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Internet of things gains momentum in Southeast Asia

IoT has been much hyped in Southeast Asia, and organisations in the region are testing the technology's potential

The internet of things (IoT) promised to be one of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations’ (Asean) IT highlights at the beginning of 2016, after the emerging technology peaked in the hype cycle the previous year.

IoT spending in the region was forecast by Frost and Sullivan to grow in value by 35% from an estimated US$1.68bn in 2015, to reach US$7.53bn in 2020. This compares with a total Asia-Pacific (Apac) forecast of US$79bn by 2020.

Meanwhile, Gartner predicted that by 2020, there would be 20.8 billion devices worldwide connected to the internet, generating more than 20 zettabytes of data. By that time, global consumer and business spending on IoT endpoint hardware will total US$3tn.

It is no wonder that experts predict the increasing take-up of IoT apps will have a huge impact on IT infrastructure in the region.

This year saw the countries in Asean in various stages of IoT deployment. While most are just starting to explore the technology or test out the components, countries such as Singapore and Malaysia have taken a lead, setting up centres of excellence to focus on developing the ecosystem and rolling out pilot projects.

Governments are examining their national IT strategies to make sure they do not lose out or fall behind the IoT bandwagon, with most likely to start small at first but poised to scale fast in the near future.

For example, Singapore considers IoT to be one of the essential elements to realise its vision of a Smart Nation.

“Without sensing capabilities, we cannot build context and intelligence, or Smart Nation applications to develop the smart services we envisage,” said Toh Chai Keong, former assistant CEO, Infocomm Development Authority of Singapore (IDA), which was recently restructured as part of the Infocommunications Media Development Authority (IMDA).

Read more about IoT in the Asean region

Meanwhile, Singapore Power is rolling out a more advanced digital platform to enable it to develop IoT-based services. The power supply company will connect an additional 200,000 residential electricity customers by further leveraging its existing mesh network platform.

Singapore Power’s extended Silver Spring multi-application IPv6 platform will serve more advanced metering customers and develop a digital data and IoT platform, supporting Singapore’s Smart Nation goal.

Silver Spring will also establish its Apac headquarters in Singapore and partner Singapore Power on product and market development, driving IoT innovation in Singapore’s commercial and academic institutions.

Smart object connectivity

A centre focusing on sensors and IoT is one of six capability centres for emerging technology, for which Singapore’s GovTech is developing technical expertise and engineering specialists. GovTech is a new government agency created to lead Singapore Public Sector’s digital transformation in the delivery of anticipatory and citizen-centric government digital services.

The centre will examine the design and implementation of a whole-of-government IoT infrastructure for the larger Smart Nation Platform. This infrastructure will enable connectivity by smart objects including static and mobile ones – such as wearables, sensors and mobile devices – and facilitate high-speed transmission of data from the sensors.

The centre will also build up the government’s capabilities in new, emerging IoT technologies, and collaborate with commercial organisations, research institutes and public agencies to experiment with and pilot these new technologies.

In mid-2016, the National Technological University (NTU) in Singapore and Taiwan’s Delta Electronics jointly set up a SGD$45m lab for IoT, to focus on areas such as manufacturing, learning, living and product commercialisation. It will research how to develop devices that can gather data, talk to each other and perform their functions autonomously.

Bringing organisations of all sizes together

Also in Singapore, IBM opened the Watson Centre at Marina Bay, an incubator designed to bring together organisations of all sizes, business partners and IBM experts to co-create business solutions. A large part of the facility is focused on IoT.

“Manufacturing is largely focused on cost reductions while the electronics and consumer sectors are starting to shift their focus with IoT to improve their engagement with their customers, through embedding cognitive capabilities into their products and/or building new connected offerings,” said Jason Jameson, director of IBM Watson IoT Asia-Pacific. “Oil and gas are also embracing IoT, particularly to help with predictive maintenance and improve the yield on their assets.”

In Malaysia, the government is following the National IoT Strategic Roadmap that was drawn up by Mimos, the country’s national research and development centre in ICT under the purview of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation.

With a vision of making Malaysia the premier regional IoT development hub, the mission of the roadmap is to create a national ecosystem to enable the proliferation of use and industrialisation of IoT as a new source of economic growth.

Malaysia’s IoT masterplan

The comprehensive roadmap spells out three goals for the country’s IoT masterplan. It estimates the IoT will contribute MYR9.5bn to the economy in 2020, and MYR42.5bn in 2025. Approximately 14,270 high-skilled jobs are expected to be created by 2020.

Pilot projects on how IoT applications are built, used and displayed have been identified while increasing the industry’s participation.

The sectors covering these projects include the agriculture/aquaculture, healthcare, government and environment sectors, and are driven by the respective government ministries in collaboration with government agencies, academia and industry players.

Further north in Thailand, the introduction of 4G wireless broadband networks and the proliferation and affordability of internet-connected devices are making it conducive for IoT adoption.

Frost and Sullivan estimated Thailand’s IoT spending to increase from US$57.7m in 2014 to US$973.3m in 2020, with the bulk of the spending in manufacturing and logistics.

This rosy picture for IoT in Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore is also typical for the other countries within Asean.

Favourable factors for the growth of IoT in Asean include rapid urbanisation, proliferation of technology and mobile devices, and the shift from agriculture to manufacturing in many of these countries.

Read more on Internet of Things (IoT)

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