The Key to Digital Transformation and driving IoT Adoption in ASEAN

“You need to have bold vision and having a vision on how things are going. When we speak IoT, there’s always a excuse i.e technology is not there, i.e but there’s no optimum point for IoT. We need to be bold in pushing things forward, move away from discussions to pushing things out.” – Gio Abaquin, Category Head, M2M & IoT, SMART Communications.

The past two weeks have been nothing short of exciting. Our team has been traveling across ASEAN to facilitate the Asia IoT Business Platform series – a program that aims to drive the adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) among local ASEAN enterprises, and to help connect IoT solution providers with their customers and partners in the local markets. We have just concluded three events, held in Bangkok (Thailand), Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia), and Manila (Philippines).

While we are currently gearing up for the Jakarta event, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the things that have been discussed in our conference sessions in the three cities, and our conversations with local IoT stakeholders in Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines.

Our program this year focuses on the enterprises and organisations that are already deploying, or looking to deploy IoT in their organisations. In the same vein, we also look at what affects the rate of IoT adoption in IoT by understanding the challenges and issues that they face.

For that reason, I would like to refresh you on our 2017 ASEAN Enterprise IoT Survey. Prior to the Asia IoT Business Platform programs, we conducted our annual ASEAN Enterprise IoT Survey where we surveyed IT leaders and stakeholders in ASEAN to find out their sentiments and perspectives on IoT. The survey reported that:

1.      73.3% of enterprises and organisations in ASEAN are currently exploring or finding possible IoT solutions to be deployed in their organisations.

2.      However, only 7% reported having benefited from their IoT projects and deployment

3.      They cite cost, incompatibility (legacy systems), and complexity of technology to be the main challenges that they face.

While the survey results spell great opportunity for solution providers targeting enterprise IoT adoption in ASEAN, there is a dire need to better understand IoT users’ challenges to ensure that they reap the benefits of their IoT deployment, failing which adoption rates in the region might possibly fall.

Our recently concluded events in Thailand, Malaysia, and Philippines managed to shed some light on the end-users’ perspective regarding IoT. There are three main themes that arose from the panel discussions at our events and they are:

  1. Importance of collaboration
  2. Improvements in infrastructure
  3. The need to change mindsets

Importance of collaboration

One highlight that was mentioned in our panel discussions in the Philippines, is the crucial role of collaboration among the stakeholders. For instance, SMART, our Platinum Sponsor and industry leader in IoT and digital initiatives in the country, has been working closely with local enterprises to not only introduce new technologies, but also influence thought leadership regarding the role of IoT and digital in improving productivity and efficiency of the local economy. Collaboration, in this case, facilitates education and awareness of IoT, which is a crucial step in the adoption journey.

Gavin Barfield, CTO of Manila Electric Company (Meralco), added that the Philippines has what it takes to drive IoT in the country. “We have the talent here. We have the willingness, and what we just need to do is come together and start working on how we can collaborate and work together on some of these initiatives, and let’s make Philippines a leader and innovator in IoT,” he said during a panel discussion on the 15th edition of Asia IoT Business Platform in Manila.

Apart from collaboration between stakeholders, it is also important to have collaboration between teams within an organization; be it between IT team (or solution providers) and facilities team, or IT team and OT teams. IoT players and stakeholders cannot work in silos as many elements may not necessarily be aligned. At the very least, collaboration allows one major item to happen: everybody to be on the same page with aligned objectives.

Improvements in infrastructure

Connectivity is the key to IoT adoption – a sentiment reflected by most of our local Thai panelists from the private to the public sector. Green lights from the regulators have shown positive developments in this aspect, including the 920-925 megahertz spectrum being approved by the National Broadcasting Telecommunications Commission in Thailand for the use of IoT devices. However, it will take some time before we can see the actual improvements in Thailand’s connectivity and evaluate how ready it is for IoT to be more fully covered.

As mentioned by Dr Thitipong Nandhabiwat, CEO of Thailand Post Distribution, one of the challenges of the company’s move towards digital transformation, e.g. handheld devices that confirm shipping delivery, is the connectivity issues that sometimes render the devices useless, especially in more remote areas.

Dr. Nandhabiwat also commented that there must be stronger collaboration between the telecommunications sector – who control the connectivity in the country – and the enterprises and organisations who would be using the technologies based on connectivity provided by the telcos, to improve connectivity. Enterprises and organisations can provide feedback to the telcos regarding areas with weak or no connection, so the telcos can work more promptly on ensuring and restoring coverage in these areas.

The need to change mindsets

While discussions and promises about IoT are nothing new, when it comes to the actual process of adopting digital transformation, synchronising the mindsets of workers is still a challenge faced by company leaders when introducing new technologies, especially to large, established legacy systems that work. For instance, at a firm like Siam City Cement – one of the biggest manufacturers in Thailand, where there are already 20,000 sensors installed in their factories – to integrate a new technology into the current manufacturing system, there is a chance of the system going down, and downtime costs money.

Another highlight that was mentioned by not only the Keynote panellist, but also industry experts from Germany and Spain in the Industry Trends & Outlook panel, is that leading stakeholders – CIOs, Directors of IT – need to consider taking risks to invest in small but important steps of digital transformation. Local leaders from Maynilad, MERALCO, Calata Group and LBC Express who have done so see the benefits that digital transformation can bring to their operations, and urge other industry players to do the same. Dr Francisco Castillo, CIO of Maynilad Water Services, commented that while issues like lack of well-established infrastructure and standards, unreliable connectivity and cybersecurity still hamper the growth of digital initiatives in the country, by taking risks and taking small steps in investing in technologies like smart metering, the company still manages to see end results that are not only encouraging, but also indicative of the immense potentials that the digital can bring to its operation, services, and most importantly – bettering people’s quality of lives.

Our past three events have provided our participants, be it end-users, solution providers, or telcos, with a better understanding of IoT in each local market. We now look forward to more vibrant discussions in Jakarta. If you are keen in joining us in our future editions, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email at [email protected]

Abdullah Zaidani

August 6, 2017

Leave a Reply