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Opportunities and challenges in a connected world

last updated 20 April 2017

IoT Asia 2017 highlighted the benefits that businesses, governments and communities can reap from the Internet of Things.

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Opening keynote by Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative, Singapore. (Photo credit: IoT Asia)

By Jo-Ann Huang

Governments and businesses are racing to develop solutions by connecting numerous devices, whether it is a building management system that can spot problems faster, or a traffic light that adjusts its timings according to traffic conditions.

However, even as Internet of Things (IoT) technology develops rapidly, stakeholders need to consider issues such as collaboration amongst stakeholders, cybersecurity, and how IoT will change job descriptions.

These were some of the issues discussed at IoT Asia 2017, an event that saw more than 90 industry experts from 11 countries addressing topics from smart cities to data asset management; as well as the impact of a connected economy on society at large.

Held from 29 to 30 March at Singapore Expo, IoT Asia 2017 also featured more than 100 exhibitors from 16 countries showcasing their IoT solutions and technologies for a variety of sectors, such as healthcare, logistics, retail and transportation.

During his opening keynote address, Dr Vivian Balakrishnan, Minister-in-Charge of the Smart Nation initiative, said that IoT was not just about technology, but rather "what problem you are trying to solve, what solutions you offer and the value of your solutions".

"It is important to not only be aware of the latest technological trends, but to be responsive to customers’ evolving needs; be prepared to adopt new business models or transform business models; learn from other industries; and to have an eclectic approach to the way we do business and the way we approach life," he said.

In his opening address, Charles Reed Anderson, founder of IoT advisory services company Charles Reed Anderson and Associates, argued that more collaboration is needed going forward to create new products and services using IoT. "(It) is more than technology and gadgets. You need to have senior management to really push IoT initiatives forward and help create a culture,” he said.

Fresh Insights

Attendees of IoT Asia 2017 had the opportunity to gather insights from experts, who addressed issues categorised under three tracks: technologies, solutions and organisations.

The increasing security risk as more devices become connected was one issue that was brought up by the speakers. “As you start to bring more and more devices onto a connected infrastructure, you increase the vulnerabilities for attacks,” said Mr Sanket Ambrekar, vice president of innovations and new ventures at global engineering firm Flex.

However, he added that while this is a challenge that needs to be tackled, it will not hold back the overall development of IoT.

Man vs Machine?

The long-term impact of IoT on society, and jobs in particular, was another hot topic at the event. Dr Balakrishnan had noted that the digital revolution would mean that "even middle-class white-collar work and wages are going to be disrupted".

Charles Hamilton Ferguson, president of ADP Asia Pacific, agreed that while jobs are going to be replaced, the bigger question was how humans can remain relevant by working with robots to boost productivity. "The chief human resource officer will also act as the chief productivity officer in the firm, managing both human and virtual resources,” he said during a panel discussion on the issue.

On the topic of robots, the prospect of merging robotics with the Internet is an exciting innovation in IoT's development, said Alan Yong, director of Nullspace Tech, a Singapore-based company that offers educational courses in robotics.

Said Mr Yong, "With hardware and robotics projects now able to connect to the Internet, people are starting to do all sorts of things with it, like developing robot security guards that can be controlled over the Internet or like lighting up the Christmas tree when an email comes in!"

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