Service provider sees three decades of digital transformation after COVID
It is hard to regard the COVID-19 pandemic as having a “silver lining”, but from the viewpoint of new technology, it is bringing many Thai businesses and industries closer to the magic of the Internet of Things.
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The IoT has “been around” in Thailand for about five years, but remains little understood. Basically, it uses the internet to connect computing devices that are embedded in everyday objects, enabling them to send and receive data. Automation is one of its great strengths, and in many overseas countries it has been in increasingly heavy use for about 10 years. Now, it has a vital role to play in Thailand’s transformation to Thailand 4.0, achieving the country’s Industry 4.0 vision, and the digital makeover of its business sector.
At an international level, IoT growth has helped to answer the need for greater automation in many industries. But in Thailand, the energy sector is presently the biggest user of IoT. The country’s industrial and service sectors are expected to follow, with providers of transportation and financial services in the lead.
The Head of IoT for B2B Solutions at Total Access Communication (dtac), Narit Duangkruaratichote, told The Story Thailand that the COVID-19 crisis had increased the presence of IoT in the industrial sector for four main reasons: to reduce costs, boost productivity, increase revenue and enhance development of innovations.
Until recently, IoT was seen mainly as a tool to curb costs, because the cost of labor was a prominent concern in the industrial sector. However, if industrial operators automate their operations with IoT, they can say goodbye to both unwieldy workforces and manually controlled machinery.
So, an increasing number of industrial operators have embraced IoT, and buoyed by the new technologies, their systems have become more automated and easier to operate. Machines with IoT features can be controlled and monitored over the internet, so users need no more than smartphones to easily and efficiently control their operations.
For the industrial sector, IoT has already increased productivity, reduced production time and enhanced production continuity. At the same time, consumers’ needs are keeping pace with rapidly advancing technologies, and all businesses face the need to create new user experiences to generate income.
IoT is therefore attracting huge attention. It is ready to play a role in the development of innovations, and several enterprises have launched research-and-development projects to upgrade their innovations to boost efficiency, reduce costs, save time, and minimize errors.
While it may not be obvious, IoT is assuming a growing presence in people’s lives. Banks, property developers and various other service providers have integrated IoT into their customer services. For example, “Smart Homes” are now being built with a high complement of IoT technologies.
Dtac’s role in the IoT market
Narit says that, as a telecom operator, dtac has a mission to educate all sectors of Thai society about the importance and benefits of IoT, and how these technologies can be applied to benefit their industries and lifestyles.
The first users of IoT in Thailand were large enterprises, but in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, other enterprises are realizing the urgent need to adopt this new technology. A huge number of businesses are looking for ways to reduce their expenses and increase their productivity.
For example, many enterprises have deployed IoT devices to check the temperature of visitors. Others use IoT for facial-recognition features, office automation, and remote working. In the transportation sector, IoT solutions help to track deliveries.
“In my opinion, had the COVID-19 crisis not occurred, it would have taken another one or two years for the public to understand IoT and its benefits. But because the crisis has taken place, every organization is prioritizing IoT,” Narit said.
As the business sector accelerates its digital transformation, more human staff will be replaced by technologies. The upcoming arrival of 5G cellular technology is also expected to significantly increase the use of IoT. The new 5G will have very low latency – that is, the time between the initiation of an event and its perception by an observer or receiver. With the existing 4G technology, it is possible to connect thousands of IoT devices together. But with 5G, each network will be capable of connecting millions of IoT sensors together. When backed by 5G, a network’s data-transmission efficiency will therefore increase considerably. Robots, for example, will be able to operate with greater accuracy. The outstanding benefits of 5G are expected to spur massive growth in the use of IoT.
Dtac believes that the COVID-19 pandemic will encourage enterprises with ready cash to quickly invest in IoT – if for no other reason, to help them to implement social-distancing measures and work-from-anywhere mode. It also promises to reduce costs at a time when many enterprises have budget constraints and the country is facing economic recession.
For example, several enterprises have applied IoT in asset tracking, remote monitoring of machines, and preventive maintenance. With IoT, it is possible to monitor the status of devices at industrial plants, banks’ wireless electronic data-capture devices, and stocks at warehouses catering to e-commerce. Such monitoring is good not only for maintenance. but also for security. At hospitals, IoT devices can check the temperature of people entering and leaving, and in the energy sector, they can constantly monitor moisture levels inside electricity-distribution boards.
Dtac Business offers IoT technologies via partnerships
Dtac’s IoT Business offers more than 10 IoT solutions via partners specializing in network equipment. Backed by Telenor’s tech expertise, dtac also boasts an efficient and highly-secure Managed IoT Cloud platform. This dtac network requires modest bandwidth and encrypts all data sent from IoT devices.
At the heart of dtac’s operations lies a customer-centric approach, so its comprehensive range of solutions is well designed to give customers greater ease and convenience. Customers do not have to worry about installations and implementation. They are able to focus on their core business operations, boost their growth, and find new sources of income in spite of economic challenges and digital disruption.
Dtac has accorded importance to IoT because it is a core part of new solutions that can add value to customers’ businesses under three main categories: Smart City, Smart Industry and Smart Life.
For “Smart City”, dtac works with both government agencies and private entities to establish ecosystems and integrate smart solutions into smart cities. The company is a major contributor to the integration of smart solutions in Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) zones. For “Smart Industry”, dtac serves customers in the transportation, banking, agriculture and service industries. To upgrade its business, it has also created “Smart Offices” for customers. Using IoT technology, air conditioners, temperature controls and moisture levels are easily managed. And on a bigger scale, dtac employs IoT devices to measure outdoor temperature, moisture levels, PM2.5 pollution, and floodwater levels to create a “Smart Environment”.
“We also have Narrowband IoT, or NBIoT, in our pipeline. We are going to test it with 5G. With NBIoT, devices can save energy because they are directly connected to a dtac network. They do not have to communicate via a gateway. Such a bypass can make a big difference. In some use cases, the application will allow big improvements,” Narit said.
When it comes to “Smart Life”, dtac offers IoT solution for individual customers. The property sector has been the first to take advantage of these innovations. Designed for “Smart Homes”, or other aspects of living, these solutions aim to help people to live and work with greater comfort and convenience. At home, lighting can automatically turn on and off and room temperatures are constantly checked. Healthcare businesses, meanwhile, have worked with dtac in the development of “Smart Watch”, providing constant monitoring of patients’ health conditions.
IoT to be “mainstream” in 30 years
GSMA – the UK based Global System for Mobile Communications – forecasts that within the next five years, the world’s IoT market will be worth USD1.1 trillion, because 5G, IoT, AI (artificial intelligence) and Cloud promise to surge to enormous popularity at around the same time, and complement one another.
These technologies will combine to produce countless practical solutions. Being aware of this situation, mobile-phone service providers are now focused on delivering services via platforms, applications, and more. Their focus is no longer limited to connectivity.
As enterprises seek out tech solutions for business development, IoT is expected to play a key role over the next three decades.
“IoT is going to change our way of life. With IoT, large enterprises will almost completely change. It will take time for SMEs to transform in the same way, though, because IoT adoption will need additional investment,” Narit said.
As for its own future, dtac has now embraced the concept of Co-Creation Solutions. These begin with dtac seeking out partners or potential customers that are about to demand certain IoT solutions. Then, through its partnerships, the joint development or co-creation of the solutions is launched. The first targets for dtac’s Co-Creation Solutions will be large enterprises.
Another of dtac’s business models involves capitalizing on its strengths as a leading provider of connectivity and data services. Based on this model, dtac is offering its platform to app developers.
“Dtac has its selling points,” Narit concluded. “Our platform is solid and internationally recognized. Our Managed IoT Cloud (MIC) is highly secure. We have Message Queuing Telemetry Transport (MQTT) to ensure safe app development. Boasting a really good platform, we are internationally recognized as an industry leader. Today, we are ready to serve every sector of Thailand for further national development.”