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IoT: Relevancy in a low-touch world

With the coronavirus, the race to reinvent workplaces wasn’t just accelerated but became necessary. With the economy slowly reopening, IoT is being used by businesses for health monitoring, remote interactions, and ‘contactless’ access and security for physical workplaces.

MDEC VP Hew Wee Choong talks with Enterprise IT News about his observations of IoT in the work space.

EITN: Can you please comment about IoT adoption and implementation in the workplace in Malaysia and/or region?

Wee Choong: Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) being the lead government agency for digital economy has been driving the 3 pillars of Digital Business, Digital Investment and Digital Talent in Malaysia

Application of IOT falls within the “Digital Business” initiative including digitalisation of business be it in manufacturing, agritech, medtech or dronetech and local authority parking system. Some detailed examples include:

Manufacturing –MDEC partners with Top Glove to refine the digital integration using IoT within its factory lines and management system which started in 2016. The company has reduced the amount of foreign labour by 1,000 people over the past 3 years, leading to further cost-saving in production and labour.

Agriculture – Application of IoT particularly in agriculture technology (also referred to as Ag-Tech) and dronetech can be seen in oil palm plantations and paddy fields. By using drone and IoT technology, farmers can gain more insights and visibility into their business and monitor their farms remotely through IoT.

The increasing application of digital tech including IoT in Malaysia has driven tech companies to setup regional tech or data centre hubs in Malaysia to take advantage of this strong trend. Their investment decisions have been aided by the 25-year advantage Malaysia possesses in nurturing and commercialising emerging tech through the MSC and now through the National Technology & Innovation Sandbox (NTIS).

EITN: What are the challenges and opportunities surrounding IoT in the workplace?


We will see further or accelerated digitalisation of business due to outbreak of Covid-19 including more IoT adoption across multiple industries. All level of businesses especially manufacturing or retail supply chain will be adopting digital (including IoT) to reduce dependency on human labour and maximising “contactless” interactions.

Industries such as MedTech and related industries such as transportation, communications, and data centers will see increasing adoptions:

MedTech – IoT uses many interconnected devices to create a smart network for the proper health management system. It digitally captures the data and information of the patient without any human interaction. This data is also helpful for appropriate decision-making process.

Transportation – IoT systems are installed to trucks and provided real-time temperature, vibration, and location data. With this data, managers can identify and address issues with cold-chain integrity, pinpoint the level of shocks that cause product damage, and find ways to better protect items in transit.


Low digital adoption for businesses – One of the major challenges before Malaysia today is low digital adoption rate by Malaysian businesses. About 33% of small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Malaysia adopt digital technology.

Malaysia has always scored among the highest in the region in terms of digital readiness, according to global surveys. However, the drive by industry players themselves falls short.

Critical challenges include the lack of awareness, especially among SMEs, in terms of the impact of and benefits of keeping up with new technologies.

The high cost of technological adoption coupled with a slow return of investment also results in hesitance to jump on the Industry 4.0 bandwagon.

EITN: How does leadership play a key role in changing mindset and culture at work?

Change starts with leadership. Individuals from the management and leadership positions play an important role in helping their subordinates successfully embrace change.

The key is trust. By ensuring the arising issues are positively addressed, leaders can help staff to trust in the new direction that the company has embarked on and support it accordingly.

Clear and timely communication is essential. Lack of information often causes uncertainty, which can then lead to negative consequences.

Therefore, changes should be communicated clearly through all channels (messages from the CEO, meetings by the managers, or company email broadcasts) and dispensed at timely intervals to ensure everyone knows what to expect, when to expect it, and where to go for more clarification.

It is important for us to lead by example especially during unprecedented times such as the Movement Control Order (MCO). MDEC has stepped up its efforts to assist businesses and provide support amidst the global pandemic.

Besides ensuring communication channels are open between industry players and the Government during MCO, MDEC is also rallying local and foreign tech players in Malaysia to extend their digital solutions and services to both businesses and citizens via the #DigitalVsCovid Movement – a digital platform that is wholly dedicated to mitigating the negative impacts of Covid-19.

The movement already garnered support from hundreds of tech companies. This includes global tech giants that have offered free video conferencing tools to help business owners and management to maximise their work-from-home capabilities.

EITN: In light of so much uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus, what are your views about work-from-home policies organisations have implemented or are thinking to implement?

This pandemic has forced governments and businesses to rethink the way they operate and conduct business, with a stronger emphasis on adopting digital technology for their business continuity and resilience, and to drive growth.

Malaysia is ahead in South-East Asia as one of the early adopters of remote working arrangements.

A 2013 research report from Regus found that 53% of the country’s workforce were already on flexible working arrangement, well ahead of the global average of 48%.

Malaysia is home to over 600 GBS companies. It has proven its mettle in rising to the challenge of transitioning organisations into remote working arrangements.

For example, contact centres – one of the main components of the nation’s GBS industry – have moved from business as usual to work-from-home mode within a short span of time.

For organisations that want to activate their remote working capability, it requires quality digital infrastructure and a prevalent culture of working from home at both micro (companies) and macro (country) levels.

The key here is our high-quality digital connectivity in Malaysia. The Government is committed to ensure the implementation of the National Fiberisation and Connectivity Plan (NFCP) to improve the country’s digital connectivity, with plans to roll out 5G in Q3 2020 still firmly in place.

With the Internet user penetration in Malaysia now at over 85% and having already deployed the fibre network across urban and sub-urban areas, the contact centre industry has been able to quickly integrate work and home domains.

EITN: With more employees working from home being a certain possibility at least, can you comment about the opportunities for IoT at home aka smart home automation?

The Malaysian smart home market is expected to exceed USD 235 million by 2025

There is a growing demand in the Malaysia market for safe and secure living environment, especially concerning safety functionalities and discrete monitoring for elderly people.

The Malaysia smart home market is driven by factors such as significantly growing IoT market, cost reduction measures enabled by home automation systems, manufacturers expanding their product portfolios, and increasing importance of home monitoring from remote locations.

In Malaysia, the household penetration for Security applications is expected to hit around 7.2% by 2025 with Smart Appliances currently capturing the biggest share of the Malaysia smart home market.

The potential wider and deeper adoption of digital and IoT has presented opportunities for MDEC to support digital tech companies to invest in development centres in Malaysia to act and showcase as well as client solution centre adopting the “seeing is believing” approach.

EITN: Also, a recent development in smart home automation and security, any comment about Google acquiring a minority stake in home security provider ADT?

Alphabet ’s Google is buying a USD450 million stake in home security firm ADT, forming a partnership that could get the tech giant’s smart-home products in front of millions of new customers.

The deal gives Google a 6.6 per cent stake in the Boca Raton, Florida-based ADT, the largest home security company in the US with about 20,000 employees and more than 6 million customers.

Google’s prowess in hardware design and software will give ADT access to technology it would not be able to build on its own. ADT will begin distributing Google’s Nest home products exclusively.

Distribution is key for Google because it does not have a network of retail stores like Apple and does not own its own marketplace like

The three tech giants are locked in a battle for prime placement in people’s homes, designing appliances focused around their unique voice assistants.

Google has many distribution deals with home builders and utility companies, but the ADT agreement is notable for its size and the fact that Google is taking an equity stake.

The partnership with Google ends ADT’s path of product agnosticism and aligning with one of the three tech giants who are battling for prime placement in the smart home market.

We think that this is good news for the smart home market as it is a signal that the smart home market has significant growth in the future. With increasing competition, this will be beneficial for consumers and will increase the adoption rate for IoT technology in general.

The government of Malaysia is very supportive of digital tech companies and new technological innovation. With strong support from the government, the acceleration of the digital economy in Malaysia spurs strong investment interest in Malaysia as a regional digital tech hub and thus supporting our aspiration to be the Heart of Digital ASEAN.