By Lim Zeng Hao
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, online shopping has surged in the past few months. From groceries to remote working and home fitness essentials, items that we buy online appear to move seamlessly from the warehouse to our doorstep in a matter of days.
Though it appears deceptively simple, e-commerce is in fact powered by complex logistics on a massive scale.
When these items are delivered to our homes, various companies chip in along the way to ensure they are stored and transported in a safe and secure manner.
The same goes for data.
In the era of digital transformation, data has become a quintessential resource for many global enterprises today. With the growth of the digital economy, businesses are increasingly relying on data analytics and making sure that data is successfully packaged and delivered is crucial since many business decisions—and even use cases like artificial intelligence or smart devices—are data-driven.
One company looking to take flight in this digital economy is SkyLab, a Singapore-based deep technology company that helps partners and clients optimise the delivery of data, content and software for mission-critical applications.
In recognition of their potential to revolutionise data logistics, SkyLab was awarded the Most Promising Tech Startup at the 2018 SG:D Techblazer Awards, the nation’s highest accolade for tech innovation.
In this conversation with IMPact News, Mr Stephen Ho, Skylab Holding’s Group Chief Operating Officer, shared with us the serendipitous beginnings of Skylab and their ongoing journey towards the market.
Q: How did SkyLab come to develop and provide data logistics services?
We were first presented with the challenge of transporting real-time data off field devices dispersed in 1,800 locations across Singapore. These devices were used by the largest solar energy provider in Singapore.
Harvesting the data involved many devices, sensors and protocols on hard-to-access rooftops. Moreover, these sensors and devices had to be managed for system upkeep and security; any new sensor or device deployed had to undergo two-factor security authentication before data from it was allowed through. The data then had to be securely and efficiently transported to the client’s cloud platform for further processing and visualisation.
To derive the highest value from the client’s data, having a seamless and secured flow of real-time data was critical. This gave our client timely insights into the performance of their system.
Q: How would SkyLab describe its products to someone unfamiliar with the industry?
Imagine you need to optimise an entire office building’s performance. As a building manager, you’d immediately face several issues. First, you’d have to figure out a cost-effective and secure way of extracting data from the various databases and sub-systems. Second, you’d have to analyse and visualise all these data in a timely manner. And finally, you’d want to manage this entire infrastructure without having to set up a big IT team.
This is where SkyLab’s technologies come into play. For instance, our multi-protocol aware advanced edge gateway (IGX™) and Multi-Access Edge Computing (MEC) platform enable the real-time harvesting and processing of data from varied sources by reducing the need to send huge volume of data to the cloud for processing.
Any data and insights processed at the edge that need to be sent for further analysis elsewhere is then accelerated by the SkyLab Transport Accelerator (STA™), which optimises data delivery by intelligently predicting the best possible path in the network, reducing delays and increasing data throughput.
With our Data Logistics Cloud Fusion Flow (DLC FF™) Platform, you can also manage the entire process mentioned above efficiently. This is because of the Application Enablement Platform (AEP) found in the DLC FF™ platform. Similar to a smartphone’s App Store, the AEP allows you to easily download new applications to remotely upgrade the functionalities of the SkyLab IGXs and MECs. This allows new analytics to be done on video footage or new algorithms to be carried out.
Q: With SkyLab’s focus on data logistics, what would you say are your unique value propositions for enterprises in these domains?
SkyLab is unique in several ways. Foremost would be the fact that we are a deep technology company with a strong focus on developing digital solutions and platforms that are in line with the latest market and technological trends. Our 5G-ready products and platforms are great examples of this, as well as our collaborations with major players like Intel and Microsoft.
Since the solar monitoring project, SkyLab has gained extensive experience in operating Infrastructure, Platform and Software as a Service (XXaS). Additionally, our team comprises industry veterans in domains ranging from cloud computing to the smart built environment amongst others. Our interdisciplinary team enables the cross-fertilization of ideas and development of products that address the needs and pain points of the market.
Q: Partnership is an important element for Singaporean companies looking to expand overseas. Can you share with us any of SkyLab’s successful regional partnerships?
We recently partnered COOL.DE, one of the largest data analytics companies in western China. Serving telecommunication operators in Chongqing, COOL.DE has extensive experience in digitisation and analytics. In 2019, the company approached us with a problem similar to the one previously faced by the Singapore solar developer: they were looking for a way to aggregate and manage multiple sources of real-time data from diverse equipment and sensors spread across a large geographical region.
Although the scale they had in mind was much larger, when I shared with them our experience in Singapore, they immediately said, “That’s exactly what we need!”
We are now jointly developing a data logistics and analytics platform for the Chongqing market, with support from the Joint Innovation Development Grant given by Digital Industry Singapore (DISG), Enterprise Singapore (ESG) and IMDA.
Q: What kind of partners would SkyLab like to work with?
We are looking for two types of partners.
First, channel partners like telcos or technology system integrators that will help deliver our products and platforms to the market.
Second, companies looking to onboard their digital solutions—such as security, video analytics, asset and facilities management or predictive analytics—onto our Application Enablement Platform, which we can then jointly offer to the market. Because our technology transcends different industry verticals, we are able to work with tech partners from different domains.
Q: How has support from IMDA and DISG helped Skylab?
The support from IMDA and DISG has helped us tremendously by keeping us informed on the latest industry developments and in identifying new markets for our products.
IMDA and DISG, together with ESG, have also worked tirelessly to connect us with relevant parties from Indonesia and China, opening up new business opportunities in two very promising markets. As mentioned earlier, we have also been given a grant to jointly develop a data logistics and analytics platform for the Chongqing market with our Chinese partner COOL.DE.
Ultimately, both IMDA and DISG understand that Singapore companies need to unite and pursue new opportunities together and we deeply appreciate their effort and support.
Q: What is next for Skylab?
Having spent the last few years developing and improving our products and platforms, and deploying them on a large scale in Singapore, we are now going regional.
We have since set up offices in Taiwan, China, Indonesia and Vietnam. Not only are we excited to expand our products and platforms across the region; we are also actively looking for new partners and opportunities in different domains.
Beyond that, we will continue to stay focused on developing new products and platforms to capitalise on the opportunities brought about by 5G and we certainly look forward to exploring new use cases with IMDA and our partners going forward.