment of robots in healthcare settings and beyond.

Capitalising on collaborations

To create co-innovation and deployment opportunities to drive discovery, adaptation and adoption of smart city solutions — as well as develop community health and wellness initiatives — CGH and CapitaLand Investment Limited (CLI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) in May 2022.

Prof Ng Wai Hoe, Chief Executive Officer, CGH (second from right); and Mr Aylwin Tan, Chief Customer Solutions Officer, CapitaLand Investment (second from left); together with Advisers to East Coast GRC, Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies (centre); Mr Tan Kiat How, Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Communications and Information & Ministry of National Development (far right); and Ms Jessica Tan, Deputy Speaker of Parliament (far left); at the launch of the cross-industry collaborations to advance the integration of robotics in buildings.

Through this partnership, innovations are expected to overcome common challenges, increase productivity and help the industry, including small and medium-sized enterprises (SME), to grow.

The launch of these cross-industry collaborations was witnessed by Guest-of-Honour Mr Heng Swee Keat, Deputy Prime Minister and Coordinating Minister for Economic Policies, Chairman of the National Research Foundation and Adviser to East Coast Group Representation Constituency (GRC) at Heartbeat @ Bedok. CGH, CLI and KONE are also collaborating to test-bed the integration of multifunctional robots, lifts and building infrastructure with local and international industry players.

Driving automation in and beyond healthcare