Since 2017, the School of Computing and Information Systems at Singapore Management University (SMU) has been working closely with software and technology systems provider SAP. The SAP Next-gen student project aims to develop innovative sustainability solutions using SAP software. This is part of SMU’s Enterprise Business Solutions course, where, through experiential learning, students translate classroom knowledge and theory into practical solutions for the challenges that real organizations are facing.
In 2021, Arm joined the collaboration, providing the students with real-world IoT devices from its partner ecosystem to work with. Now, instead of the projects running on mere mock-up data, the students could generate real data, process it using SAP’s cloud analytics platform, and build real-world prototypes. Arm also gave technical support and mentoring from its team.
The project started that August, when Arm delivered training on how to use the devices, and SAP showed students how to use its software. From late summer into the autumn, the students worked on the projects with regular contact with SAP and Arm engineers and mentors, before facing a judging panel in November.
Here, the people involved in the project – from Arm, SAP and SMU – reveal just how well the teams took to the new hardware. They also look at the resulting innovations which spanned from coastal erosion to smart farming…
Gunter Albrecht, solution architect, SAP: We brought Arm on board because we wanted to offer a balanced experience for the students to learn IoT. Arm’s expertise in the field, combined with SAP’s business solutions, would make the project far more exciting and wider-scoped for the students. We worked closely with Arm on organizing the sessions, finding the right hardware, and integrating it with SAP’s cloud solutions.
Eng Kit Lum, senior instructor at the School of Computing and Information Systems, SMU: As an institution, we want to keep in touch with industry, to make sure that our courses are relevant and up-to-date.
The students are very attracted to mentorship with industry partners. Previously, they would hear the theory from the professors in classroom lectures. Now, that is combined with industry experience. They are able to work with real professionals, and to get truly hands-on, deep expertise from specialists in SAP and Arm technology. And with Arm joining, we effectively had twice the number of mentors as we did in the past. Arm also helped a lot in the programming of the IoT devices.
We also make sure the students work on solutions that can solve real problems. This year, the teams’ projects included smart farming, pollution monitoring and coastal protection – all major problems facing Singapore.
Muhammad Haziq Bin Ilham, student: My team worked on a project to develop a smart farming system. The goal was to reduce Singapore's reliance on imports by improving food security, which meant finding a local, sustainable source of vegetables.
We created a prototype of an automated shelter, which would measure certain threshold values and carry out actions depending on the status of the crops. We wanted to see how far we could automate this process with the use of Arm IP.
Mohamed Izzat Khair Bin Mohamed Noor, student: Our project was a beach management system. We wanted to be able to detect strong waves. This is because strong waves may result in soil erosion, which our research found to be one of the root causes of rising sea levels.
Our solution involves installing sensors in the coastal waters of Singapore. This would allow government agencies to manage conditions at beaches across the country, using a dashboard we designed. We developed a map, for example, that allows users to see various data on temperature, humidity and waves in different areas of Singapore.
Fan Yu Jye Ryan, student: My team was working on an air pollution detection system for childcare centers. From our research, we realized that children were more susceptible to traffic pollution levels, but there was no system in place to detect and warn parents, children or caretakers about the pollution levels in childcare centers or their surroundings.
Haziq: Each team was given an Arduino Oplà IoT kit and the MKR IoT carrier development board, with the necessary Wi-Fi modules and sensors. From there, we could source more materials online if we needed. We used the different sensors provided to get measurements and values to set thresholds for the software.
There was a steep learning curve. We did not have any experience of these technologies – it was my first time working with a breadboard, for example, and the group was very confused in terms of the wiring, which looks complex at first.
Izzat: For me, it was the first time I would actually touched any IoT device at all. So, there were a lot of things that were new, especially with the sensors, such as understanding how to calibrate them and reading the values.
Haziq: Arm gave us a lot of mentoring and guidance to assist us along the way. The mentoring was mostly done on Zoom, and we created WhatsApp groups to message with any questions we had. It was very informal. Our mentors were basically available 24/7. We could drop them a text whenever we needed help, and they would pop up and guide us.
It took a while to gradually pick up the skills and knowledge required, but once we learned it, it became simple.
Gunter: Both Arm and SAP feared that the combination of challenging topics, the tight timeline for solution building, and all the new technology in hardware and software could potentially be a major drawback for the success of the projects. So, we were ultimately overwhelmed by what the students were able to realize: they got creative on ideas, wrote the shopping list of hardware they needed (which included fish tanks, plants, and crabs besides the sensors and other electronic components), and then started to build cool prototypes.
The hardware had a tremendous impact. It meant they could realize prototypes you can touch, hear, and see. With all the senses engaged in the learning process, you get a deeper experience that lasts longer. I also think it increased excitement for those students who might not have been so passionate about pure software development.
The students gave their final presentations in November, at a three-hour workshop with executives from SAP and Arm and the judging panel. Each student team had several minutes to present their solutions. They had to field questions, and explain the value of the project and the logic behind it.
In the end, nobody took the path of least resistance by working with the mock-up data. All of the teams put together really nice and comprehensive projects, using both the hardware technology and the software to present the data.
The students demoed their prototypes very professionally. They also managed to wrap it all into exciting stories that explained clearly to the audience why they needed these solutions.
Haziq: This is not an area that I ever thought I would be focusing on. I am very used to just coding on the computer without a physical device to work on. So, it was a very interesting module to take – as it gave me hands-on experience with an important technology.
Having Arm’s IP and support provided us with very in-depth, real-world knowledge of the technologies that are now available, while the mentors gave us clarity.
Eng Kit: The skills learned here, from working in build teams to collaborating with industry partners, will be very useful for the students. At least some of them will be interested in tech-entrepreneurship, in running their own start-ups after they graduate. And some, of course, will join big firms like SAP. I am sure they will be able to apply the skills wherever they go.
Haziq: I am focused on advancing my career as a developer. The interesting thing is I can integrate the knowledge and technology from the course into my career. It might help my future company to automate processes of manual labour, for example, to reduce waste, or perhaps to improve service delivery.
Ryan: I will probably be planning to continue doing DevOps, or maybe cloud architecture. Learning new hardware and IoT technologies has definitely helped broaden my technical view, so maybe in the future I could end up working on data pipelines for IoT.
Izzat: I am very pleased with the results. And this experience will definitely help me in the real world. These days, IoT is one of the biggest demands out there.
Arm is committed to supporting the development of future generations of engineers. We provide a wide range of teaching and learning materials for students, teachers, and professors through our School Program and University Program. We also enable access to commercially proven IP, tools, and resources at no charge for academic research use. Visit our website to find out more.
About Research Enablement
SMU is a long-term member university of the SAP University Alliances. The SAP University Alliances program enables academia to educate the next generation for the Intelligent Enterprise and the experience economy, engage at SAP events, build industry partnerships, and prepare graduates for the SAP ecosystem.