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)

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