Written by Ronald Hee, Tech Observer and Special Correspondent for the Hong Kong Trade Development Council.
The Industry of Things World Asia 2017 conference saw a lot of deep diving by some of the leading proponents of the future economy. Several shared their company’s journey while others spoke of the challenges in specific areas, such as cyber security and HRM. The conference also showed a deepening digital divide and what needed to be done to address it.
This divide was apparent even in one of the most advanced economies in Asia; conference host Singapore. Said Colin Koh, the former President, Singapore Industrial Automation Association, “SMEs are on Industrie 3.0 or even 2.0. They don’t have the infrastructure or internal resources to upgrade to 4.0. How do we bring IT to the shopfloor? Low cost controllers can be installed to achieve some savings. From this base, SMEs can proceed higher up the value chain. System integrator professionals here have a gap in their knowledge. The big boys like IBM need to train system integrators. A lot of effort needs to be made. This needs to come also from the government, to provide guidance and support. Workers in factories today may not be that exposed to IT, so IoT is lost on them. We need to bring in young guys to help with the transition.”
In Asia’s largest economy, the situation was similar. Said Li Haihua, Deputy CTO, Technology and Standards Research Institute of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, “While some leading companies such as Alibaba, Baidu and Tencent are innovating rapidly, for the rest of China, Industrie 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 coexist. Most factories do not have IP-based networking. The tens of millions of SMEs in China lack the technology and knowledge to deploy IIoT.”
A survey released by the Internet of Things Asia supported these views. 30% of respondents said “they had no clear sense of what IIoT is and why it matters”, and only 25% are evaluating how it may “improve our production / operational processes, products or services.” The biggest challenge, at 30%, was “uncertain ROI / lack of business case.” Tellingly, 39% of respondents say “very few people [in their industry] understand what IIoT is all about” and 56% have no budget at all allocated for smart manufacturing.
Maciej Kranz, Vice President, Strategic Innovations, Cisco Systems, gave a roadmap for companies looking to adopt IIoT. “Dream big but start small. It’s a multi year journey to transform your business, not a one time event. Attract and train new and existing talent. Focus on solving real problems and start with low hanging fruit. Get statistics to prove success and prove your business case. Get senior management support. Integrate technology solutions with business processes. Build a partner eco-system. Transform the culture as well as the technology.”