Traditional software firm makes IoT play

  • MSC company heads to Silicon Valley for Global SmartCamp finals
    Taking advantage of tech trends to deliver higher value to customers

Traditional software firm makes IoT play

FROM the slow pace of Ipoh in the state of Perak north of Kuala Lumpur, to bustling Istanbul and the dynamic Silicon Valley in California next, Wong Joe Foong is excited about putting his company in front of some of the most savvy technology players in the world next month on Feb 6.
The founder of survey and monitoring company Pembinaan TMC Sistem Sdn Bhd will be heading to the finals of IBM’s Global SmartCamp to compete for the Global Entrepreneur of the Year 2013 award.
SmartCamp was created by IBM to help it identify early stage entrepreneurs who are developing business ventures that align with its Smarter Planet vision. Companies that participate can take advantage of mentoring and networking opportunities, while selected startups have the opportunity to connect with the venture community.
Wong already had a taste of that in Istanbul where he got to pitch to a number of investors and had a mentor who was a venture capitalist (VC). It was his first exposure to VCs, and he found the investor perspective eye-opening, he tells Digital News Asia (DNA) via email.
Wong got to Silicon Valley on the back of TMC – of which he is cofounder and chief executive officer – developing a remote landslide sensing system that is a huge improvement over the traditional, labour-intensive and costly method of monitoring slope movements.
“The traditional method involves placing geotechnical sensors such as piezometers and inclinometers. But to monitor effectively, you need more sensors, and the cost will increase exponentially with the size of the area that needs to be monitored,” he explains.
TMC however uses low-cost prisms as its markers. The real value is in the system that the company has built around the prisms, which integrates with real-time mobile communications.
The concept is to monitor the displacement of fixed prisms. The prisms are fixed on selected critical points on any structure or area to be monitored.
The positions of the prisms will be surveyed to produce a set of reference positions which are then continuously measured from a high-definition camera on site, with the latest observed positions calculated and compared with the initial reference positions to identify movement.
The system can then send out warnings via SMS once the movement exceeds the permitted tolerance.
“Our TMC Monitoring System (TMS) integrates high-precision land surveying instrument with real-time communications to monitor any environment 24 hours a day, seven days per week,” says Wong.
“We are enhancing TMS to provide a total integrated monitoring solution, operating continuously with intelligent analysis and an early-warning trigger,” he adds.
It can also cross over to other verticals, with Wong seeing potential in the oil and gas and mining sectors.
Indeed, while the first version was application-based, the second version is now cloud-based and what TMC is doing is just a sign of how we are witnessing what many call the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT) as the economy becomes increasingly digital.
This is where many traditional ways of doing things in the world are taking advantage of the lower cost of technology, especially low-energy sensors, and the greater understanding of integrating mobile technology into transformational solutions and services, and into cloud-based services that are real-time.
“This is not only a more efficient way of delivering services and solutions to customers, but for us, we see this real-time monitoring as being able to save lives by the early warning we can give if there is a danger of landslides,” says Wong.
An accountant by training but a geek by passion, Wong left his career with a Big Four accounting firm to launch a software company back in 2002, building an ERP (enterprise resource planning) solution from scratch.
He got into slope monitoring when a construction company asked him to come up with a more efficient solution to monitor critical slopes along the projects it was involved in.
From those days in 2008, Wong is now about to hop on a plane to Silicon Valley, carrying the Malaysian flag and demonstrating that even small traditional software companies can participate in the digital economy if they take advantage of some of the technology trends of today.
Related Stories:
Malaysia’s TMC wins Asean round of IBM SmartCamp
Disrupt: IoT to be a goldmine for app developers
59% of APAC enterprises have ‘Internet of Things’ plans: Global IT body
Internet of Things: Installed base of 26bil units by 2020
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