Rethinking business operations through the use of IoT

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The Covid-19 outbreak has forced governments and businesses worldwide to rethink the way they operate and conduct business, with a stronger emphasis on adopting digital technology for their business continuity and resilience, and to drive growth.

In Malaysia, the outbreak has accelerated digitalisation among businesses, making it the only way to become more sustainable in an unprecedented period.

In an interview with BusinessToday, MDEC’s Vice President and ConnecTechAsia2020 Conference speaker, Hew Wee Choong addresses the implementation of IoT  in workplaces in Malaysia, the struggles during the Covid-19 outbreak as well as the issues faced regarding the implementation of IoT.

What was the application of loT previously like in workplaces in Malaysia?

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) being the lead government agency for digital economy has been driving the three pillars of Digital Business, Digital Investment and Digital Talent in Malaysia. Application of IOT falls within the “Digital Business” initiative including digitalisation of business be it in manufacturing, agritech, med tech or drone tech and local authority parking system. Some detailed examples include:

Manufacturing —MDEC partners with Top Glove to refine the digital integration using loT within its factory lines and management system which started in 2016. The company has reduced the amount of foreign labour by 1,000 people over the past 3 years, leading to further cost-saving in production and labour.

Agriculture – Application of loT particularly in agriculture technology (also referred to as Ag-Tech) and DroneTech can be seen in oil palm plantations and paddy fields. By using drone and loT technology, farmers are able to gain more insights and visibility into their business and monitor their farms remotely through loT.

How will that differ now especially after an outbreak that has disrupted the way companies operate?

We will see further or accelerated digitalisation of business due to outbreak of Covid-19 including more loT adoption across multiple industries. All level of businesses especially manufacturing or retail supply chain will be adopting digital (including loT) to reduce dependency on human labour and maximising “contactless” interactions. Industries such as MedTech and related industries such as transportation, communications and data centers will see increasing adoptions.

For MedTech, loT uses a large number of interconnected devices to create a smart network for the proper health management system. It digitally captures the data and information of the patient without any human interaction. This data is also helpful for appropriate decision-making process. As for Transportation, loT systems are installed to trucks and provided real-time temperature, vibration, and location data. With this data, managers can identify and address issues with cold-chain integrity, pinpoint the level of shocks that cause product damage, and find ways to better protect items in transit.

The increasing application of digital tech including IOT in Malaysia has driven tech companies to setup regional tech or data centre hub in Malaysia to take advantage of the strong trend. The investment decisions have been aided by the strong 25 years advantage Malaysia possess in nurturing and commercialising emerging tech through the MSC and now through the Global Testbed Initiative.

How advanced are we with the application of loT at workplaces and what are the issues that we should address?

Adoption for businesses – about 33 percent of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia adopt digital technology and increasing rapidly. Malaysia has always scored among the highest in the region in terms of digital readiness, according to global surveys. The drive by industry players themselves leveraging on.

Critical challenges include the creating more awareness, especially among SMEs, in terms of the impact of and benefits of keeping up with new technologies. The perceived high cost of technological adoption coupled with a slow return of investment also results in slower jump on the Industry 4.0 bandwagon.

MDEC has several programs to encourage digitalisation among the SME such as the SMART Automation Grant, 100 Go Digital and DX (Digital Xcceleration) to assist companies to overcome any fears or challenges to adopt digital technologies.

How can we tackle these issues?

By building 5G infrastructurethrough National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP). Malaysia is set to add USD 3.12 billion (RM 12.7 billion) to its GDP by 2025 with the implementation of 5G with 39,000 new jobs. 5G will allow the country to produce and manufacture more high-quality goods and services while further benefiting the people with better products and services.

Langkawi is the first 5G island in the world, with 35 of the 5G use cases in Malaysia being based there. These use cases are collectively known as the Langkawi Trials, which comprised of a third of all of Malaysia 5G use cases. There are another 72 5G use cases involving nine industry verticals at 56 live sites across the country, with a total investment of USD 35.16 million (RM143 million) from industry players.

MDEC is organised a 3 days SME Digital Summit to provide a collaborative platform for key opinion leaders, subject matter experts, solution providers and SMEs to come together and exchange thoughts and learn from each other.

The potential wider and deeper adoption of digital and IOT has presented opportunities for MDEC to support digital tech companies to invest in development centres in Malaysia to act and showcase as well as client solution centre adopting the “seeing is believing” approach.

Is the skills gap in this particular field an issue in Malaysia? If so, what can be done to improve the situation?

As the world shifts towards digitalisation, we at MDEC aim to help ensure that Malaysians are able to adapt accordingly and prepare for the future.

MDEC’s plan for Tech Talent Development centres on two key objectives: to create an inclusive and sustainable talent development ecosystem and to intensify effort on tech talent development. To that end, we have planned four key focus areas for our talent development strategy. These include building a talent pipeline that grows future talent, providing tertiary talent with industry-ready skills upon graduation as well as equipping the existing workforce with upskilling and reskilling opportunities and additionally, attracting foreign talent to further enhance the nation’s digital economy

MDEC is also facilitating the establishment of 42 KL campus in Malaysia, a collaboration between Sunway Education Group and Ecole 42 to establish 42 KL campus. This game-changing setup offers a teacher-less, tuition-free coding school to address the industry’s need for digital tech talent.

We also collaborate with US-based General Assembly (GA) to establish its campus in Kuala Lumpur, providing upskilling opportunities in digital technology to meet the industry’s growing demand for digital workforce and spearheaded big data talent initiatives, aimed at creating 16,000 data specialists and 1,500 data scientists by 2020.

Following our focus to develop digitally-skilled Malaysians (other than Digitally empowered business and digital investments) Malaysian talents have gone a long way in the last 24 years since the start of our ICT industry development initiative in supporting various companies’ IT operations or investment here in Malaysia.

How can IoT contribute towards talent development in Malaysia?

IoT industry players can help support MDEC’s initiatives to develop data and AI talent and one of the key talent development initiatives is MyIndustry AI Scholarship program. This program allows industry players to solve a business problem by using AI Computer Vision, Natural Language Processing (NLP) and Voice Recognition.

They can also access to highly skilled AI Talent, access to university Subject Matter Expert (SME) and access to AI infrastructures or tools across participating universities and companies.

While MDEC has been leading the digital economy forward over the years, the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the growth of the digital economy at an even faster pace. With strong support from the government, the acceleration, of the digital economy in Malaysia spurs strong investment interest in Malaysia as a regional digital hub and thus supporting our aspiration to be the Heart of Digital ASEAN.

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