Singapore: NTU to invest $5.7m in Big Data, AI lab

Visual from NTU Facebook page.

Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is investing S$8 million ($5.7 million) in a new research centre focused on big data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI).

The new centre, called Data Science & Artificial Intelligence Research Centre (DSAIR), will have 60 scientists and researchers and will be jointly headed by Prof Chee Yeow Meng, Chair of NTU’s School of Physical and Mathematical Sciences, and Professor Ong Yew Soon, Chair of NTU’s School of Computer Science and Engineering.

The new research centre already boasts of partnerships with top international firms including PayPal, a global leader in digital payments, and NVIDIA, the AI computing company that redefined modern computer graphics and revolutionised parallel computing.

In the emerging area of financial technology or fintech, NTU students will work closely with PayPal on research topics to not only strengthen the existing tools in the financial industry but also create and enable the next generation of payment systems. These research areas include applying new data science and AI techniques to improve customer service experience; mining network effects; performing implicit authentication; assessing credit risk; as well as improving prediction of fraudulent behaviour.

The centre has also acquired two state-of-the-art DGX-1 systems from NVIDIA. The DGX-1, the company’s most advanced computing system for deep learning, is expected to help NTU scientists develop large-scale and complex solutions for problems not efficiently solved by conventional computing systems.

Among the projects NTU researchers have with NVIDIA is the development of a deep learning model that helps developers find software bugs and vulnerabilities in complex computing systems, so as to ensure the quality and security of their software.

In addition, DSAIR will also have a KunLun server, unveiled last year by Huawei as the world’s first 32-socket x86 mission critical server, an ultrafast and reliable computer system that can house up to 32 CPUs (Central Processing Units).

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Future impact

NTU President Professor Bertil Andersson said the new centre will combine NTU’s deep expertise in AI and machine learning with big data analytics to pioneer new technologies for key sectors of the Singapore economy.

“NTU is at the forefront of AI algorithms and data analytics, having developed pioneering technologies in advanced supercomputing datacentres and complex decision-making algorithms to aid business processes,” Prof Andersson added.

“With the new NTU research centre, we aim to push the field even further by developing innovations in the way we collect, analyse and utilise the massive amounts of information available today, as big data will form a crucial part of Singapore’s Smart Nation infrastructure.”

Those without knowledge of computer programming could soon design their own games and applications using a new edutainment software, an advanced AI named IntelliK being developed by a team of researchers led by Ong.

As users input their ideas using a simple drag-and-drop graphical interface, an automatic coding module will work in the background to enable AI features. Such software permits laypeople without specialist knowledge to develop sophisticated games, including those with characters or avatars that have their own set of unique behaviours, without doing any complex coding.

This can significantly reduce both the cost and time needed for game developments, which is a key research focus at DSAIR.

The new centre is also working on several innovative projects. One project involves new crowd-sensing technologies using light emitting diodes (LEDs). With LEDs becoming the top choice for energy-saving lighting, it can potentially be used to detect the number of occupants in a current location or the number of cars travelling on the roads.

With the information, smart control systems will be able to adjust the lights and air-conditioning of a room based on its current usage or adjust traffic lights on the basis of traffic density.

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