PUB: Singapore's National Water Agency


Mapping of Underground Utilities

How might better detect, identify and map out underground utilities without the need for excavation?
Submission Deadline
up to SG$250,000

Challenge Overview

Sewer and water pipe construction typically involves deep shaft excavation, open cut, micro-tunnelling, and pipe jacking works. Prior to carrying out any work, it is critical to identify all existing underground utilities and verify their exact locations and depths, so as to prevent damaging them or to divert them before constructing the pipes. Currently, the detection and identification of underground utilities are done by referring to drawings, and trial trenching. Trial trenching is a process whereby small trenches are dug to reveal the underground contents. However, this process can be inefficient and increase the amount of time, effort and costs required to seek approval to allow trenching in the following scenarios: 

  • The utilities are under major roads with heavy traffic;
  • The alignment of the utilities is inaccurate and multiple trenches are required to locate the utilities; and/or
  • The utilities are buried too deep and require the design and submission of Earth Retaining and Stabilising Structures for the trenching work to reach the desired deep depth.

Currently, there is no alternative method to reliably and comprehensively detect and identify existing underground utilities other than to physically expose the utilities by trial trenching. 

The pipes could be installed to depths of 1m to 40m. Besides pipes, common utilities found underground are telecommunication cables (typically at shallower depths of 1.2m to 3m) and power cables (at depth of 1.2m to 5m). 

Some of the common materials of water and sewer pipes are ductile and cast iron, steel, reinforced and polymer concrete, and vitrified clay. Electrical cables and telco cables are normally housed in protective sleeves using HDPE/PVC pipes, however certain stretches may not be housed in protective sleeves at all.

We are interested in solutions that support the detection and identification of underground utilities and services. The solution must be able to function without causing any interference or disruption to the utilities and their environment. Ideally, the solution should provide better accuracy and easier execution over conventional solutions.

Other than determining the presence of underground utilities, the solution should also differentiate the type and characteristics of underground utilities found (eg. Material, width) accurately and precisely. This information will validate our findings and further assure relevant utility owners that their services have been accounted for before commencement of excavation works.

Challenge Owners: Water Supply (Network) Department, Water Reclamation (Network) Department - Project Management Division

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Challenge Guidelines

Key Considerations & Challenges

  • The detection range is able to reach depth of at least 3m, but methods with an extended range of 5 meter or more would be more advantageous and favorably considered for implementation.
  • The detection method shall maintain high accuracy even if there are interferences from road compositions, soil geology, environmental factors, including the presence of groundwater.
  • The accuracy of detection should consistently be within a tolerance of +/- 0.1m which is important if the result is to be used to guide underground pipe construction.
  • If your solution is able to differentiate utilities that are closely stacked, please include the details of your detection and identification method in your proposal.

Current Technology Status

Electromagnetic locator

  • Mainly effective in detecting conductive materials
  • Not effective in differentiating power cables that are closely laid or stacked

Ground-Penetrating Radar (GPR)

  • Validation on the technology’s ability to detect utilities under the effect of external interference, such as groundwater, soil conditions, and the presence of other utilities, is required.
  • The current GPR solution has only an effective detection range of 3m
  • Post processing of the data is needed to support the interpretation and visualisation by officers
  • The collected data might have insufficient information to distinguish between different types of utilities

In addition, PUB has been liaising with vendors who are researching into the use of cold atom interferometry-based sensing for underground mapping and is open to learning more about new innovations for this technology type.


Upon request (email to

  • Example of a trial trenching report (includes drawing and recorded pictures)

After selection

  • PUB work sites as test sites

Expected Timeline

Total project period : less than 18 months
Solution development : up to 6 months
Testing and review of the solution : up to 6 months
Establish reporting outputs : up to 3 months

Expected Outcomes

A site-tested prototype system that is able to detect, identify and differentiate the various underground utilities to depths of at least 3m, without the need to physically expose the utilities. The system should have a display to provide a real-time data output for on-site investigation. Post-processing of the data should be generated into a report format (minimally with a cross-sectional drawing of the area detected and spatial information of the detected utilities) to reliably guide future underground pipe construction.  

If the pilot is successful, the solution would be recommended to PUB’s service contractors.

Funding & Benefits


In order to support companies with innovative solutions to collaborate with PUB, we have lined up pilot funding, mentors, data, test sites, and other resources to support pilot projects.


Pilot Funding

PUB is committed to providing funding support to help cover the costs of development and test-bedding. This includes manpower, equipment and material costs. Shortlisted companies will receive initial funding of up to SG$250,000 for each pilot project.

Where the company already has basic technological components of the prototype or even a ready solution, the funding can be used to refine the solution based on the site requirements. The solution shall be developed to have systems and processes in place to support actual operations. By the end of the project, a system or process demonstration is carried out in an operational environment.

Where the company needs to perform activities involving design, development and controlled testing of technological components, the funding can be used for hardware and other development and testing. By the end of the prototyping phase, basic technological components shall be integrated to establish that they will work together. The resulting prototype is expected to have relatively “low fidelity” in comparison with the eventual system.

More information on the pilot requirements for each challenge is provided under Challe​nges​.

Upon being selected for funding through the PUB Global Innovation Challenge, companies can submit their funding request along with a detailed pilot proposal. The proposal and funding request will then be reviewed by PUB’s Project Evaluation Panel. More than one company per challenge could eventually receive the funding.

The awardees will be required to propose a payment schedule based on significant milestones, so that payment can be made progressively throughout the pilot project upon attainment of each milestone.

If the pilot project proves to be successful, the awardee will have access to additional funding for further development and testing, or contracts for deployment of the solution.

Mentorship by PUB Experts

If selected for the Pilot Phase, companies will be matched to relevant department(s) and receive mentorship from PUB’s experts. The companies will be able to leverage on their insights and past learnings to accelerate the development of their solution(s) for the water industry.

Test-bedding opportunities

For each of the challenges, PUB has prepared test sites, data and other internal resources so that solutions can be tested under real conditions and demonstrate valid results.

Commercialisation of Opportunities

If the pilot proves successful, PUB is best positioned to help commercialise and scale the product. The Singapore Water Exchange, which is run by PUB, houses entrepreneurs, startups, investors, accelerators, incubators, market advisors, technology providers, equipment suppliers, research institutes, system integrators and associations to support R&D and help companies build capabilities.

Terms & Conditions

PUB Global Innovation Challenge (the “Programme”) is organised by Public Utilities Board (“PUB”) Singapore and Padang & Co Pte Ltd, UEN No.: 201406957G (“Padang”) henceforth collectively known as “the Organisers”

​These Terms and Conditions (“T&C”) govern the Programme. Participation in the Programme constitutes acceptance of these Terms and Conditions as may be amended by the Organisers when required at the Organisers’ sole discretion.


“Deliverables”: jointly refers to the Application Questionnaire and the Application Deck.
“Participant”: refers to any company registered in accordance with the T&C who takes part in the Programme.


2.1. Participation in this Programme is free.
2.2. By participating in the Programme, the Participant will have read these T&C, and fully accepted their terms in their entirety without reservation.
2.3. Any Participant who does not abide by the terms of the T&C at any time during the Programme will be automatically disqualified from the Programme.


3.1. To apply for the Programme, the Participant must fill in a questionnaire (“Application Questionnaire”) on the Website on or before the 2359 hours Singapore time on 31 August 2021. (“Deadline”)
3.2. Any Application Questionnaire containing incomplete information will not be accepted as an application entry.
3.3. The Participant agrees to be contacted through email sent by the Organisers during their participation in the Programme. The Participant also agrees to be contacted by phone.


4.1. Deliverables must be sent in the requested format and be written in English. For the proposal, it must be submitted in DOC, DOCX or PDF format.
4.2. In case of difficulties or an inability to read the Deliverables, the relevant Participant will be notified and have the responsibility to re-submit it within 12 hours of the notification being sent out by the Organisers.
4.3. Each Participant undertakes that the content of the Deliverables, and any other additional document submitted for the purpose of the Programme, is produced by itself. If it is found that the content has been plagiarized, the Participant will be disqualified.
4.4. The use of photos or images must be free of copyright. In any case, the Organisers will not be held responsible for the use of documents on which third parties have rights.


5.1. After the Deadline, PUB will evaluate Participants based on their Deliverables and shortlisted Participants will be invited to a pitch interview. Based on the interview outcomes, companies will be nominated for pilot funding (“Nominees”).
5.2. The Nominees may be awarded up to S$250,000 of funding.
5.3. The Nominees or approved funding is not transferable, and their sale or exchange is forbidden.
5.4. The Nominees will be required to submit a detailed project proposal using the template provided by PUB, which includes a breakdown of the project cost and justification for the funding required from PUB. The proposal and fund request will then be subjected to review and approval by PUB’s Project Evaluation Panel. The Panel will also determine the final amount of approved funding. More than 1 Nominee per challenge could eventually receive the funding.
5.5. Components/items allowable for funding and disbursement of approved funds are subjected to PUB’s prevailing terms and conditions. In general, disbursement of the funding amount shall be based on the completion of project milestones, which shall be determined with and approved by PUB.
5.6. If the pilot is successful, additional funding/contracts could be provided to deploy and scale-up the implementation of the solutions.
5.7 The Participant is responsible for the payment of any applicable statutory taxes, including withholding tax, for work done in Singapore. Where withholding tax applies, the Organisers will withhold a percentage of the payment for manpower for remittance to the Inland Revenue Authority of Singapore (IRAS). For more information on withholding tax, please refer to this link:


6.1 By participating in this Programme, the Participant has consented to the disclosure of the Deliverables to the Organisers and persons associated with the Programme, and to the publication of information relating to the Deliverables on various media platforms, including social media platforms.
6.2 The Participant warrants that any and all of the copyright, patents, trademarks, design rights, know-how, and other intellectual property and proprietary rights subsisting in or used in connection with the Deliverables (“Intellectual Property Rights”) is and remain the sole property of the Participant.
6.3 The Participant shall indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Organisers against any and all claims, suits, losses, damages, costs, fees, and expenses arising out of or in connection with the Intellectual Property Rights.
6.4 Nothing in these T&C constitute a license of the Intellectual Property Rights by the Participant to any of the Organisers.


7.1. The Participant authorizes the Organisers to reproduce their trademark and their registered business names free of charge on communication materials about the Programme, including, but not limited, to websites, email signatures, newsletters, press releases, posters or banners at trade fairs, and on various social media platforms.
7.2 The Participant agrees and consents to public disclosure and use of their company members’ name, image, audio, and video recording for publicity purposes without payment or compensation.

Article 8 – LIABILITY

8.1. The Organisers shall not be liable to the Participant for any loss, damage, cost or expense incurred or suffered by the Participant howsoever arising in connection with the Participant’s participation in the Programme, whether virtually via the website, or physically in person, and including but not limited to the disclosure and publication of the Deliverables in connection with the Programme.


9.1. Where the Participant has disclosed to the Organisers personal data of her/himself (where the Participant is a natural person) or of his representatives (where the Participant is a corporate entity), the Participant hereby gives his own consent, and confirms that he has obtained from such persons their consent to the collection, use and disclosure by the Organisers of such personal data, for example, as mentioned in Article 3.


10.1 The Organisers reserve the right to modify the T&C at any time, without prior notification to the Participant. The Participant is invited to read the T&C, which are published on the Website, on a regular basis.


11.1 The Organisers reserve the right to cancel, shorten, and suspend the Programme without prior notice.


12.1 Except with the written consent of the Organisers, the Participant shall not disclose any information issued or furnished by or on behalf of the Organisers in connection therewith to any person.
12.2 In addition to the foregoing, the Participant shall not make use of any information obtained directly or indirectly from the Organisers or compiled or generated by the Participant in the course of the Programme which pertains to or is derived from such information, other than use for the purposes of this Programme, without the prior written consent of the Organisers.


​ 13.1 The Organisers will disqualify the Participant if the Participant shall have offered or given or agreed to give to the Organiser or any person any gift or consideration of any kind as an inducement or reward for their participation in the Programme.


​​​14.1 These T&C are governed by and construed in accordance with Singapore law. The Organisers and the Participant submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the Singapore courts.