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)