An Interview with Dr. Mazlan Abbas, CEO – REDtone IoT Malaysia
Q. From your experience, what have been operators’ biggest concerns regarding IoT, specifcally with:
Building out the infrastructure?
- Operators have invested millions and even billions of dollars on their existing 2G, 3G and 4G infrastructures. Should they just continue on in their connectivity businesses, or enter into solutions businesses which are not their traditional areas of strength.
- The value of IoT is no longer at the connectivity layer, since only about 10% of IoT devices require a SIM card.
90% of IoT devices don’t require an operator’s network. However, operators are not comfortable in selling IoT solutions, especially in the enterprise segment because of the different domain expertise it requires.
Using it as an entry point to sell higher margin services?
- It has been predicted that billions of devices will soon be connected to the internet. Connectivity will be the “basic”
requirement, and once operators acquire customers with their connectivity, they can begin to offer more value-added IoT applications such as Smart Homes solutions.
Q. What do you see as the three critical success factors for successful IoT implementation?
1. Appoint Smart City Champions or Chief Smart City Ofcers (CSCO)
- We need a champion that can successfully execute the blueprint or smart city framework. The CSCOs must not
only have a clear Smart City vision, but must be able to close the gaps, break through any barriers and have the drive
to make it happen. Data must not be kept in silos. IoT will be a failure if it’s not able to be aggregated into a single
platform. The industry can contribute on the other part of the equation, but the desire and passion must come
from the City Champions themselves.
2. Think Like a Startup When Building a Smart City
- The investment for a Smart City deployment can be huge, but it can easily become a white elephant if it is done hastily or without proper management. Many initiatives will not be able to be sustained. If the idea is just to bask in the limelight of the official launches, energy (and support) will quickly fade in as little as a month. Use the Minimum Viable City approach – Build, Measure, and Learn. Scale when the city is ready. The government must allocate
fund for pilot trials since IoT is something new – you need to experiment fully within the country’s context. The acceptance of Smart City solutions in many countries difers due the diversity of people and culture. Of course, there are many products from overseas, but Smart City and IoT projects are excellent enablers to spur local indigenous goods and companies.
3. New Policies and Enforcement are Key
- Imagine when cars are mandatory to be equipped with sensors, connectivity and GPS. Security, maintenance, car hiring, usage-based insurance and many new and innovative applications can be created. What if all factories or buildings that have a risk of creating pollution are fitted with environmental sensors and continually monitored for any violations? Imagine if companies who want to reduce their personnel’s medical costs provide them with a wearable device that measures their number of steps, heart rate and much more. Suddenly we see an exponential growth of IoT devices and applications in the country!
Q. For an operator who is just now beginning to think about IoT, what would you say to them?
IoT for telcos is no longer a “connectivity” game, because they will lose in the longrun since so many new non-telco players are deploying technologies like LoRa and SigFox. However, when embarking on an IoT business, the operator needs to understand their strengths and to which part of the IoT value chain they can successfully contribute. IoT requires a conducive eco-system since no one entity can be successful without the other.
Q. What has been the most difficult challenge you’ve had with IoT, and how did you overcome it?
Most of the time, Smart Cities deployments have failed not because of a failure in planning, but because of a failure in execution – a failure to get citizens to use the facilities and/or a failure to maintain and sustain the business model.
The maturity of acceptance of people who live in cities is also an essential element. I don’t think we can just replicate the success of one Smart City from country to country without proper understanding citizens’ priorities, due to the ethnic makeup and maturity of each city’s inhabitants.
No doubt, we need a masterplan for Smart Cities. A blueprint that lays the framework and the time frame is essential in measuring the success of any project. But then, blueprints can be useless if there is no element of funding and the right business models aren’t in place. Most Smart Cities projects are delayed or cancelled due to lack of financing from both parties, government and private entities.
To avoid such issues, we use the “lean methodology” in developing Smart Cities. The key element is the MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or in this case, we might call it “Minimum Viable City.” Here are the steps:
1. Develop a hypothesis by getting citizens’ input. Provide citizens with the tools that allow them to engage with their
government or city authorities.
2. Collect the data and analyze citizens’ priorities.
3. Build the “Minimum Viable City” Smart Applications.
4. Measure the impact and usefulness.
5. Learn from the citizens whether their pain points are adequately addressed. Iterate and do it again.
6. Scale up the deployment. “Think Big Start Small” – that’s how we should build our Smart Cities without investing so many resources.
Q. I understand you recently began using Unifed Inbox’s UnifcationEngine™ (UE), can you tell me:
Why you chose to partner with them? We are always on the lookout for technology partners who can enhance our CitiSense IoT platform and are open to collaboration. Honestly, initially I didn’t realize the potential and the
powerful features of Unifed Inbox’s UnifcationEngine™ until we met at one of the international conferences and began talking about how IoT can become more social and things can have their own social media accounts.
Q. What does integrating UE enable you to do that you couldn’t do before?
Previously, we only used the CitiAct mobile application to reach the end users, and the only notifcation alerts were SMS, email and Twitter. However, with UnifcationEngine, we are able to reach users on all social media channels
they use, such as Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook and many more. We are very excited when we are able to send
messages from any IoT device to social media channels because it provides more opportunities to create innovative
Q. Is there anything else you would like to share with operators about IoT and/or REDtone IOT?
CitiAct is not the only IoT application by REDtone IOT. It is, in fact, a part of the entire smart city puzzle. CitiAct provides the citizen component of the smart city while the CitiSense can be used to support various applications such as Smart Parking, Smart Waste Management and much more. So, alongside the enhancement of CitiAct, we are also developing new and exciting applications.
CitiAct has been recognized by various countries around the world and we have appointed several business partners to distribute CitiAct to their local councils. Some of the countries that we are making inroads with are India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Australia, Portugal, Indonesia and several other countries in Southeast Asia. CitiAct application also officially supports English, Bahasa Malaysia, Portuguese, Bahasa Indonesia and Hindi. We are still actively seeking both business and technology partners to provide IoT solutions globally.
Due to the generality and fexibility of CitiAct, it has a vast potential to operate in other industries such housing development, facilities management, construction site management and building management.
Source: Teletimes, Issue 130, Pg 54. Oct 2016