IoT in Malaysia: Challenges ahead before it goes viral

  • Open standards, security and cost issues among key concerns for IoT adoption
  • Regulators need to have clearer guidelines on areas like NFC and e-payment
IoT in Malaysia: Challenges ahead before it goes viral

MANY of the elements of an Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem are in place in Malaysia, but some major challenges need to be resolved before the country can see mass adoption of the technology, according to industry and government experts at a recent roundtable discussion organised by Intel Malaysia.

Research and analyst firm Gartner Inc describes IoT as the network of physical objects that contain embedded technology that can communicate and sense, or interact, with their internal states or the external environment.
“First, IoT has to operate on open standards. It can’t work if you have sensors that don’t talk to the gateway, or gateways that don’t talk to the cloud. You need to keep all the solutions open so that the data can flow transparently,” said Christopher Kelly, general manager of the Malaysia Design Centre at Intel Malaysia.
“Another challenge that companies may face is security, especially when they are deploying a large scale system and many of the data sources like sensors are in the public eye or are available in big data centres. Companies need to ensure that the data is secure,” he said.
Sim Hon Wai, general manager of MDT Innovations Sdn Bhd, also raised a few issues that may be stumbling blocks for IoT to take off in a big way in Malaysia.
“The Malaysian market is very small and a lot of the demand is government-driven, which makes it quite difficult
“Also, another thing is that labour cost is still low. In the transition for IoT, we also need to talk about automation," he said "If companies don’t believe in automation, it would be difficult for Malaysians to adopt IoT.”
MDT is an RFID (radio frequency identification) solutions provider that is tapping on the IoT space. One of its products is an RFID nametag for students which enables parents to be alerted when their child has arrived safely in school.
Currently, over 80% of MDT’s revenue comes from outside Malaysia, according to Sim.
Kelly and Sim were among panelists who attended the IoT roundtable discussion, with the others being Prakash Mallya, country manager of sales and marketing at Intel Malaysia and Singapore; and Hasannudin Saidin, director of the digital entrepreneurs division in Multimedia Development Corp (MDeC).
The panelists agreed that the Malaysian Government plays a key role in growing the IoT ecosystem.
“I think one of the main concerns for the Government is that there are many agencies within the industry, and these agencies are operating in silos," said Hasannudin.
“At MDeC, I am pleased to say that we communicate with all related agencies and organisations, such as MiGHT (Malaysian Industry – Government Group for High Technology), Mimos Bhd and others,” he claimed.
In fact, Hasannudin revealed that MDeC will be in close discussions with Mimos and other agencies on the formulation of Malaysia's National IoT Blueprint, which is scheduled to be presented to the Government by October. The inaugural meeting for the national IoT Blueprint was held last week.
While it is pleasing to see that ministries and government agencies are in the loop of IoT development, Sim said tthere was a need for regulators to set clearer guidelines for the industry.

“For example, if Bank Negara Malaysia can set a clear guideline on how players can do e-payments, or even payments using Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, then it would be easier for we industry players to help develop the ecosystem,” Sim said.
Despite the challenges they raised, the four panellists were all bullish on the prospects of IoT in Malaysia.
According to Gartner, globally there could be as many as 25 billion devices connected to the Internet by 2015 and 50 billion by 2020. The analyst firm also expects IoT to generate 35 zettabytes of data and US$2 trillion in value globally by 2020. A zettabyte is about one billion terabytes.
“In Malaysia, Intel has been working with local talent to develop the groundwork and foundations of IoT via our Intelligent Systems Group based out of Penang,” said Prakash.
“That said, no single technology provider can enable the IoT alone, so it makes sense that fulfilling its promise requires collaboration.
“This means, industry players and government agencies working together to develop the ecosystem,” he added.
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