Southeast Asia

Discuss: What’s exciting about the Asian tech scene in 2018? (Tech In Asia)

(Photo: Xresch, Tech In Asia)

We’ve seen a lot of crazy developments in the Asian tech scene this year. Amazon has entered Southeast Asia. Malaysia has opened the Digital Free Trade Zone. Several governments banned ICOs. The bike-sharing industry has seen both collapses and global expansions. And there are many more stories to tell.

What’s next for 2018? We asked a few experts from the tech community for their thoughts.

Editor’s note: Answers have been edited for clarity.


Joel Ko Hyun Sik, president at Marvelstone Group

I am excited about how AI could further develop in 2018. Many AI hubs are coming, as tech giants like Alibaba, Microsoft, Amazon, and Samsung announce AI research labs here and there.

With that said, entrepreneurs and investors should prepare themselves. I’ve noticed that entrepreneurs are still not that proactive in applying AI to their business, and investors are not really aware of the impact the technology can have on their portfolios.

Apart from AI, entrepreneurs and investors should also observe how blockchain, including cryptocurrencies and ICOs, could evolve.

As for markets, they should watch Japan and Korea for blockchain and cryptocurrency, and the UK and France for AI.


Tim Romero, podcaster at Disrupting Japan

In Japan, AI companies will come out of the shadows in 2018. There is a lot of solid AI work being done in startups here, but it’s often overlooked because there is so much coming out of the US and China. Several AI companies will bring significant products to market in Japan and attempt to go global.

Generally speaking, I think the current cryptocurrency and ICO boom will continue for a little longer before exploding in investors’ face. After that, blockchain and niche cryptocurrencies will continue to flourish, but there will be a lot less money being made more slowly than we are seeing now.


Pradeep Menon, cloud solution architect at Microsoft

Internet-of-things (IoT)

Predictive maintenance is a standard use case in this area. However, opportunities linking IoT to consumer behavior is an exciting area for investors. IoT-driven applications like connected health combined with AI capabilities can help in customizing products for consumers.


The underlying technology that enables bitcoin will see adoption. Opportunities to enable blockchain-based ecosystems can potentially disrupt supply chain operations. This requires a platform that enables multiple enterprises in the supply chain link to have access to blockchain and improve the end-to-end process. Investors should look out for companies that are foraying into this platform.

As for markets, I think that US is still the hotbed for innovation. However, China is not far behind. Southeast Asia is also expanding rapidly, getting more mature in adopting AI and big data. This region should be on the watch list.


Antony Ma, founder at PowerData2Go

We’ll see language processing functions become available via APIs. Voice machine interface will play a bigger role. And AI-assisted conversations will change how people communicate, especially in functional conversations.

Moreover, we will see AI-assisted automation standards and best practices roll out across industry verticals, not individual firms.

There’s another trend that may come in a big wave: integration of wearables and voice technology. Narrowband-internet-of-things (NB-IoT) or long-term evolution cat M1 (LTE-M) will enable low-energy and low-bandwidth device to operate, which is best for voice technology. This opens another dimension for innovation.


Isabelle Decitre, founder and CEO at ID Capital

In agri-food supply chain in Asia, technology’s potential is still vastly untapped. Across the board, there is this nascent perspective that technology can help improve the remote control of the food chain for all entities operating long and complex supply chains. Small and large entities get together, with IoT applied to smallholder farming or food ingredient engineering.

Food traceability is a growing concern and we believe there will be more startups here. At the moment, blockchain is the buzzword, and it can come with big promises when applied to food traceability. I would, however, encourage investors and entrepreneurs to keep an eye on the scalability of blockchain-based platforms, and favor businesses that are agnostic to it.

I like to think that 2018 will be the year where more countries and more entrepreneurs domesticate agtech and foodtech, and not the opposite.

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Charmaine de Lazo

29 December 2017

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