Systems Engineer, GovTech
Joined in 2018
A worthwhile endeavour
Teo Si-Yan, a Systems Engineer at GovTech, chose to embark on a career in software engineering because she likes how programming is a very logical activity.
“You’re writing out exactly what the computer should do, and if you write code that is correct, it will always run correctly,” she explains. “If it doesn’t (a bug!), it means there is something in the code that requires correction.”
At the same time, the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD) graduate had a desire to do something that feels meaningful. This led her to join GovTech’s Sensors and Internet of Things (SIOT) team.
She says: “Our projects either directly help citizens or businesses, or they enable other Government agencies to carry out their operations more effectively using technology, which helps citizens and businesses in the long run.”
One such project is the TraceTogether Token. Si-Yan explains that in 2020, in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, GovTech developed the TraceTogether mobile application for automated contact tracing. To cater to non-tech-savvy users, her team developed the keychain-sized device as an easy-to-use alternative to the mobile app. The Tokens were first distributed out to senior citizens, and subsequently offered to all Singapore residents.
Si-Yan maintains the back-end software for the TraceTogether Token. Despite the busy periods and many challenges along the way, the project also had its highlights. In late 2020, the Singapore Tourism Board was studying the possibility of allowing cruises in Singapore amid the pandemic and a few engineers in Si-Yan’s team were invited to be on a pilot cruise.
“We were tasked to carry out tests to determine if TraceTogether’s BlueTooth proximity sensing still worked effectively in a large metal ship,” she recounts. The team enjoyed the cruise, the tests showed that TraceTogether was still effective in a ship, and eventually cruises to nowhere were allowed to carry on in Singapore.
Helping seniors stay independent
Another notable endeavour she worked on is the Personal Alert Button project. For this project, physical SOS buttons are installed in the homes of seniors who live in Housing and Development Board (HDB) rental flats.
Si-Yan says that these elderly residents may not be tech savvy or have close family members living with them. In the event of medical or other emergencies, it may be difficult for them to get help. The Personal Alert Button addresses this challenge: Elderly residents just need to press the alert button and verbally explain the situation. An operator will provide the necessary assistance, such as calling for an ambulance.
And it was during the user research phase when she picked up on a challenge these seniors face: Many of them do not speak or understand English well, and some use dialects as their main language.
To address this, her team made each button’s language customisable to the resident’s preferred language. Subsequently, when a senior presses the button for help, it will play instructions in that language.
“The whole system is not super fancy or high tech, but it is cost-effective and works well in helping ensure seniors living alone can remain safe and independent,” Si-Yan says.
“Knowing this keeps me motivated to do my job well!”