Data-driven future awaits economy

Data-driven future awaits economy

Internet of Things, AI and blockchain are expected to propel a gold rush of investment in digital transformation

A smart robot operates a touchscreen tablet. Photo courtesy of aBeaM consultIng
A smart robot operates a touchscreen tablet. Photo courtesy of aBeaM consultIng

In 2019, emerging technologies ranging from the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain and artificial intelligence (AI) to multiple cloud are continuing to gain momentum, shifting from proof of concept to real business use cases.

These are pacing the "data-driven economy" that empowers digital transformation and competitiveness in the disruption era.

Jeff Clark, vice-chairman of products and operations for Dell Technology, says that in 2019-20 a data gold mine will spark the next "gold rush" of tech investment. By 2020, the data volume will reach 44 trillion gigabytes, or 44 zettabytes.

That's a huge amount of data expected to be put to work as digital transformation takes shape, he said.

As companies derive more value from data, with insights driving new innovations and more efficient business processes, more investments will surface from the technology sector.

New startups will emerge to tackle challenges to making AI a reality, Mr Clark said. Data management and federated analytics, where insights can be driven from virtually everywhere, as well as data compliance solutions will allow a safer, smarter way to deliver amazing outcomes, he said.

Mr Clark said virtual assistants will continue to be pervasive in consumer technology -- smart home technologies, "things" and connected cars -- learning user preferences and proactively serving up content and information based on previous interactions.

"We'll see this machine intelligence merge with augmented and virtual reality in the home to create truly immersive experiences, like a virtual sous chef that can help you whip up an easy meal for the family," he said.

Immersive intelligence will also follow users to work. PCs and devices will continue to learn from users' habits and proactively boot up with the right apps and services at the right time, Mr Clark said.

Advances in natural language processing and voice technologies will create a more productive dialogue with machines, while automation and robotics will create faster, more fluid collaboration with technology to get more done.

Augmented and virtual reality applications will create on- and off-site immersive experiences, where people will have access to the data they need to do work whenever, wherever they are, Mr Clark said.

He expects the first 5G devices to hit the market sometime in 2019, with networks promising to completely change the data game in terms of speed and accessibility.

Low-latency, high-bandwidth networks mean more connected things, cars and systems, and a boatload of AI, machine learning and computing happening at the edge, because that's where all the data will be generated, he said.

IoT, AI, blockchain soar

Natasak Rodjanapiches, a consultant at KPMG Phoomchai Advisory Services, said IoT in Thailand will grow rapidly to US$973 million (30.4 billion baht) by 2020 thanks to market demand, affordable devices and network readiness from the upcoming 5G spectrum and existing low-power wide-area networks.

While the government supports smart cities and the IoT Institute in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC), the private sector is embracing technology in the agriculture and industry sectors.

Thanachart Numnonda, executive director of the IMC Institute, said IoT helps companies use data to analyse consumer behaviour for marketing, product segmentation and service personalisation for customers.

An executive with a tablet PC has cloud computing technology at his fingertips.Photo courtesy of IBM thaIland

Moreover, AI facilitates using data to take advantage of more automated systems and robots in multiple services, such as advisory robots. Building on the foundation of AI requires data science, with huge amounts of data that can be combed for deep learning for high-efficiency AI, Mr Thanachart said. That huge amount of data might come from multiple cloud, he said.

Such data can be used to build AI to develop robots that provide services, such as self-driving cars, Mr Thanachart said. Autonomous vehicles will need traffic data to build out AI for driving, though that process could be done smoothly via quantum computing for faster processing and data distribution through blockchain, he said.

Patama Chantaruck, vice-president for Indochina expansion and managing director of IBM Thailand, said 2019 will bring more progress in AI by improving its capability through deep understanding, not just co-relation and logic.

There will be an increase in research investment in the "pillars of trust" -- algorithmic fairness, explanatory efficacy of results, robustness and transparency -- along with greater efforts in deploying AI for social good, she said.

Monetisation strategies will be crucial to generate and recoup investment for the build-out of technology platforms and other infrastructure, Ms Patama said.

Citing an IBM Institute for Business Value survey of over 1,600 executives across eight industries, she said more than 60% of early-adopter organisations expect to have a blockchain network in production by 2020.

Quantum computing has the potential to usher in a new era of innovation across industries. This leap forward could lead to the discovery of new pharmaceutical drugs, completely secure cloud computing systems, unlocking new facets of AI, or developing new material science to transform industries, Ms Patama said.

Noodling around

ABeam Consulting, a firm with expertise in digital transformation, presented a business case study of Ohtake, a ramen machine manufacturer in Japan that successfully adapted to the digital era by making a U-turn.

Founded in 1880, Ohtake started with handmade ramen until the industrial era, when it adopted machines in the business. Since then, it has developed various kinds of ramen machines for more than 100 years.

Entering the digital era, the company turned to IoT to improve its machine maintenance capabilities and increase the ramen quality.

Supreeda Jirawongsri, integrated enterprise solutions principal of ABeam Consulting Thailand, said Ohtake came to the consultancy with two goals in mind: improving the operation rate of its equipment and stabilising product quality.

Ohtake integrates IoT technology with its machines to collect data and understand the relationship between the machines and environmental factors such as temperature and humidity.

Technology helped the company substantially improve its ramen machines with proactive and preventive maintenance, as well as controlling the temperature and humidity to improve product quality while managing cost, Ms Supreeda said.

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