Southeast Asia’s economic renaissance, growing middle class and significant digital development, provides an ideal platform for the design and deployment of the most advanced IoT technologies.
A key milestone for the region is the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) 2015 – a roadmap to transform the region into a competitive market with free flow of goods, services, skilled labor and capital. Companies can expect to reap new business opportunities offered by the integration. But equally important is the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015 and ASEAN Smart Network Initiative, both of which aim to achieve a “smart region” through enhancing the technological infrastructure and facilitating the deployment of IoT technologies.
To put the commitment in perspective, Southeast Asian countries will collectively invest a total of $13.6 billion in smart grid infrastructure between 2014 and 2024. In Malaysia, Tenaga Nasional Berhad (TNB), the nation’s largest utility serving over eight million customers, has also piloted the nation’s first Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) smart grid in Malacca. This investment enables providers and users to have better control over energy consumption, reliability and efficiency. The project is developed with Trilliant, a leading U.S.-based smart grid platform company.
Singapore is also making headway in developing its own smart grid infrastructure. Driven by the need to achieve a balance between energy security, environmental sustainability and economic competitiveness, the Energy Market Authority (EMA) of Singapore has transformed the city-state into a “living lab” that includes an Intelligent Energy Systems (IES) Pilot, an Electric Vehicle (EV) Test-Bed and more recently, the Pulau Ubin Micro-grid Test-Bed. Beyond delivering national outcomes, the programs also enable companies to design and test-bed new technologies, with the view of eventual export to the broader region.
Fueling the Future of Advanced Manufacturing
McKinsey estimates that IoT in manufacturing has the potential to generate savings of up to $3.7 trillion per year by 2025. About half of that will come from operational optimization, where manufacturers are now able to monitor and make real-time enhancements to their production process.
Thailand in 2015 saw a partnership between Jasper's control center IoT platform with TrueMove H's mobile network that provides businesses with automation, intelligence and global scale to grow successful businesses – including automotive, fleet management, smart cities and more. For instance, the joint IoT control center provides real-time intelligence and automation to 13 of the world’s largest auto manufacturers throughout Thailand to better monitor and manage their production processes to increase operational efficiency.
Last year, Emerson Process Management opened its manufacturing and integration center in Singapore for its Rosemount Analytical technologies, which is widely used in oil and gas production and petrochemical industries. The CoE will enable companies to remotely perform data collection, analysis and consulting, thus helping process manufacturing industries save on costly training and maintenance procedures, while also improving productivity.
This is closely followed by predictive maintenance and inventory optimization – instead of relying on scheduled routines, big data analytics are deployed to forecast maintenance needs. For instance, Semiconductor giant Texas Instruments launched, in Singapore, its automated warehouse system – Autostore – which involves 36 robots running on a massive grid, to store and extract goods and thus doing away with the typical shelves and aisles. Besides saving space, increasing productivity and capacity, there are also significant labor cost savings to be reaped.
Impact of IoT on Health
The economic impact of IoT in human health is tremendous and projected to grow 9 times from 170 billion to nearly 1.6 trillion globally by 2025. Thailand, driven by its goal to become Asia’s healthcare hub, announced plans to invest 2 billion baht (US$55.2 million) to become a production and research center for medical products. The program will catalyze the commercialization of assistive technologies such as the Dinsow robot – a 60-centimeter-high medical robot invented by Thai homegrown company CT Asia Robotics Co that is already deployed in selected hospitals to look after ageing or disabled patients.
Additionally across Asia, the number of people aged 65 and above is expected to grow by 314% – from 207 million in 2000 to 857 million in 2050. This will lead to an aging workforce that will place burdens on healthcare systems and lead to growing healthcare spending in the region. Governments will increasingly need to implement policy changes and look to the advent of technologies to help tackle these issues.
Singapore is also well ahead of many other Asian countries in its preparation for its aging population. In July 2015, Changi General Hospital and the Singapore Economic Development Board jointly launched the Centre for Healthcare Assistive and Robotics Technology (CHART) – a first-of-its-kind platform in Singapore for healthcare professionals to partner academia, industry and research institutions to develop healthcare solutions based on robotics and assistive technologies. Existing partners include Hope Technik, a homegrown engineering firm whose Sesto Automated Guided Vehicles will assist hospital staff in moving materials around; and Nanyang Technological University, whose humanoid robots can entertain patients waiting for their appointments, and even serve as doctors' assistants.
IBM, which in 2015 set up a demonstration center in Singapore for Watson- a cognitive computing system, found that Watson has the ability to understand, analyze and derive diagnostic insights from medical literature and patient records, at rates much faster than a human’s. In early tests, Watson had a 90% successful diagnosis rate for lung cancer compared to 50% for doctors.
Successful adoption of technologies like Watson within Southeast Asia’s healthcare sectors will further reinforce the region’s strength in tackling the healthcare issues that face the greying population.
Adapting to the Future
ASEAN will continue to be a vibrant and high-growth market for IoT due to its growing affluence and middle class. Enterprises should seek to leverage and deploy IoT services in the region that can transform their business and create higher value-add for their customers. Given that these technologies grow at such unprecedented rates, incrementalism will no longer be adequate. Enterprises will have to be nimble and adjust quickly to respond to both new supply of technology and new demands from the market.