Thursday, 28 February 2019

Developing design-driven communities

The methodology of product and process design has always started with problem identification and the establishment of design goals, before working towards a set of solutions at the brainstorming stage.
However, design solutions derived from the brainstorming process are traditionally based on numerous assumptions – due to the shortage of measurable design inputs, often sourced from subjective customer feedback at the end of a previous product development cycle.
While the approach in product and process design has not changed much, the evolution of engineering design has seen tremendous advances – particularly with respect to the availability of measurable information, which converts to a reduction in the levels of design assumptions throughout the development process.
The data-driven economy, arriving through the advent of e-commerce platforms and rapid online application development has created an ecosystem where data such as customer behaviour, testimonials, manufacturing performance, sales trends have allowed access to huge amounts of logged raw data.
This raw data – when organised, analysed and interpreted – provide industry, academia and governments the large scale scenario insights into the socio-economic landscape of national and global markets.
The advent of big data analysis (BDA) and Smart IoT (Internet of things) will now be an important technology in order to support the design community in creating products that are rapidly optimised for the different markets around the world.
Besides this, design technology in itself has improved tremendously on the fringe of BDA and Smart IoT penetration.
MARii’s Design Engineering & Prototyping (DEP) programme, established since 2014, is based on the 3D experience platform which allows collaborative design with off-site teams through the cloud.
The same technology, when coupled with advances in BDA and IoT, unlocks a library of information for more accurate product designs that are more elastic to the nuances of consumer demands across different markets and segments.
For example, data collected from telemetry derived from on-board diagnostics systems – which have been readily available on modern cars – provide better insight into the development of engines, powertrain, chassis and suspension systems.
The same example above transitions into the testing and manufacturing stages.
Big data management systems allow for accurate engineering inputs during post-processing and calculation stages when predicting temperature profiles, fuel and exhaust flow or even crash simulations.
The same data set can be reorganised to develop appropriate tooling, manufacturing workflows and standard operating procedures, while automating production planning and control, quality assurance systems as well as logistics and delivery optimisation.
Most importantly, big data is a technology that transcends beyond the automotive industry, finding itself in applications for numerous sectors such as agriculture, plantations, fisheries, furniture design, etc.
This week, Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) will preview its BDA & IoT showcase at its headquarters in Cyberjaya, binding together the myriad of applications and programmes that have been developed in line with Industry 4.0 since the National Automotive Policy was launched.
The showcase features various big data technology that will impact the automotive industry and relevant sectors, that are expected to drive future connected mobility in fields such as data science, vehicle to vehicle communication, and most importantly predictive analysis tools that future-proof the upstream activities of future automotive design.
These programmes and technologies have been developed by MARii to accelerate the growth and development of the Malaysian design community, overcoming investment anxiety and spurring the initiation of learning curves for both business owners and the talents that reside within such businesses.
More intervention programmes to accelerate the development of the design community will be announced in the near future, covering the various design disciplines and technologies that are expected to be in demand in the future mobility industry.
Interested parties may contact me or my team through the various communication channels set up by MARii through email, social media (@MARiiMalaysia) or our website at (

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

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Time for Sabah, Sarawak to play bigger role

As a Sarawakian, I am aware that there has been decades-long limitation in bringing the automotive industry to Sabah and Sarawak, as the logistics factors alone make it seemingly challenging to set up an automotive manufacturing ecosystem.
However, with the advent of technology and disruptions within the mobility sector, new opportunities have arisen for the people of Sabah and Sarawak.
With the correct strategy, it is the right time for meaningful participation, with new comparative advantages now available for the region.
MARii has long been working closely with the Australian government to develop numerous turnkey projects in electric mobility and advanced manufacturing for the benefit of Malaysians.
Now, in the case of Sabah and Sarawak, an opportunity has presented itself.
Firstly, the advent of online technology has helped to bridge the geographical divide of the South China Sea, bringing collaborators together from all corners of the nation.
Secondly, the people of Sabah and Sarawak have the expertise and knowledge of their local terrain and market of around six million people.
This expertise expands into the numerous sectors that are larger in scale compared with that of the peninsula – such as agriculture, forestry and fisheries, etc.
Last week, we have achieved two important milestones that will include Sabah and Sarawak into the high-technology sector as mentioned above – not only within the automotive sector, but also high-potential spinoffs within the local economy.
In Sabah, the MARii Satellite Sabah was launched, housing advanced product design, process design, data analytics and special training facilities developed to allow participation of Sabahans in advanced technology applications for automotive manufacturing, after-sales and overall mobility.
The technology can be utilised in other sectors such as furniture, agriculture, plantation, oil and gas and fisheries.
The satellite is equipped with a design lab, hosting advanced product and process design applications, as well as a complete training Dojo for manufacturing, after sales and remanufacturing which will be used to conduct numerous programmes, both internally by MARii or with local experts within MARii’s extended network.
At the same time, the satellite also acts as a big data management and telematics centre to enhance information and data analytics, allowing for better insights and decision making for businesses.
In Sarawak, MARii signed a memorandum of agreement (MoA) with University College of Technology Sarawak (UCTS) for collaboration in research and development in energy efficiency and bridging human capital development at all levels between Peninsula Malaysia and Sarawak.
Through the MoA, MARii and UCTS will collaborate in research and development programmes for applications within the automotive and overall mobility sectors, including the application of robotics and the Internet of Things.
These projects are expected to also generate spinoff technology that can be applied to other sectors in Sarawak, such as smart plantations, tourism analytics, forest monitoring and swamp assessment.
The milestones above would allowed Sabah and Sarawak people to contribute and benefit from the opportunities created through the automotive and overall mobility sectors.
Trends have shown that the mobility sector will grow beyond automotive manufacturing alone, with sectors such as big data analytics, terrain assessment and content management quickly coming together to meet the growing demands of the mobility sector.
It is now time for Sabah and Sarawak to play a bigger role in overall mobility.

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

Thursday, 14 February 2019

Widening technology reach to all Malaysians

In previous articles, this column discussed the approaches to overcome barriers to technology penetration and adoption, particularly from the perspective of technology anxiety with respect to business investments and learning curves.
While this anxiety can be addressed through human capital development and technology adoption programmes, the bigger challenge is to manage the geography of technological access points across the physical landscape of the country.
As internet speeds and area of coverage increase, issues that can be solved by simple connectivity will naturally remove many barriers to technology access.
However, the future landscape foreseen through trends in Industry 4.0 expects cyber-physical systems to play a dominant role in the economy – which means that the management of geo-locational physical infrastructure has to be viewed holistically.
In general, the challenges are two fold – presenting itself in both logistical and socio-economic dilemmas.
Firstly, the variety of distance and topology requires custom solutions to the setting up of physical equipment, leading to increased investment cost and consequential risks to returns.
Second and more pertinent, is that the prescription of technological solution becomes more challenging when accessing areas with smaller population. As technological sophistication increases, it tends to cater to a higher degree of specialisation – and becomes complicated when local economies tend to be diverse in business needs and talent requirements.
Obviously, there is no magic bullet to quell all issues, and for me, challenges make life more interesting.
It is important to start moving towards a solution for this geographical dilemma – by reducing risk through setting up more access points for common use. If we can assist in establishing physical technological access points in strategic locations, and at the same time start with technologies that are common to the localities within reach, we have at least addressed half the problem, and we can meet the needs of Malaysians half way.
It is for this reason the Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute (MARii) is launching its MARii Satellite programme. Just like how the physical presence of orbiting satellites in space work in unison with its command centre on earth, MARii Satellites are physical setups, placed in strategic locations sensitive to the economic needs of the localities that surround them.
MARii will be launching its first ever Satellite in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, this weekend. It is a six-story facility that will house advanced product and process design, and training facilities specifically developed to allow increased technological adoption, in fields not limited to the automotive sector alone.
Furthermore, several programmes with schools, universities and local industry in Sabah have been initiated to enhance access to processes that optimise the creativity, innovation and implementation in science, engineering and technology for the benefits of education, business and research.
The unique feature of the satellite concept is that apart from allowing technology access to the local population, it also is designed to harness the talents (and potential) talents already existing within such localities.
It is a center of discussion, project implementation, creative design and training that harnesses the expertise and local experience of those within its immediate ecosystem.
In the future, the MARii Satellite programme will be expanded to reach all corners of the nation. They will also be strategically located within partnering universities, industry players and government infrastructure to maximise talent use, optimise facility and infrastructure utlisation, as well as harnessing technological adoption that will work in sync and in connectvity with all the other established MARii satellites facilities, our headquarters and centres of competencies.
This new approach will create the required value addition and widen our expertise network, which in future can be cross-referenced across the numerous Satellites so that the expert and facilities pool can be shared and optimised to accelerate the technological adoption across the entire national economic landscape.

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

Friday, 8 February 2019

Tech savviness: Preparing children for the future

The next time you speak to fresh graduates in their early twenties ask them if they’ve ever used an audio cassette. If you give them a cassette tape and a pencil, they would probably have no clue of the relationship between the objects.
When compact discs were introduced, the music industry spoke of the new level of audio quality – but many of us we were more amazed at the absence of rewinding process when listening to our favourite songs repeatedly.
As I waded through the heavy traffic to Perlis during the Chinese New Year break, I realised that the travel experience is no longer what it used to be. Not a decade ago, we were all tussling with the car’s radio, but today, everyone has his personal entertainment system in the smartphone.
It is said that the younger generation gets the grasp of technology much faster than the previous one. That is true for me.
Today I am labelled tech-savvy and up-to-date with the devices I use, and in applying the latest technology at work. However, I’ve come to realise that it is easier to be tech savvy when you have better access to technology.
Each day, my work allows me to be briefed and see firsthand the latest technological advancements in the world. It allows me to see the potential and possibilities of enriching people’s lives. But many are perhaps not as fortunate as me.
While many of us use technology and are surrounded by those who can share their technology experience, there are those who do not have such access and are put at a disadvantage.
Just a few decades ago, having any computer skills on your resume was a prized asset, but today, having Microsoft Office skill is a requirement for you to even be considered for a low-paying job.
Perhaps, in the next few decades, those with no computer skills would be put in an illiterate list. In future, coding skills may become a literacy standard as demands for software complexities increase.
It is important then for policymakers, teachers and parents to future-proof the next generation. This must be done through granting of access to technology in a manner that they can experience its benefits, work with the technology and integrate it into their daily lives.
However, while it is easy to pass them a smartphone and let the technology distract them, be wary of its effects on their social skills – it is important for us to be part of their technology discovery and harness the potential of the new tools for their interpersonal and future professional development.
In the next few decades, the ability to interact with cyber physical systems will hinge on a person’s ability to communicate with computers that are built into everything he or she owns. This ability is not just on a consumer level, but in machine language – or coding – i.e. those with these skills will play a dominant role in the future economy.
We must maximise the use of new technology to develop their hand-eye coordination, language, cognitive development, visual attention and problem solving skills.
After all, app developers have done an immense job in providing content that is fun and engaging for children, and we should take them as a set of technology applications to expedite our preparation for the quality of life we seek for their future.
On top of this, the government is committed to granting more access at a higher level of participation. Malaysia Automotive, Robotics and IoT Institute is currently developing new programmes in the field of design, science, engineering, robotics and Internet of Things that specifically allow children and teenagers to delve into advanced technologies from a young age.
This is key, because while some future jobs may be rendered obsolete due to the adoption of disruptive technologies, new jobs are constantly emerging. IT-based jobs will also include data scientists, full stack engineers, drive-test engineers, user experience designers and content creators. We must ensure that ample space and access is provided for the development of such valuable talents.
Most importantly, access is not merely a physical space where we can “gamify” technology – it is also unlocking our awareness that the future will demand a change in how we view our personal preparation for the working life.
We must all act now, so that our children inherit a future that can accommodate them.

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