Wednesday, 19 December 2018

Internet of Things for SMEs – Friend or Foe?


Perhaps the biggest barrier to perpetuate the use of technology within our economy is anxiety towards the technology itself. This fear of the unknown, usually in the form or risks associated with the investment, implementation and maintenance of expensive technology, may overwhelm the entrepreneur struggling with the various operations within their companies.

Any investment, procurement or hiring is a risk in itself, including technology. However, it is also possible that throughout the years, we have desensitized ourselves to the common risks when investing in infrastructure, personnel, utilities and other overheads that are norms to the conventional way of doing business.

This may often lead to technology investments as a secondary “bonus” should the business do well, or only reserved for large-scale companies with sizeable technology investment budgets.

On the contrary, the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) actually allows for a rethinking of business practices, leading to solutions to risk management woes that have previously plagued conventional businesses.

While advanced technologies have been developed based on the IoT framework, such as manufacturing execution systems (MES) and Intelligent transportation systems, the beauty of IoT is its basic principle – any device that transmits data allows for access through any connection points through the cloud.

This unlocks a myriad of applications that are available for all types of businesses, including startups.

For example, cloud-based accounting and financial software are now affordable at rates previously inaccessible to small firms. These off-the-shelf applications are now capable of tracking and reconciling bank transactions, raising quotations and invoices and summarizing them into balance sheets and profit and losses, thereby eliminating the huge costs of clerical errors, audit preparation and cashflow management all in one go.

Also, with a small investment, inventory management can now be automated through cloud-based systems that track the flow of equipment and stock with minimal manpower, eliminating waste and inventory loss.

For the startup, this means business owners can reduce administrative burdens and focus on what matters most – the innovation and value-added activities within the company operations.

As small and medium enterprises form the most sizeable portion of the Malaysian economy, it is important that the normalization of technology utilization is made a key focus, particularly within startups.

While we all own a smartphone and computers, how many of us are maximizing the connectivity and processing capabilities of these powerful tools? Are we well versed with the various applications that have the potential to solve real business problems and present opportunities to enhance competitiveness of our operations?

In the age of overwhelming technology options and a multitude of choices in investment paths each with its own risks, perhaps the smartest approach to creating such normalization would be maximizing technology that is readily available.

With the recent rebranding of the Malaysia Automotive Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii), new intervention programmes are now under development to enhance the normalization of IoT-based technology within all levels of businesses, from technology startups to service centers, big or small.

Most importantly, technology adeptness is not only for the business owner, but also for the society at large. The ability to fully utilize human advancement is not in the technology itself, but the mindset and readiness of the human to accept change.

While we work on high technology penetration within the economy, MARii is committed to ensuring technology adeptness begins with the acceptance of technology at all levels.

Next year, the industry players and the public at large can expect new opportunities in enhancing their capabilities, understanding, knowledge and skills in the new applications and technologies related to robotics and IoT.

American philosopher and educator John Dewey once said: “If we teach today as we taught yesterday, we rob our children of tomorrow”

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





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