Eyes on APAC

July 27, 2018  12:24 AM

App users in developing APAC prefer convenience over security

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

By Kimberly Chua

Mobile app users in developing Asia-Pacific (APAC) countries prefer convenience over security, signaling a potential rift between companies and users, a new F5 Networks study has found.

The study revealed that while mobile app adoption in developing APAC countries is growing, only 50% of consumers in India, Indonesia and the Philippines had regard for the security of their applications. In contrast, over 60% of consumers in developed countries such as Singapore and Australia prioritised security over convenience.

Kuna Nallappan, F5 Network’s vice-president of marketing in APAC and Japan, attributed the reticence towards security in developing APAC countries to the higher number of millennials in those places.

“Countries like the Philippines and Indonesia have similar demographics – a large concentration of millennials who are used to instant gratification,” said Nallappan, adding that users in those countries often download applications without much thought.

He elaborated further that millennials took security more lightly than older generations as they were more comfortable with technology, being born in the digital age.

Other than having a high population of millennials, an absence of law enforcement in developing countries also resulted in a lack of awareness on cyber security, said Nallappan.

“The notion of privacy in these countries is still nascent and privacy laws are still at the development stage with ongoing debates,” he added.

Nallappan said that governments play a critical role in establishing a strong data protection regime.

An example was the introduction of Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) which established data protection guidelines that enterprises such as DBS have since integrated into their business processes, Nallappan said.

The study also indicated that seven out of 10 Singaporean respondents will stop using or delete mobile applications that are found to be hacked.

Noting contrasting attitudes towards convenience and security among users across the APAC region, Nallappan said enterprises can grant users access to application functions based on who they are, thus improving cyber security without bringing about inconvenience.

Biometric checks like fingerprint and facial recognition are other examples that enterprises can include in their applications to verify user information without disrupting user experience, he added.

Kimberly Chua is an APAC intern at Computer Weekly.

July 20, 2018  6:44 AM

New blockchain network to ease pan-Asian trade

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

Singapore-based Global eTrade Services (Gets) has launched an open trade blockchain (OTB) network to boost cross-border trade between China and the rest of Asia.

Aligned with China’s Belt Road Initiative (BRI) and the Southern Transport Corridor, the permissioned blockchain network is run by trusted nodes hosted by accredited trade compliance companies.

By enhancing the security of trading documents, such as certificates of origin and commercial invoices, the blockchain network is expected to promote transparency and trust between shippers, freight-forwarders and customers.

Gets said the OTB will also offer application programming interfaces (APIs) that trading partners can use to hook up their legacy systems.

So far, it has roped in partners such as China-ASEAN Information Harbour, Suzhou Cross-E-commerce and the Commodities Intelligence Centre – all of which will be setting up blockchain nodes progressively.

Other partners in Korea, Indonesia and Taiwan are also coming onboard, creating an extensive blockchain network across Asia.

With OTB linking China to the rest of the region, ASEAN businesses looking to participate in China’s BRI and connect to its Digital Silk Road will be able to do so more easily.

In 2017, bilateral trade between China and ASEAN hit $514.8bn, up 13.8% from 2016 – the fastest pace of growth in trade between China and a major trading partner.

Gets is already benefiting from this growth, having facilitated over 10 million transactions in its first year of operation in 2017. In the first six months of this year, it recorded a gross merchandise value of over $400bn.

“We continue to capitalise on our deep domain knowledge and expertise in creating a global electronic single window environment to make global cross-border trade more accessible, predictable and easier,” said Gets CEO Chong Kok Keong.

“We are now linked up to 24 customs nodes across the world, with more than 175,000 connected parties, continuing to improve time savings by 60% and increase productivity by 1.5 times for our customers,” he added.

July 6, 2018  5:56 AM

How APAC airlines are harnessing the IoT

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

By Kimberly Chua

In recent years, airlines have been able to trying to lower operating costs by taking advantage of internet-of-things (IoT) devices and satellite connectivity to gather real-time data to support aircraft maintenance and anticipate weather disruptions. Here’s a quick look at these benefits which were showcased by Honeywell during a test flight in Singapore last week:

Better weather predictions

According to Honeywell, airlines can improve flight safety and cut flight planning time by half with better flight management, which includes anticipating weather changes during a given flight.

With IoT sensors placed at the nose of an aircraft to capture real-time weather and terrain data that will be transmitted to an electronic flight bag datalink application, flight crews will be able to make better decisions related route safety, according to Garrett Sheets, flight test engineer at Honeywell.

Through faster in-flight Ka-band broadband connectivity ranging from 15 to 40Mbps, this data can also be transmitted to other aircraft for better route management, said Sheets.

Reducing flight delays

Keeping aircraft equipment in tiptop condition is key to reducing the number of flight delays. With onboard IoT devices, airlines will be able to pick up potential faults and address them accordingly before an actual problem arises, Sheets said

This includes problems with auxiliary power units, which are used to spin up an aircraft’s main engines. Honeywell claims its IoT capabilities will reduce APU-related flight delays by 35% and obtain 99% accuracy when predicting part failures.

“With the massive potential for cost savings and improved operations, predictive maintenance is the number one area in which airlines are looking to invest,” said Kristin Slyker, vice-president for connected aircraft at Honeywell Aerospace.

Early adopters

Cathay Pacific is one of the airlines that have started working with Honeywell to achieve predictive maintenance for their aircraft.

During a technology trial, Honeywell was able to help Cathay Pacific save several hundred thousand dollars in operational and reactive maintenance costs per aircraft. The airline had also reduced APU-related delay minutes by 51%, said Brian Davis, vice-president of for APAC airlines at Honeywell Aerospace.

Separately, Singapore Airlines Group has also signed three contracts with Honeywell to improve the operational capabilities of Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot.

Kimberly Chua is an APAC intern at Computer Weekly.

June 22, 2018  3:44 AM

APAC CIO interview: Kwong Yuk Wah, National Trades Union Congress, Singapore

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

As a veteran in Singapore’s IT industry, Kwong Yuk Wah has played a part in major IT initiatives over two decades, starting with the government’s computerisation programme that paved the way for Singapore’s standing as the world leader in e-government initiatives today.

According to the 2017 e-government rankings by Waseda University and the International Academy of CIOs, Singapore maintained its pole position followed by Denmark, the United States and Japan.

Following her success in the public sector, Kwong moved on to the private sector before landing her current role as CIO of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC), Singapore’s labour movement that has been instrumental in improving the lot and competitiveness of Singapore workers since the 1960s.

Besides her day job, Kwong also serves as an adjunct professor at the department of information systems at the National University of Singapore’s school of computing.

In an exclusive interview, Kwong, a founding member of Computer Weekly’s Asia-Pacific CIO Advisory Panel, shared more insights on her career, including her challenges in juggling work and family commitments and how she keeps up with the fast-changing IT landscape.

Q: How did you get started in IT? Was it a conscious or serendipitous decision to enter the field?

Kwong: I studied computer science during my undergraduate days. Joining the IT industry after graduation was the obvious choice. My first job was a programmer of offshore oil-rig algorithms in the private sector. After less than three months into the job, the Singapore government offered me a new role and an IT career. I spent over 20 years in the public sector before I moved to private sector, and I’m now working in NTUC, a people sector.

Q: What were the key highlights in your IT career?

Kwong: Being part of the Singapore Civil Service Computerisation Programme (CSCP), and the eGovernment Action Plans I and II, as well as the NTUC transformation journey were the key highlights in my IT career.

Q: What is your approach towards IT at NTUC, especially in making sure that IT continues to be a source of competitive advantage for the organisation?

Kwong: My goal is to exploit ICT as a strategic enabler that will take the labour movement to new heights. I am also a strong believer of being an early adopter of new technologies to gain the first-mover advantage. However, I can’t exploit technologies alone. I have been getting very strong top management support which is very critical, but not enough. Our strong partnership with business units and the willingness of business users to exploit new technologies to gain a competitive advantage are very crucial.

Q: What were your biggest challenges throughout your career and how did you overcome them?

Kwong: My biggest challenge was to maintain a work-life balance when my children were young. It was extremely stressful to be a competent mother and yet build a successful career in a field where things evolve so quickly. I had to make a choice to slow down my career for a few years so I could focus on my children and family.

Q: How big is your IT team? How do you make sure everyone is aligned with the goals of the organisation?

Kwong: If the IT team refers to my own staff, I don’t really have a big team. That’s because our approach is IT outsourcing. So if the IT team includes service providers, our staff strength is at least 80 to 150 professionals, depending on project needs. Communication is key to keep everyone aligned.

Q:  With technology evolving so quickly, how do you keep up with what’s going on in the industry and – perhaps more crucially – decide which technologies to implement for your organisation?

Kwong: I continue to learn by reading and attending seminars and conferences. Teaching part-time requires me to read widely and do my own research. I have been learning from my students at the Masters level too. Technology is always an enabler, and the decision to adopt any technology must always be business focused and customer centric.

Q: What keeps you up at night?

Kwong: I don’t have anything that keeps me up at night. I have a good team – both my own staff and service providers. I have very supportive bosses, very understanding business users, and very collaborative partners in both the government and private sector. They have been helping me to do my job well!

June 14, 2018  6:19 AM

The SAP link in Cirque du Soleil’s Toruk

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

Fans of Cirque du Soleil’s highly-anticipated Toruk – The First Flight were encouraged to whip out their smartphones during the performance in Singapore recently – with full blessings from the production team.

You heard that right – instead of putting their personal devices away during the show, the spectators used the Toruk mobile app enter the world of Pandora, learn more about the show and view special effects on their mobile screens during key moments.

Developed in about three months, the app is powered by SAP’s Hana platform, which facilitates communication between spectators and the show’s visual effects control system, creating a personalised experience delivered directly to mobile devices based on the viewers’ interaction with the app and location in the theatre.

This is accomplished through native spatial processing capabilities in SAP Hana that analyse and process geospatial information in real time. After the show, spectators can continue to engage with the show through interactive images, videos and content that extends their experience.

That Cirque was able to synchronise the events on stage with the special effects delivered to the mobile app was critical to the audience experience. Even a delay of second or two would have messed things up.

The development team also did extensive testing, to ascertain the best time to deliver the mobile effects, and when to notify spectators about them, according to Marc Van Oordt, program director for IT at Cirque du Soleil. This has helped to ensure that the app would not become a hindrance, and one that spectaculars wouldn’t need to constantly look at.

Now, that’s an important consideration, given how easy it is to fall into the trap of implementing newfangled technology for its own sake. To be sure, not all Toruk spectators used the app (just a third of them did), but one thing is clear: amid the call for digital transformation, do something that is truly useful and transformational, lest you end up with white elephants waiting to be buried in the graveyards of technology.

June 1, 2018  6:17 AM

Markets will drive AI adoption: Gartner

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

Amid the growing arms race between the US and China to dominate the burgeoning field of artificial intelligence (AI), it is industry players and markets that will really drive adoption of the technology, according to a senior Gartner analyst.

Bern Elliot, vice-president and distinguished analyst at Gartner, says while he expects to see “continued parity” in AI research undertaken by research institutions in the US and China, the work of webscale players such as Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu, Amazon, Facebook and Google will determine how pervasive the technology will be.

Elliot notes that governments which have set national AI agendas, especially in emerging countries, have also spurred AI adoption – though some of that may be because leaders have claimed to be using AI in surveys that reflect opinions, not facts.

Despite the hype around AI, adoption of the technology is still nascent. A Gartner survey of global CIOs revealed that just 4% of organisations have AI projects in place, while 46% are planning to roll out projects over the next two years.

Elliot advises CIOs who are just getting started on AI to invest in application platforms – such as H2O.ai and Salesforce.com – with built-in AI capabilities that can be readily consumed by business users.

At the same time, as they build up their AI skills, they can get started on using AI tools from the likes of Google to build their own AI models or algorithms.

Where CIOs choose to invest in the AI value chain – from AI research to tools and platforms – would depend on their business objectives, risk appetite and AI skills. For example, investing more in research could produce more strategic advantage, but also comes with greater risk.

Elliot likens the AI value chain to that of the steel industry, where iron ore is mined before it can be turned into steel and eventually into steel products.

“It’s important for CIOs to understand that they don’t need to do all of AI to get value out of AI, just like you don’t have to mine iron to manufacture steel components,” he says.

May 25, 2018  7:11 AM

Data protection as a competitive advantage

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

By now, many consumers in Asia and elsewhere would have received at least a couple of e-mails from merchants asking for consent to continue receiving marketing messages under Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) that kicked in today.

As a law that transcends Europe’s borders, the GDPR requires organisations to take measures to protect the personal data of European citizens and residents everywhere. Without always knowing your nationality or residency status, many merchants have chosen to seek consent from all their customers, not just in Europe.

After all, it’s better to play safe than risk incurring hefty fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover – though it is uncertain how the GDPR rules can be enforced globally.

There’s no doubt that financial penalties can spur companies into action, especially those that have been dragging their feet on data protection, thinking that cyber breaches will never happen to them.

But what’s more effective in driving greater compliance is to convince companies that data protection is a source of competitive advantage, and not a cost centre.

Recent studies have shown that many consumers still do not trust merchants and service providers to protect their personal data, no thanks to the bad press surrounding data breaches at big-name firms like Target, Yahoo, Equifax and Uber in recent years.

These consumers would go to the extent of boycotting a firm that has not safeguarded their personal data. They would also report any wrong-doing to the authorities and spread the word to friends and family. With all of that, it’s hard for any firm to ignore the competitive advantage of having sound data protection measures.

Carpe Diem, a Singapore-based childcare service provider, realised this earlier on and was one of the first among its competitors to train its staff on data protection measures required under Singapore’s Personal Data Protection Act.

Data protection officers, also required under the GDPR, were also appointed to drive data protection efforts across its network of childcare centres. Paying heed to data protection has helped to foster trust with parents who can be assured that their personal data, as well as that of their children, would remain secure.

May 17, 2018  9:22 AM

E-commerce in APAC is thriving, but so is online fraud

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

E-commerce in Asia-Pacific is booming, with 71% of consumers in the region already shopping online. But so is the risk of fraud, with one in five consumers falling victim, according to new report from Experien.

The report, co-authored with IDC, also found that over half of consumers would switch service providers in the event of fraud, proving that consumers are willing to trade convenience and a better customer experience for better fraud protection.

There were also distinct differences in consumer attitudes between countries.

In mobile-led, emerging markets, people were more convenience-driven and less risk-averse, with the more security-conscious individuals tending to come from mature economies.

“We notice that in more mature economies like Hong Kong and Singapore, consumers are largely more aware of fraud risks and act in a more conservative manner,” said Ben Elliott, CEO of Experian APAC.

“This means they may sometimes avoid transacting online should they perceive a potential fraud risk. This is in contrast to emerging economies like Vietnam, where consumers are less fraud aware and more convenience driven.”

Technology transformation

While the unfortunate reality is that greater digital convenience is linked to higher fraud exposure – presenting a problem for both consumers and businesses – the report also revealed that there was a silver lining.

It found that as consumers became aware of the risk of fraud, they were more likely to adopt security measures like biometrics, including fingerprint, facial and voice recognition.

In APAC, 13% of consumers are now willing to adopt biometrics, with India (21%), Vietnam and China (both at 18%) leading the charge as early adopters. Australia (9%), Japan and New Zealand (both at 8%) are the least willing to do so.

Interestingly, however, a significant 57% of consumers are already comfortable with biometrics in government/non-commercial applications.

As acceptance extends into the commercial sphere, this new technology will increasingly be able to provide a more efficient customer experience and enhanced fraud protection.

Data dilemma

At present, one of the best ways companies can protect their customers is by leveraging high-quality customer data to effectively verify transactions.

However, the report found that this was easier said than done, with consumers often selective in the type of information they were willing to share with companies. They were also clear on how they wanted their personal data to be used.

For example, when asked, 43% of consumers were willing to have their personal data shared with businesses specifically for better fraud detection over convenience or a better customer experience.

Furthermore, 5% of APAC consumers said they had intentionally submitted inaccurate information to avoid disclosing personal data, while 20% had made mistakes in the details they provided to businesses.

Data input errors were highest in Thailand, followed by Vietnam, Indonesia and India, while Japan had the lowest erroneous submissions followed distantly by Singapore and Hong Kong.

Elliott said this indicates a gap in trust between businesses and their consumers, but also provides a significant opportunity for them to make improvements.

“Intentional non-disclosure of information heightens the challenges businesses already face in combatting fraudsters and ascertaining the identity of genuine customers,” added Elliott.

“We believe that this is fundamentally an issue of trust – and companies must do more to communicate the value to consumers about the use of data for fraud protection and that they can be trusted as custodians of personal data.”

May 10, 2018  9:08 PM

Hybrid cloud finds takers among Asian carriers

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

A growing number of Asian airlines are looking to the hybrid cloud to reduce IT costs.

In October 2017, Malaysia Airlines (MAS) embarked on a massive project with TCS to migrate its core datacentre infrastructure and applications to a hybrid-cloud model, with 80% of its assets hosted on Microsoft Azure and 20% on a private cloud.

Over the next five years, MAS expects to improve its cost efficiency by 50%, improve business performance by 80% and reduce customer response time from days to hours.

Joining MAS in the move to the hybrid cloud is Cathay Pacific. The Hong Kong-based carrier recently moved from its legacy infrastructure to a hybrid cloud comprising a Red Hat OpenStack-based private cloud and public cloud instances.

With its new hybrid cloud set-up, Cathay Pacific expects to support and move over 50 consumer-facing applications across its hybrid infrastructure, scaling resources up and down when necessary.

Perhaps more importantly, the airline will be able to bring new services to market faster in a highly competitive industry. Already, it has been able to roll out 200 application changes per day, up from just 20 previously. This improved efficiency has translated to a lower total cost of ownership for its production systems.

That the hybrid cloud is fast-becoming the infrastructure of choice is not surprising.

Many enterprises, including airlines, see hybrid IT as having best of both worlds, giving them the ability to tap on public cloud resources to meet new or fluctuating business demands, while continuing to run legacy and certain mission-critical applications in their own private cloud datacentres.

In fact, 24% of ASEAN respondents in the TechTarget IT Priorities 2018 survey cited hybrid IT as a priority this year, representing a growth rate 23% year-on-year.

With more ASEAN organisations looking to implement hybrid IT strategies, about a third of IT professionals who participated in the survey expect to roll out public cloud infrastructure services this year – higher than the APAC average of 25%.

The growth of cloud infrastructure services and the decline of traditional datacentre outsourcing are driving a massive shift towards hybrid infrastructure services. Gartner, a technology research firm has predicted that 90% of organisations will adopt hybrid infrastructure management capabilities by 2020.

May 3, 2018  3:15 AM

AI skills matter more than technology

Aaron Tan Aaron Tan Profile: Aaron Tan

A new study by Seagate has revealed that APAC organisations are warming up to artificial intelligence (AI), but a significant number have not invested in the data and technical solutions required to support the technology fully.

According to the study, 96% of senior IT professionals across the region believe AI applications will drive productivity and business performance. However, an almost equal number of respondents (95%) believe further investments in their IT infrastructure are required to enable them to support their use of AI.

Over the next one year, nearly nine in 10 organisations plan to implement AI in areas including IT, supply chain logistics, product innovation and R&D, as well as finance and customer support.

However, two-thirds admitted that they struggled to know where to start. Plus, it doesn’t help that 31% of them don’t think enough is being invested in the necessary infrastructure to support AI initiatives.

In fact, one in five organisations said they weren’t ready or able to handle the increasing data streams from AI applications. Further, while almost all believe there is an increasing need for robust data storage solutions with growing AI applications, 15% said they have not invested sufficiently in data storage to be ready for AI now or in the future.

While it is in the interest of Seagate to highlight attitudes towards storage and infrastructure in the context of AI, the biggest barrier to the success of any AI initiative is the shortage of skills and expertise.

Today, most enterprises are faced with fragmented data without a holistic view of the customer. They have data silos, with no efficient way to put it together, or don’t know how to find the necessary data.

With software and data underpinning the success of AI initiatives, it is far more important for organisations to build up their skills to manage the data science workflow, from data preparation and processing to data modelling.

Most of the technology tools and platforms to support AI applications are already here. The question is whether organisations have the right skills to use them to their full potential – even with all the infrastructure in place.

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