Thursday, 3 October 2019

Connectivity forms foundation for mobility

JUST this week, the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission announced the rollout of 5G demonstration projects to expedite the deployment of 5G connectivity in various industries.
The rollout will feature use cases for numerous technologies, such as smart traffic lights, smart parking, remote diagnosis, medical tourism, remote medical consultation, smart agriculture, augmented reality for education, and vehicle tracking.
While 5G connectivity translates to faster Internet connection and download speeds, the key takeaway for the next generation of mobile communication lies in lower latency or in simple terms, a significant reduction of the amount of delay to send information over the mobile connection.
The reduction in latency is a key requirement in vehicle connectivity as real-time decisions when a car is in motion must be performed in fractions of a second — it paves the way for the development of next generation vehicles, which will eventually lead to complete vehicle autonomy.
While experts say Level 5 autonomy is still a decade or so away, when this point of no return eventually arrives, the infrastructure and availability of connectivity will be non-negotiable.
For a nation with the aspirations of being part of the producers’ pool in the future technology markets, this places the mapping of technology development at a high priority at both business and policy levels.
Today, it is apparent that connectivity has changed our lifestyles, which started with the increased flexibility and connection speeds on our mobile phones. Mobility-based services, such as food delivery and ride sharing, have become a norm for many walks of life.
In fact, the emergence of national level discussions surrounding these issues shows the level of penetration and dependence on new connective technologies and significant awareness among Malaysians.
Although there are issues to address and room for more improvements, the fact that national attention has been given to these services means that the landscape for mobility as a service is changing rapidly in the country.
The demand for more connectivity is starting to gain traction in the automotive sector as well. For example, many drivers are now bypassing their built-in infotainment equipment and connecting their services directly to their phones, using applications such as GPS navigation, music libraries and audio book readers directly from the Internet.
Many vehicle makers are introducing new built-in infotainment models that cater to this at the point of sales, making vehicle connectivity an almost seamless experience. New vehicles in the premium market have also introduced more connective features in the vehicle packages they offer.
However, the establishment of the connectivity ecosystem is not only about telecommunications and app development. It involves a myriad of technologies that support the entire sector, including cybersecurity, fleet management systems, traffic management, e-calls and payment systems.
They require the current critical mass we have developed in fields such as mechanical, electronics, manufacturing and chemical engineering, as well as new experts and business support in new fields that expand the utilisation and application of such technologies.
These sub-sectors form the basis to ensure a healthy connectivity ecosystem and form the space and grounds for opportunities in new jobs and talent to flourish and develop.
To this end, the government is working hand-in-hand with industry and academia to develop a comprehensive vision map towards the involvement of local talent and business in the new mobility ecosystem as we move closer to finalising the revision of the National Automotive Policy.
It is hoped that these new dimensions will go beyond a paradigm shift for the automotive and mobility sector and spin off to other industries—sectors that must also shift towards relevance in the age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution in order for a mobility ecosystem to be complete.
The future begins with advanced connectivity, and we cannot afford “latency” in responding to new trends.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Emerging IoT tech to support NxGV ecosystem

AS mentioned substantially in this column, the most important aspect to build a hub for next generation vehicles (NxGVs) is the development of its surrounding ecosystem.
We have learnt that an automotive industry—which will evolve into the mobility industry in the near future — is not about vehicle assembly, but also about the industry generated to support the vehicle assemblers.
These include parts and components manufacturers, tool makers, machine builders, after sales and service, even marketing and educational institutions.
It is for this reason, we are looking at the development of the automotive industry holistically.
While local car manufacturers have shown tremendous progress in the highly competitive global and regional markets, exports of parts and components have almost tripled in the past five years.
The number of highly skilled engineers and designers have increased and while it may not have received extensive coverage, we are exporting our design and engineering services to countries that require their talent.
This column had highlighted that as we move into future mobility, business activities were no longer limited to plastic, metal and other conventional components and materials.
The complexity of vehicles will turn our future transportation into living cabins — a high technology mobile phone on wheels or a new living and working space that changes our commute through the advent of faster connectivity, increased vehicle intelligence and autonomous technology.
The ecosystem surrounding vehicle manufacturers will also expand in its scope.
Businesses in areas such as big data analysis and management, cloud computing, drone technology, artificial intelligence, smart commerce, e-learning and others are now part of the expanding mobility sector.
Since the Malaysia Automotive Institute was rebranded to Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) and given new mandates in December last year, it has seen the ecosystem for new technologies grow ing slowly.
Many of the companies were featured at the Malaysia Autoshow 2019.
Some of the technologies featured included smart homes, workshop management systems, telematics command centres, and augmented reality application in vehicle repair and training.
MARii had also published numerous articles, videos and events covering businesses that add technology value to their products and services, including aftersales commerce applications, vehicle engine control unit (ECU) tuning, and IoT hardware and software development.
The uptake of new businesses, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs), in next generation vehicle technology is encouraging, and we hope to meet and develop relationships with companies in more areas of specialisation in the future.
In the meantime, the transition into capabilities in next generation vehicles, mobility-as-a-service and manufacturing technology associated with the above products and services will be a primary focus for the government in the near future.
The development is not limited to new businesses, but also existing businesses that can take advantage of their current expertise in vehicle and component production into the next era of advanced mobility.
As we draw closer to finalising the new National Automotive Policy the transition into future mobility models is highly achievable and if the government, industry and stakeholders renew their focus on the correct technology adoption, reskilling of talent, and de-conventionalise their business approach.
We have the potential to emerge as a prime mover in next generation vehicle technology.

The writer is the chief executive officer of the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii).

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Malaysia needs to embrace NxGVs to stay relevant

AROUND 20,000 demonstrators descended on the first public day of the Frankfurt Motor Show, calling for the automotive industry to prioritise zero and low-carbon emissions and transition to renewable energy in transportation.
While the sustainable development debate is not this article’s main point of contention, it brings forth the realisation that sentiment against fossil fuels is on the rise.
In countries where fuel is imported and subsidies are not given, the costs and consumption of energy is a concern.
Reports showed an exponential increase in the global fossil fuel consumption between 1950 to 2000, from 20,138 terawatt-hours (TWh) to 94,462TWh.
This takes into account the use of coal, crude oil, and natural gas. In 2017, it rose to 133,853TWh, an increase of 40 per cent in about half the time.
Global carmakers responded at this year’s IAA, which saw a significant increase in the number of plug-in hybrids and fully electric vehicles (EVs).
Major carmakers accepted consumers wanted more low emission mobility products at this year’s show compared with the previous editions.
It is clear that Malaysia’s automotive industry has to respond to the demands of the global market if we are to stay relevant. The next phase for us would be a higher focus on Next-Generation Vehicles (NxGVs).
In a nutshell, NxGVs are a combination of energy-efficient-vehicles (EEVs) with new driving technology that would move towards full vehicle autonomy (Level 5).
The development would concentrate on two major areas, namely the evolution of powertrain technology and also technology in-vehicle communication, fuel economy, autonomous driving and other technology that can be applied along the road towards full vehicle autonomy.
In relation to powertrain technology, one of the major challenges in introducing alternative powertrains is our high dependence on fossil fuels.
Further complications arise when efforts in balancing fuel subsidies and public incentivisation of fuel saving measures are met with socio-political pressure, with little room for dialogue.
In countries where electro-mobility is more widely accepted, the idea of fuel subsidies does not come into question, making it easier for fuel-efficient options to be more acceptable despite its higher costs, compared to traditional vehicles.
While, fuel pricing and costs of living are interlinked, the culture of fuel consumption should be discussed beyond maintaining blanket perceptions regarding the fixing of prices.
This way forward lies partly in the introduction of energy-efficient technologies to local market in order to develop trust in electro-mobility products, and also prepare local companies for export readiness.
The development is not restricted to vehicle manufacturers, but also parts and components and after-sales solutions sectors in the form of exportable aftersales products and services.
To stay relevant, the path ahead is clear. The management of energy consumption and the development of home-grown business and talent at vehicle, component and services levels must be a priority for the government, industry and the public at large.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Readiness is more a state of mind

MORE often than not, stories of healthy progress are easier to find than we think.
In a world where social media has pushed us into a state of information overload, it is easy to sift through headlines that may create a dent in our spirits.
In recent times, there are numerous milestones that will pave the path to a future steeped in technology adoption and opportunities for Malaysians.
Proton is showing a comeback through its recent spell in its increasing market share, with more 3S and 4S centres opening nationwide and a keen eye on export targets.
Perodua on the other hand has strengthened its in-house design capabilities, bringing advanced technology to the entry level market that was previously reserved for mid-range and premium vehicles— setting a new standard of automotive safety for all Malaysians.
Speaking of safety, Malaysian- made vehicles continuously received high safety ratings despite being the most affordable in the region.
Our parts and components suppliers have also done a tremendous job over the past few years. Exports of vehicle parts & components have risen from RM4.7 billion in 2014 to RM12.1 billion last year, and looks set to surpass the RM13 billion mark by this year-end.
More than 50 per cent of vendors have achieved a supply chain level 3 status, capable of lean production and efficient operations. Close to a third of them are capable of in-house design.
Additionally, remanufactured parts and components recorded an export figure of RM523.1 million last year.
More Malaysians are part of the automotive sector today, which has created around a quarter million new jobs in the last five years, with a quarter of the figure last year alone.
Last year, 62 per cent of the cars registered on the road were energy efficient vehicles (EEVs), signifying that many Malaysian car owners are keen on energy efficiency.
The obvious question is: are we ready for the next step. However, we need to know what are we preparing for?
When Vision 2020 was announced close to three decades ago, its first line envisioned Malaysia as an economy that is competitive, dynamic, robust and resilient.
One of the key challenges in the vision was the challenge of establishing a scientific and progressive society, a society that is innovative and forward-looking, one that is not only a consumer of technology but also a contributor to the scientific and technological civilisation of the future.
While it is important that we build the economies of scale needed for a thriving automotive sector, it is important to remain true to our goals to develop technological capital, which lies in the development of Malaysian careers and businesses in advanced technology.
We saw strong buildup to the introduction of 5G connectivity, bringing in faster Internet connectivity, which more importantly has a lower latency to form the foundations for the connected vehicle-to-everything communication.
A Malaysian firm, eMoovit, showcased a prototype for an autonomous vehicle, the second time we have come across local talent in autonomous transportation since the REKA self-driving car was showcased at the Malaysia Autoshow last year.
Overall, readiness for the next step does not always depend on what we have achieved alone.
The ability to believe that one is ready pays higher dividends, and the examples shown above were not done by people who said they were ready, but were ready to set an example of reaching higher levels of achievement.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Alternative path to success for Malaysian youth

WHILE we have all heard of the phrase “success is a journey, not a destination”, this journey is not equal for everyone.
A smooth journey towards success depends highly on the vehicle and route taken. We each have access to different routes and vehicle modes.
Besides, not everyone is given the luxury of choice to be a driver or a passenger.
A person’s ability to succeed is highly dependent on his or her surrounding, upbringing and access to opportunities.
Education, information and circles of influence have the ability to shape a child’s ability in the future, or even their performance in school.
Therefore, it is key that name callings such as “failures” or “hopelessness” not be placed on children based on their performances in the early stages of their life.
After all, they have a long way ahead and it would be futile to give up hope on them at such an early phase.
It is important that efforts are made not only to reduce such inequality, but also create avenues that pave the way for alternative forms of success through different routes. The advent of technology has added urgency the recognition of unequal access to opportunities.
This week, the Malaysia Auto- motive Robotics and IoT Institute launched the Youth Forward programme, with more than 200 upper secondary school students from Sabah taking part in its pilot project, as an alternative path towards success.
The programme, organised and coordinated by MARii, is an alternative for secondary school students to be away from academically-oriented education routes.
Through the programme, the students will be trained in various skill-based modules to be part of the nation’s skilled workforce in various sectors.
Participants of the initiative will undergo 30 sessions over four months, followed by practical training that will be conducted for five months where they will be placed in various industries.
The sessions would cover numerous aspects to provide intensive exposure to life skills, time management, safety in the home and vehicle, communication skills enhancement, public speaking, financial management and other life skills.
Modules relevant to their technological future would also be conducted, such as Introduction to Industry 4.0, basic robotics and coding.
The students will undergo a five-month practical training in various industries to expose themselves to cultures and practices of working life.
The programme is an important milestone in our effort to provide opportunities to all, including our youth.
In order to access these opportunities, we believe there should be a wide range of modules to cater to different backgrounds and exposure levels.
The Youth Forward programme is yet another access point towards success through the skill route.
It will be soon be extended throughout the country, ensuring our children receive the early exposure they deserve, based on their own strengths.
At the end of the day, the most important aspect in a child’s upbringing is positive reinforcement of their strengths.
Although nobody is perfect, it is important we work on perfecting the things they do best In future, it is their specialisation that makes them relevant to the value chain of global markets.
This week, more than 400,000 students in Primary 6 would begin their first educational hurdle in the UPSR exams.
While this is a major test for those ending their primary education, I understand it is equally nerve wrecking for the parents and teachers.
Irrespective of the outcome, the results are not an indicator of their future, but more importantly an indicator of the routes to be taken towards success.
Success does not lie in a piece of paper that inks their passes or failures, but in their ability to convert their abilities into meaningful gestures that benefit their families, their communities and the nation.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 29 August 2019

Opportunities, considerations in new mobility models

JUST like how the Internet has changed snail mail to email and Internet-based messaging such as Whatsapp has replaced short-message-service (SMS) as technology, market forces determine our relevance and have the power to change the conventional labels.
When transportation is connected to the Internet, new business models are created and begin to break into the market. They offer unique and niche solutions to specific problems that we didn’t realise were problems before.
Today, new types of ride-hailing services are constantly introduced to the Malaysian market, with niche solutions emerging to challenge norms of the automotive, transportation and mobility sectors.
This column has discussed in depth transformation of the automotive sector into the mobility sector, in which mobility-as-a service would be at the core of the evolution.
The recent discussion on the introduction of motorcycle based ride hailing was met with both support and criticism.
While the main intention was to offer more choices for the end users, and create new job and business opportunities, many argued that safety and socio-economic concerns must be addressed.
Thus, we must set aside our prejudice and dissect this issue with the appropriate nuance on the issues at hand.
It is worthy noting that some facts are important in forming a basis for our opinion on the matter.
Firstly, it has been made clear that this is not a monopoly, but it is open to both local and international players.
Secondly, the use of motorcycles for Internet-based commerce has gained popularity in Malaysia for a while now, and the issue at hand is — should we extend this service to ferry commuters, instead of only goods and other services?
Concerns of safety, security and “social decorum” create new opportunities themselves, thus providing secondary job and business opportunities that address those problems.
While safety of passengers has been a top concern, it opens the way for discussion towards better safety regulations and the introduction of technologies that have been long overdue to improve the two-wheeler safety, such as ABS braking, blind spot detection or even road maintenance standards.
Concern for the safety of female passengers is not limited to motorcycles, but also in car based ride hailing. Viewed positively, it creates new niche markets for “female-friendly” ridesharing services.
Most importantly, it adds a new range and dimension to the existing choices in public transportation, particularly last mile connectivity.
While the government and private sector can easily build the main network lines for rail and bus transportation infrastructure, ride-hailing caters to the intricacies of last mile connectivity to different localities, terrains or urban configurations.
The immediate consequence is that as motorcycle usage rises, so would the number of casualties, if an increase in road safety awareness among Malaysian riders is not implemented.
While we should not make blanket statements about all motorists, the general view among Malaysians is that driver’s attitude is not at an ideal point. More needs to be done to curb dangerous behaviour on our roads.
Most importantly, it is a serious issue that must be tackled not just for the introduction of different ride-hailing options, but also to ensure more connected mobility services are introduced globally.
If we look at countries within Asean that have achieved a significant penetration of motorcycle ride hailing — Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore and Indonesia — they are all within the top 15 countries with the highest motorcycle fatalities.
In Malaysia’s case, let’s look at the overall picture — with or without the introduction of new transportation and mobility models, the issue of road safety must be a top priority for the nation. Otherwise, global trends will leave us behind.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)

Thursday, 22 August 2019

Staying relevant through technology adoption

ONE of the key milestones the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) has reached this year is the establishment of capacity-building programmes and events that expand beyond the automotive industry into the fields of advanced manufacturing and the Internet of Things.
As we rebrand from the Malaysia Automotive Institute, our scope of work is primarily about shifting our fundamentals to the adoption of automation and connectivity in our daily lives and business operations.
Apart from the intervention programmes for mobility-related business and to enhance capabilities and capacities in automation and “IoT-isation”, the foundation begins with creating awareness levels for the adoption of technology — not just awareness of the availability of technology, but also its accessibility to small and medium enterprises (SMEs) as well as entry level workforce.
To ensure that Industry 4.0 is implemented successfully, our target group includes SMEs.
There are more than 900 thousand SMEs in Malaysia, or 98.5 per cent of the Malaysian economy, contributing 37 per cent to the gross domestic product of the nation.
Some 5.3 per cent of the SMEs are in the manufacturing sector and 89.2 per cent in the services sector. Only 34.5 per cent of the businesses are located in Kuala Lumpur and Selangor.
We have to be mindful that as technology advances, the lines of manufacturing and services would become blury.
There were many examples illustrated in this column, one of which is the evolution of the automotive manufacturing sector into Mobility as a Service (MaaS).
It indicates that manufacturing and services would converge hand in hand with business models changing as we progress further.
When it comes to the adoption of advanced technologies, not only the 900,000 business owners must gain awareness of technologies, but they must also be willing to accept that a transition towards Industry 4.0 would be unavoidable in the near future.
The implementation must spread to all corners of the nation to ensure the local market stays relevant to global trends.
Businesses must understand that technological implementation is not as daunting as it seems as the true technological breakthrough seen today lies in the ease of use and built-in adaptability factor.
If you can operate a vehicle or a smartphone, it is enough to build technology into your business operations.
When the thinking of top business levels shift, those working within the business would also shift their thinking.
If the majority of SMEs move towards Industry 4.0, it would be the first — yet major — step towards transforming the economy into higher value and income.
The main and true purpose in maintaining relevance of our capabilities is to stop depending on others.
However, the dependence is not equal to inter-dependence.
Inter-dependence refers to our ability to contribute equally to a market of ideas, products, technology and services.
Dependence means an over-reliance on the capabilities, on technological commodities of others and becoming pure consumers instead of creators and innovators.
While it is natural for technology to replace jobs, they are not meant to replace humans.
We have to stay relevant, adapt to new jobs and businesses created through the advancement in technology and enrich our lives by increasing the valuation of our contribution to the global market.
Staying relevant is at the core of the numerous capacity building, training and awareness programmes developed and implemented by MARii.
For those intending to begin their technological journey, get in touch with me or my team.
For those who have graduated through our modules, more advanced programmes are being developed and will be announced soon to enable and unlock more opportunities for Malaysian businesses and talents.

The writer is the chief executive officer of Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii)