Thursday, 31 January 2019

Continuous Innovation: Paradigm Shift in an Automated World

Hollywood has long been the inspiration for future technology. Since television reached the masses beginning around the 1950s, series like “Buck Rogers” and “Star Trek” sparked the imagination of future applications of visual teleconferencing, high-speed engineering calculations, immersive automation and human travel.
While many of these “dream devices” are still considered scientifically impossible, many – merely deemed as science fiction at the time – have become a large part of our lives.
The point is – the human race has an innate resolve to improve its lifestyle, today’s solutions are tomorrow’s problems and we continuously innovate to make life easier.
Today, the science and engineering romanticized in the films above have started to take shape – particularly in automating our lifestyle and work.
Since the introduction of the smart phone, many apps have been developed to centralise our daily needs into one device, from the simple calculator to the more complex circuit design and experimentation.
The growing financial technology (fintech) industry has also rolled out numerous applications that have automated many processes in the financial world.
The development of smart manufacturing systems has created flexible robotics systems that have the speed, accuracy and precision that would be impossible for the human hand to cope with.
Throughout the centuries, invention and innovation have changed world paradigms – in a sense that they result in a crossroad between human needs and human livelihood.
 As consumers, we are spoilt for choice in the range of applications today. However, we must also be wary that for every application developed, there is a business or individual that has been replaced with technology.
The digital “swiss army knives” that we now hold in our hand has affected sales of numerous profitable businesses of the past – calculators, rulers, cameras, and many other household tools have required innovation of their business model.
They have displaced the skills required to produce them, and have created an urgent need for skills retraining – most importantly bridging technological anxieties and fear in career development in an automation-based paradigm, and providing access to the necessary learning curves needed to establish a critical mass for the industry demands.
As a developing nation with a dependence on manufacturing and services, the innovation of business models must be facilitated.
To achieve this, the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) is in the process of developing several centres to facilitate the needs above, not only in automated production, but also in products that serve to automate our lifestyle.
Firstly, a robotics academy will be set up along with a robotics development facility, housed under MARii’s Robotics Center (MARoC). This centre will address both human capital and business development needs for the industry in ensuring that their processes can undergo a transformation towards smart automation, while ensuring talent substitution can be controlled and higher value jobs are created for Malaysians.
Secondly, to create the necessary talent to spur the development of upstream careers in product and process design, the MARii Virtual Center will be established to allow increased Malaysian participation in virtual and augmented reality (VR and AR) based design processes, expediting lead times and validations costs, as well as increasing efficiency and accuracy at upstream stage of manufacturing.
Thirdly, the Autonomous Vehicle Test Bed is currently in the works, not only as a facility to test autonomous vehicles but also for all businesses in the mobility ecosystem to collectively design and validate their products in a single location, in collaboration with all members that contribute to the design pool for autonomous driving.
Most importantly, the milestones above are designed to look at the issue of automation as a whole. At the end of the day, technology must be beneficial to mankind at all levels – the guiding principle in governing the economy must strike a balance between making products that improve the quality of life, with economic participation for Malaysians to afford such quality of life.

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

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