Hope Technik, which designs mainly robots and vehicles for the defence and aerospace sectors, was on the lookout for a way to apply its engineering expertise to medical technology.

"We found out that two people, a nurse and a porter, are usually needed to push hospital beds around," said Mr Ng Kiang Loong, a project director at the company.

The company designed a hospital bed frame affixed with a camera sensor that can track lines drawn on the ground, and automatically move the bed along these lines. The frame, which can be added onto a hospital's existing beds, also has omni-directional wheels which allow for easier navigation.

"Some hospital beds do have a fifth wheel for assisted movement, but our technology offers the additional advantage of pure sideways strafing movements, in addition to the usual front, back, left and right movements," said Mr Ng.

The technology has also been applied to a device that can transport hospital food carts and linen trolleys.

The product was launched last November, and will be shipped worldwide by the second quarter of this year. Singapore hospitals will be the first to receive it.

The company is also targeting other markets such as Australia, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Taiwan, said Mr Ng.

"Autonomous systems are good for doing the dull, dirty, dangerous work... This technology is also likely to have applications outside the medical industry, for instance, in logistics," he added.