UV robot fights virus in Singapore mall

PBA Group’s CEO Derrick Yap, whose Sunburst UV robot is being deployed in Singapore to disinfect public spaces using ultraviolet light. (Reuters)
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Updated 22 May 2020

UV robot fights virus in Singapore mall

  • New approach to disinfect public spaces without the use of harmful chemicals

SINGAPORE: A shopping mall in Singapore is deploying a newly developed smart robot to fight the novel coronavirus, not with chemicals — but with light.

While spraying disinfectant has become the norm in many places around the world, the robot uses ultraviolet lamps to disinfectant not only surfaces, but tricky-to-reach crevices and even the air.

According to Derrick Yap, whose firm, PBA Group, developed the Sunburst UV Bot, the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic presented an opportunity to test out a robot for a role that was “dangerous, dull and dirty.”

“It’s dangerous because UVC shouldn’t be deployed when there’s humans around,” he said, referring to the short-wave germicidal type of ultraviolet radiation.

“Dull — because you keep on going to a place and you keep on doing a repeated task, and dirty, because of the COVID-19,” he said.

UVC can be harmful to the skin and eyes, which is why the robot, which looks like a bunch of fluorescent lights standing up on a moving base, is being tested by Frasers Property Retail after the mall’s closing time.

But it is programmed to turn off its UV lights if it detects a human in close proximity. Once its route has been fully mapped, the robot is expected to perform its cleaning cycle autonomously and recharge itself afterwards.

Yap said he expected the coronavirus outbreak to prompt companies to reassess their labor requirements and the use of technology moving forward, including robots.

“In the future, there will be a lot of use for this,” he said.

Just one Sunburst UV Bot has been undergoing test runs, Frasers intends to deploy more elsewhere in Singapore.

But they don’t come cheap, each one costing S$70,000 ($49,500). Some are being leased to clients for S$3,000 ($2,121) a month and some will be given to hospitals and isolation centers. 


S&P 500 inches closer to record high

Updated 12 August 2020

S&P 500 inches closer to record high

  • US stock market index returns to levels last seen before the onset of coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK: The S&P 500 on Tuesday closed in on its February record high, returning to levels last seen before the onset of the coronavirus crisis that caused one of Wall Street’s most dramatic crashes in history.

The benchmark index was about half a percent below its peak hit on Feb. 19, when investors started dumping shares in anticipation of what proved to be the biggest slump in the US economy since the Great Depression.

Ultra-low interest rates, trillions of dollars in stimulus and, more recently, a better-than-feared second quarter earnings season have allowed all three of Wall Street’s main indexes to recover.

The tech-heavy Nasdaq has led the charge, boosted by “stay-at-home winners” Amazon.com Inc., Netflix Inc. and Apple Inc. The index was down about 0.4 percent.

The blue chip Dow surged 1.2 percent, coming within 5 percent of its February peak.

“You’ve got to admit that this is a market that wants to go up, despite tensions between US-China, despite news of the coronavirus not being particularly encouraging,” said Andrea Cicione, a strategist at TS Lombard.

“We’re facing an emergency from the health, economy and employment point of view — the outlook is a lot less rosy. There’s a disconnect between valuation and the actual outlook even though lower rates to some degree justify high valuation.”

Aiding sentiment, President Vladimir Putin claimed Russia had become the first country in the world to grant regulatory approval to a COVID-19 vaccine. But the approval’s speed has concerned some experts as the vaccine still must complete final trials.

Investors are now hoping Republicans and Democrats will resolve their differences and agree on another relief program to support about 30 million unemployed Americans, as the battle with the virus outbreak was far from over with US cases surpassing 5 million last week.

Also in focus are Sino-US tensions ahead of high-stakes trade talks in the coming weekend.

“Certainly the rhetoric from Washington has been negative with regards to China ... there’s plenty of things to worry about, but markets are really focused more on the very easy fiscal and monetary policies at this point,” said Paul Nolte, portfolio manager at Kingsview Asset Management in Chicago.

Financials, energy and industrial sectors, that have lagged the benchmark index this year, provided the biggest boost to the S&P 500 on Tuesday.

The S&P 500 was set to rise for the eighth straight session, its longest streak of gains since April 2019.

The S&P 500 was up 15.39 points, or 0.46 percent, at 3,375.86, about 18 points shy of its high of 3,393.52. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was up 341.41 points, or 1.23 percent, at 28,132.85, and the Nasdaq Composite was down 48.37 points, or 0.44 percent, at 10,919.99.

Royal Caribbean Group jumped 4.6 percent after it hinted at new safety measures aimed at getting sailing going again after months of cancellations. Peers Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd. and Carnival Corp. also rose.

US mall owner Simon Property Group Inc. gained 4.1 percent despite posting a disappointing second quarter profit, as its CEO expressed some hope over a recovery in retail as lockdown measures in some regions eased.

Advancing issues outnumbered decliners 3.44-to-1 on the NYSE and 1.44-to-1 on the Nasdaq.

The S&P index recorded 35 new 52-week highs and no new low, while the Nasdaq recorded 50 new highs and four new lows.