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There was one match at the 2015 Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in Singapore that spectators never got to see. While athletes were competing at the stadiums, elsewhere, a team of info communication technology (ICT) experts had their eyes fixed on a sudden spike in internet traffic from overseas, and taking positions to defend the Games’ system from any possible trespassers.  

One of the key defenders was Sport Singapore senior technical consultant Jasmine Chan. She is one of the 30-odd staff from the Government Technology Agency (GovTech) seconded to the statutory board to enhance and oversee its ICT infrastructure. Set up last year, GovTech is tasked to use technology to transform the public sector and support Singapore’s push to become a Smart Nation. 

when sports meets tech 1

(Jasmine Chan, Sport Singapore Senior Technical Consultant) 

For Jasmine, this means blending technology with sports so that Singaporeans can be more active. During the SEA Games, she helped secure a massive ICT system that touched every aspect of the sports meet. Spectators were being kept on the edge of their seats thanks to the real-time scoreboards that were used at the competitions. From basketball rings to fencing vests, Jasmine was in charge of securing the systems that linked the built-in sensors with the scoreboards, so that they refreshed themselves automatically the moment someone scored. The scoreboards were also connected to the Games’ website so that people around the world could receive real-time updates too.

But such technology can fall prey to mischief, so as a precaution, Jasmine “ring-fenced” the scoreboards’ networks. “It’s like someone turning off your lights when you are shampooing,” she explains. “It’s a nuisance to you as a malfunctioning scoreboard is to athletes in a game.”

score board

(Scoreboards with built-in sensors, 28th SEA Games)

With her slender frame and long hair, Jasmine is not someone you imagine to be talking about cyber security and ICT, particularly in a male-dominated tech industry. But as a teenager, she enjoyed coding and gaming so much that she decided to study computer science at the National University of Singapore. Over the last two decades, she learnt to secure computer systems and manage ICT infrastructure on the job. Of her 10 years in the public service, she has spent four at Sport Singapore.

What stands out about this mother of a seven-year-old is her curiosity about everything ICT—including areas outside her scope of work. Jasmine knowingly shopped at a website that was prone to credit card frauds, just to experience first-hand how hackers could bypass her bank’s One-Time Password (OTP) system and charge her credit card multiple times for the same purchase. “I wanted to know who’s protecting the consumers as the last line of defence,” she says. Singapore’s strong legal system and banking protocol, she found out, could undo those fraudulent transactions.

This interest in user experience has come in handy when Sport Singapore first automated the ticketing system of swimming complexes. At first, Jasmine and her team issued a pin number for users, but many people either forgot or entered it wrongly, holding up the line at the entrances. Her team tried issuing QR codes instead, but not everyone knew where the code was saved on their phone. To simplify the process even further, they allowed access via one’s identification card (IC), but kept the QR code option, because they realised that younger Singaporeans carry their phones instead of their ICs when they exercise.  

These early efforts in using technology to make sports more accessible have culminated in ActiveSG, an app that allows Singaporeans to book and pay online for the facilities at the various Sports Centres island-wide. Working behind-the-scenes to keep this system running smoothly, part of Jasmine’s job has been to regularly “upsize” the system to cope with the growing number of users—from 200,000 in 2014 to 1.2 million today—while at the same time, rolling out compatible versions whenever new phone operating systems are released in the market.

As these platforms gather users’ information, it is also the responsibility of Jasmine’s team to keep them secure. Oftentimes, Jasmine receives calls in the middle of the night to handle suspected compromises—and she is expected to fix things immediately. “You recover the system as quickly as you can because you don’t want the hackers going around bragging about their attacks,” she explains.

While the demands of her job are taxing, Jasmine remains motivated by her sector’s constant move towards new possibilities. Her team is now exploring the possibility of a 24-hour public gym “manned” by just CCTVs. That way, there’s no need for an attendant to work in the wee hours, and people can hit the treadmills as late or as early as they want. To ensure security, video analytics will be deployed to flag out actions that are out-of-the-norm in a gym context. 

This is another example of how Jasmine and other GovTech officers are using technology to improve life in Singapore. By making sports more enjoyable and accessible to all citizens, we are not only becoming a Smart Nation but also a sporty one.