Emerging technology is top of mind across APAC, where digital leaders are strategizing about how to optimize their operations and enhance customer experiences.
Speaking at this year’s Adobe India Symposium, Manish Dureja, managing director at Jet Privilege, an Indian-based travel and rewards and loyalty program, reminded business leaders of the opportunities that await.
“It’s about adapting and using the technological disruption in your industry to deliver unique and rewarding experiences for your customers,” he said.
First, however, APAC leaders need a realistic view about what that entails. Here, we look at five technologies rising in the region and what business leaders need to know to move forward.
Virtual And Augmented Reality
With their ability to immerse customers into actual experiences—such as touring a hotel before booking, exploring alongside National Geographic writers, and, of course, catching all the critters in Pokémon Go—virtual reality and augmented reality represent cutting-edge ways to tell a brand’s story.
While consumers’ expectations of a perfect user-experience has kept adoption of the technologies at bay in Asia Pacific, according to Jaimie Chung, forecasting analyst at market research firm eMarketer, some workplaces are already putting the techs to use. They include the use of AR glasses at Changi Airport by ground crew. The glasses were created by Singapore-based EON Reality, which has also found traction for VR in education. Its Aviation Maintenance Trainer program, for example, allows trainees to approach a plane and perform real-life duties and inspections without danger.
“While use of augmented reality via head-mounted displays is further out, AR on mobile devices is experiencing faster uptake as recent applications are already part of consumer behavior, such as search, social, entertainment, and e-commerce,” Chung said.
Robots And Automation
Workplace automation, including the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics, is expected to account for 23% of work being done in the region over the next three years, according to a survey by global risk assessment agency Willis Towers Watson.
“The business drivers are mainly related to augmenting human performance, not replacing it,” said Hamish Deery, regional leader for talent, Asia Pacific, at Willis Towers Watson. “The benefits of automation are expected to come primarily from greater workforce and workplace flexibility, work design, and reduced costs.”
One result of automation is chatbots, which are beginning to catch on, particularly in the Indian market, said Merkle’s chief growth officer, Santosh Kumar Gannavarapu.
“It’s a technology that we have seen be helpful for call centres, sales agents, and marketing suites,” he said.
The opportunities afforded by automation are also evident in the healthcare sector. For example, Alibaba Health, a division of the country’s e-commerce giant, has partnered with several hospitals to create an AI medical lab, partly in response to China’s growing aging population and doctor shortage. Also in the works in Malaysia: an AI stethoscope, which “disrupts how we listen to the heart and lungs with detailed and accurate analyses,” said Health Ministry Director-General Datuk Dr Noor Hisham Abdulla.
Digital assistants and robotic companions are ubiquitous throughout science-fiction. In the real world, the popularity of conversational user interfaces including Siri, Cortana, and Alexa demonstrate that the technology can help workers return to the things they do best, according to Ajit Kumar, Deloitte’s director of consumer products.
“We use a lot of digital devices, but we were not wired to type. What we are wired to do is gesture, speak, and interact,” he told CMO.com. “So I think one of the biggest opportunities that we are seeing emerging is digital bringing us closer to who we are, to use gesture- and voice-based interfaces. ... I think that’s going to catch on in the next couple of years.”
An example of this has recently emerged from Google. Its new digital assistant Duplex platform uses AI to mimic a human voice to make phone calls and schedule appointments on a person’s behalf. In practice, the person makes a verbal request and the tech takes care of the rest.
The market for additive manufacturing, or 3D printing, is on the upswing. IDC forecasts that the region (excluding Japan) will spend US$3.6 billion on 3D printing between 2017 and 2021.
Use cases are growing. For example, at the recent 3D printing trade show TCT Asia 2018, in Shanghai, domestic 3D technology brand DediBot debuted the “Fly Elephant,” a flying 3D printer prototype that stole the show, designed to lay construction material and work in hard-to-access places.
In addition, Chinese sports shoe company PEAK claimed production of the world’s first printed basketball boot last year, while 3D printed parts are set to be used by NASA’s upcoming Orion mission.
Indeed, 3D printing is poised to transform the world’s largest industries, according to IDC market analyst Mun Chun Lim, who told the 3D Printing industry authority: “The advent of 3D printing opens up endless possibilities in unleashing disruptive power in the global supply chain. With ongoing development, we will see penetration of 3D printing in other industries, with more innovative use cases developed.”
Internet Of Things
Digital-driven businesses across all market sectors in the region are excited by the internet of things (IoT).
According to an enterprise IoT report put out by GlobalData, the most common use case of IoT in APAC involves equipment process and management because of the instant financial benefits that result from, for example, notification of production problems or potential malfunctions before they can delay or stop operations.
Businesses in the region typically see a positive return on investment within “six months to two years from their current or planned IoT projects,” said Deepa Dhingra, senior technology analyst at GlobalData, in the report.
Dhingra also mentioned that telcos are well-positioned to help enterprises with their IoT deployments. “Telcos can go beyond the basic connectivity, and there are greater opportunities from business consulting as well as solutions around device, connectivity, and security management,” Dhingra said.
However, an increased reliance on mobile brings about a new set of challenges around data security and privacy, Merkle’s Bray added.
“The key is working closely with partners to ensure data privacy and security,” he said. “That’s how we make sure that APAC-based CMOs can sleep at night.”