The fifth session of the World Digital Economy and Technology Summit 2022 (28-29 June 2022) was centered on creating smart nations, smart cities, and smart industries with an eye on sustainability.
Goh Seok Mei, Executive Director, United Cities, Malaysia
Tirupathi Karthik, Chief Executive Officer, Napier Healthcare Solutions Pte Ltd., Singapore
Mark Thomas, Founder & Managing Director, Serviceworks Group Ltd, New Zealand
Prof. M. Nazri Muhd, Founder & Chairman for the AI World Summit / Founder & Group CEO, MyFinB Group, Singapore
Dr. Guo Wanda, Executive Vice President, China Development Institute (CDI), People’s Republic of China
The session is moderated by Dr. Mazlan Abbas, Co-founder and Chief Executive Officer of FAVORIOT Sdn Bhd, Malaysia.
How do we gain traction and what do we learn from our early mistakes?
When I was with MIMOS, an R&D Agency under MOSTI, my role was developing wireless technologies, one of which was the Internet of Things, especially in developing new 6LoWPAN standards.
Later, we created new IoT applications but did not think about selling the applications. What are the business models, and who will be the paying customers?
However, when I left the organization and ventured into the telco world, the IoT business became challenging. We cannot apply all theories to the real world.
7 Mistakes That We Did Not Realize
In the early days of Favoriot, we were very optimistic about the IoT market, and we thought customers were ready to jump into this as soon as they got the opportunity. But nothing is as easy as we thought! We were mesmerized by the number of IoT devices by 2020 and how the organizations will adopt Iot applications.
Here’re our 7 early mistakes and things that we overlooked:
- There is not enough talent in the industry to develop IoT solutions. When we launched our IoT platform in 2017, we thought people would subscribe to it and use it in the IoT deployment. Unfortunately, the take-up is very slow. People are not aware of how to use them or connect any sensors.
- Talent is still the Universities. If the industry doesn’t have enough talent, most likely they should still be in the Colleges or Universities. But even in 2017, IoT is still very new to many educational institutions. Not many of their current courses embed with complete elements of IoT, which means learning IoT applications and their benefits, but the ability to have hands-on IoT projects and learn all the four aspects of IoT such as Sensors, Connectivity, Middleware, and Analytics.
- Not enough knowledge to train Favoriot platform. Letting users learn using the IoT middleware via YouTube videos is also a big mistake because many still prefer a formal course rather than self-training. Proper training is mandatory, and YouTube resources should be supplementary resources.
- Customers don’t know how to start their IoT journey. Many are still trying to grasp how IoT impacts their business. And what it takes to start transforming their organizations with intelligent solutions.
- IoT Budget was not in place. Too many stakeholders make the decision process slower, and they are late in justifying their ioT budget. Organizations can’t comprehend how much it cost to deploy an IoT solution. Where should it start, and who should manage this?
- There is no catalyst to create their IoT projects. Before Covid-19 happened in 2020, the digital transformation process in many businesses was prolonged.
- We did not take the IoT training opportunity. Many opportunities arise, but we neglect that opportunity simply because we thought we should focus on building our IoT platform and marketing them.
Building IoT Community for Commercialisation
It has been very challenging to promote the usage of our Favoriot IoT because we are new to the market, and most people are aware of other alternatives.
Thus, we set up a strategy to create awareness by promoting the Generation-IoT community to quickly help users start their IoT journey. We take this opportunity to create IoT training courses using the Favoriot IoT platform and bundling with an IoT ecosystem package to the educational institutions.
We went back to the Universities, Colleges, and Polytechnics and help them to refresh their IoT syllabus which suits the industry needs.
Since then, we have managed to groom many trainers, lecturers, and individuals with IoT knowledge and hands-on using Favoriot IoT platform.
It has become the beginning of our traction from education to the platform’s commercialization. The platform proves to become a better alternative to the existing IoT platforms in the market. We have gained the trust of the industry to become one of the IoT platforms of choice.
The local support and expertise give us a massive advantage to enter into IoT projects. We also teach them how to select the best IoT platform without evaluating hundreds of products in the market.
We regret not taking the education path 3 to 4 years earlier. Otherwise, the IoT landscape would be very different today.
But then, no one expects to connect the dots this way without learning the mistakes we are going through.Dr. Mazlan Abbas
“Mistakes have the power to turn you into something better than you were before.”Anonymous
There’s no way to understand the challenges until you face with the real customers. Here’s what we learned.
Other scenarios would be for students on campus making reports about the universities facilities, residents making reports to their housing developers, and many others.
We can use the app for crowdsourcing input from users (in our case, we called crowdsensing – the people can become “sensors”).8 Top Challenges Building a Citizen Engagement App Click To Tweet
8 Top Challenges We Need to Avoid
There’s no way to understand the challenges if we have not built and sold Favorsense. Facing the customers is the only to find out. Some of the challenges are:
- Many Copycats – Unlike other IoT solutions that depend on custom-made IoT devices, many other IT companies can easily copy a complete software-based application unless it has a complex algorithm or some form of machine learning.
- Challenging to Become a SaaS-based Solution – Many local councils have a long-existing process embedded into their everyday workflow. Thus, it requires many customizations based on their workflow unless they are willing to replace them with a new one. Or the SaaS must be complete with the flexibility to integrate with their legacy systems.
- Red Ocean Market – There are many similar solutions – although incomplete or have different features, it seems to be more challenging for the customer to change to a new one.
- Procurement Complexity – Introducing intelligent city solutions is a very complex process. Much unclear procurement process due to many stakeholders involved. And this includes budget issues.
- Stand-Alone Solution Weakness – Just a citizen engagement solution might not be attractive enough in any tender or procurement process. It’s is typically part of the more extensive project roll-out.
- Opening the Floodgate – Not many organizations prefer a very open or accessible channel for users to make complaints or reports. It’s like opening a floodgate of complaints. However, it’s between letting complaints go viral or making the channel more controllable – it’s the local council’s choice.
- Legacy Systems – Older IT systems have existed in the current workflow and are thus difficult to integrate with new methods, especially when the data is no longer compatible. It requires massive upgrades and costs.
- Citizen Engagement Fatigue – Once the mobile citizen engagement app is launched, it requires constant push and awareness regarding its usefulness. Many similar apps just died quietly after several months in public.
Unlike the first IoT solution, Raqib, these challenges are totally different. It’s not about technical challenges but understanding the users’ needs and current legacy workflow.
It’s easier to sell Favorsense when the customer does not have any complaint or trouble ticket system.
Do you think there are other ways to resolve the eight issues mentioned above? Kindly leave your comments or feedback below. I love to hear your thoughts. Thanks!
Articles Worth Reading!
This article is the first part of our Raqib journey. The experience that we have learned building such a solution is priceless. We must always be prepared to overcome the technical challenges and go-to-market strategy.
RAQIB is the first IoT product we built when we launched our Startup in 2017. The initial target market was Senior Citizens. However, we pivoted (or expanded) our customer segment to cater to people going for their Hajj.
Target Hajj Market
Based on our market research, we saw Hajj market is very suitable for Raqib as per the following reasons:
- More than 2.3 Million perform Hajj per year (about 30,000 pilgrims are from Malaysia)
- Different languages and cultures make communication very difficult during an emergency.
- Many pilgrims went missing because of the crowded nature and unfamiliar with foreign places.
- People can easily fall sick or faint due to heat and dust. The need to call help immediately is a challenge.
- Constant care and monitoring are required to have peace of mind when performing Hajj, especially when traveling with a spouse that is elderly.
- The hajj peak period is between 5-6 days with crowded people in small areas. Thus, it’s a challenge to find a missing person, especially almost all wearing similar robes and clothes.
- When staying at Mina, the tents are very similar, and thus finding a way home can be a significant challenge.
- Crowded places include Mina, Arafat, Muzdalifah, and Tawaf at Kaaba.
Challenges of Building an IoT Solution (Raqib) for Hajj
We noticed that pivoting to a different market segment is not as straightforward as expected. The challenges are:
- Device – What are the main parameters that we should monitor? Is it health vital signs or safety (tracking locations)? For some, measuring the blood pressure level is more important, whereas others want to know the whereabouts of their spouse.
- Network and Roaming – The model we offered only supports 2G networks and voice capability. Not many M2M sim cards provided by telcos have the roaming capability, and the cost can be high too due to the data roaming charges. Since we are bundling Raqib only for simple monitoring, we only limit data usage for wearable purposes and not for web browsing (users can detach the sim card and misuse it for other purposes). Enabling the right APNs of the device for different network operators in Saudi is also a challenge.
- Trial Period – Since Hajj is seasonal (once a year), we must find a way to trial at the Hajj site itself. The first option, we gave the device to our partners and customers who are performing their Umrah. We received a lot of issues during this trial, but we overcame it when we offered to our Saudi partner and our Malaysian trial customers to test during the 2018 Hajj. I also have personally tested Raqib during my Umrah in early 2019.
- User Behavior – It is also one of the biggest challenges because a user must always wear the Raqib watch to work as expected. If a person leaves the Raqib watch at their hotel, then the data on the Raqib app will not be accurate or consistent. The device must also be robust enough to withstand water during wudhu or bath. The user needs to charge the battery consistently, which is very challenging when the source of power is scarce in places like Arafat and Mina.
- Go-to-Market Strategy – Who will buy or subscribe to Raqib? Do we sell this to the Hajj authorities, or should we sell this to Hajj Travel Agencies? Or should we sell directly to the end-users? What’s the business model? It’s pretty challenging to sell as a CAPEX-based model because the Raqib requires sim cards, and the data need to be activated. Since this is a Hajj solution and it only happens once a year, what happens when a user returns home – do they want to continue using them. Or should it be a rental model for the travel agents – they can re-use the device for another group of Umrah pilgrims. Unfortunately, this rental doesn’t work because of the tedious logistics process – collecting the devices, cleaning them, and managing the stocks.
- Going Beyond Malaysian Market – For Raqib to be successful, it must capture a global market because the Hajj market is small and seasonal. However, to do this, we need to test the roaming capability of the sim cards – and we have done it successfully in Saudi Arabia, India, Maldives, Egypt, Bangladesh, and Thailand.
This article is the first part of our Raqib journey. The experience that we have learned from building such a solution is priceless. We must always be prepared to overcome the technical challenges and go-to-market strategy.
Have you encountered any IoT solutions similar to Raqib? Please leave your comments below.
Articles worth reading:
How do we build enough momentum to accelerate the growth of IoT talents? One of them is to develop a movement called “Generation-IoT”. This is the story.
The original article of the blog was posted here.
I am not sure, but maybe it’s always in my blood or DNA to share knowledge, build talent, or teach others. I started my journey in IoT as early as in the Year 2001. At that time, the telco was called M2M (or Machine-to-Machine). The data are kept in silos; systems are called Telemetry, and Scada is a common name. Applications are limited to remote meter reading and vehicle tracking.
We can rarely see any fancy IoT applications because technology is in infancy stage. Cloud services are not available, devices are still expensive, no smartwatches, no open API IoT applications and many other missing components.
The Early Days of IoT
LinkedIn is my main channel to communicate with friends from overseas. And when I fully embarked on IoT in 2014, I couldn’t even find enough friends to exchange ideas. You can barely see any jobs with the title “IoT” at that period (unlike today, “IoT” is ubiquitous in many job positions).
I was part of the team that developed the Malaysia National IoT Strategic Framework, and one of the missions was to create an IoT ecosystem. We don’t see this materialize a couple of years down the road. Very frustrating after the hard work.
The Beginning of Generation-IoT
Thus, we offered our FAVORIOT platform as an IoT ecosystem for Malaysia and created a Generation-IoT movement. And …oh boy! It was a lonely journey. And very tiring too. No one believed in the mission to become a ProducerNation by building our IoT products. Talents are lacking.
Luckily, I was invited by many local Universities to be part of many Industrial Advisory Panels. For four years, we re-look back at the University’s contents and syllabus to include IoT and make it more structured. We hoped to have more IoT talents in the market with this refreshed syllabus.How We Build a New Generation-IoT Movement Click To Tweet
Bearing Fruits and Skepticism
Now we are seeing the fruits of the labor; there are many courses in IoT, Masters in IoT (UTHM), Diploma in IoT (KKTMPJ), and even a Certificate in IoT (Kolej Komuniti Seberang Jaya).
But I also received many comments from people who mocked me, saying why am I helping the local Universities because they are not giving you any projects or becoming your primary revenue streams. Well, that’s another story for me to tell another day. Actually, as of today, education is my second highest revenue contributor.
I am happy to say that I have helped build a Generation-IoT that will become the future technology leaders of IoT.
Articles worth reading:
Why did we build another IoT product? Why can’t we maintain the three IoT products developed earlier. Here’s the story.
When we launched the first IoT product called Raqib commercially in 2018, we received a lot of feedback from users and potential customers.
We have to decide to enhance the current product or spawn into a new product altogether.
Meanwhile, there are two more IoT products that we are still building and enhancing – the second product called Favorsense and the third product called Favoriot IoT platform.
Finally, we decided to follow our gut feeling and start building our fourth IoT product called Dscover (formerly named D’scover – we will reveal the reason for changing the spelling later).How We Build Our Fourth IoT Product Click To Tweet
The Problem Statement
When we introduced Raqib as a single device solution for tracking (instead of using a Bluetooth smartwatch and a smartphone), we received much feedback that they don’t need the features of monitoring vital health signs.
But in which market is tracking the best suit for this product? Why the need for monitoring an individual in the first place?
In our early customer development process, tracking an individual is critical for safety – especially during travel.
If a person travels in a tour group, he wants to have some freedom on his own. But he also needs to be constantly connected with the group or his tour bus.
In the case of a tour guide responsible for the group, he must ensure the group’s safety, and the travel itinerary must be adhered to and to ensure no one is late or left behind.
If that person is lost, the easiest way is to locate through the mobile app. The app should also have a travel planner feature to organize and share among the tour members.
How Big is the Market
Initially, we targeted the Travel and Tourism market, which was vast and active before the Covid-19 strikes in early 2020.
Below are the statistics of the world’s and Malaysia’s No. of arrivals.
However, when travel and tourism were severely affected in 2020 and 2021 by restricted movement orders and banned in traveling, we pivoted our market to a family and friends app.
The IoT Solution
We chose a mobile app as the solution because of the following reasons:
- Cheaper because this “IoT” solution uses the individual’s device, i.e., smartphone. GPS is the only sensor needed. The user has paid their connectivity charges (mobile data). The user only needs to download the app and pay for premium features.
- Easier to deploy and manage the users (only via the Google Store and App Store)
The biggest challenge for such a product is that it has become a B2C model whereby the channel to market can be very challenging.
The most accessible marketing channel to reach the users is via Social Media – Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
To conduct targeted ads, we need to identify the users’ demographics – in this case, the family members and friends.
Earlier, we named the product D’scover, but it is complicated for a user to search the app in the App Store because of the unique spelling. Finally, we decided to change the name to Dscover.
In the travel and tourism market earlier, we have a B2B model approaching Travel Agencies and Government, but unfortunately, Covid-19 has a significant impact in this sector.
We have even expanded the market segment to solve the issues of monitoring quarantined patients. However, for some unforeseen reasons, this solution did not get the buy-in from the authorities.
Time to Stop Developing New IoT Products
We asked ourselves, have we done enough marketing and sales before moving into another product? Building a new product can be long and tiring.
All four IoT products have their strengths and weaknesses – which I will be able to share in other Blog articles. It is only the beginning of my IoT Adventure – you may subscribe to the newsletter or the RSS feed.
- Google Play – Download
- iOS App Store – Download
- Dscover Ver 3.0 Video
- Dscover – Video Playlist
- Travel with Dscover
- Dscover How-To Videos
- Dscover Review by FreeAppsForMe
- Dscover Review by AndroidAppsForMe
- Dscover Review by AppPearl
Articles worth reading:
“IoTise” or “IoTising” can be a new term coined by FAVORIOT, and it’s the process of transforming organization operations or business using IoT technology.
Digital transformation doesn’t happen overnight, but it will start with the organization’s leaders that can Champion the initiatives. If an organization is “old,” it will have more internal challenges because of the different cultures and Era.
Technology is not the main stumbling block, but it has to plan early to ensure no wastage and have better buy-ins.
Below is the interview taken from Exeleon Magazine recently.
What, according to you, makes one a dynamic leader? How do you integrate the same thought into your leadership?
Answer: In the era of the fourth industrial revolution, whereby digital disruption is happening all the time, a dynamic leader should be able to be agile enough to respond to the technological and business landscape. A person that willing to unlearn and relearn new things.
What led to the formation of FAVORIOT? What role do you play in the day-to-day proceedings of the company?
Answer: In the year 2016, I visited Silicon Valley on a business trip with several Malaysian business delegations. The exposure and the meetings with several big companies and Startups open the mindset that “anything is possible if we have a great vision.” FAVORIOT was officially formed in 2017 with the vision to help Senior Citizens who are aging at home to be monitored closely using wearable devices (IoT) and mobile applications.
What has the journey been like for Mazlan Abbas over the years? Looking back, what would you have done differently when starting?
Answer: Most of the time, technology is not the main obstacle to adopting the solution. It takes time for people to understand how technology like IoT can transform how they conduct business or run their operations. FAVORIOT is one of the earliest IoT Startups in the country. We have tried building several solutions internally, but the effort is huge to cater for different customer needs. Finally, we realized that our strength is the IoT platform we built which we have now offered to other ecosystem players. We could have captured the education market sector much earlier before moving up the value chain to business or corporate customers.
What is the process followed by the company when offering its services? How do we ensure optimal client satisfaction?
Answer: Education through training and webinars will open the eyes and minds of the customers. We encouraged the customers to think big but start small to get the buy-in from their C-suite levels. Understanding their business case and pain problems is critical in the early stage to ensure no wastage of effort later. It will be followed up with integration to their legacy systems before scaling up the deployment. In the final step, they will collect enough data to create new revenue streams, save costs, create new business models, or gather better insights regarding their business.
What would be your advice for young and aspiring leaders or entrepreneurs?
- Test your ideas early.
- Get feedback regarding your product and iterate until you get the product-market fit.
- Don’t be ashamed if the original ideas failed or were not accepted.
What has been the biggest roadblock during your journey? What has been your most significant learning?
Answer: The biggest roadblock is getting the first few customers that trust your product and solutions. What we feel about our product might not be the same as what the customer sees. The most significant learning is getting the product-market fit as fast as possible.
Moving forward, what does the future look like for you and FAVORIOT?
Answer: The users of FAVORIOT IoT platform started from less than three countries in 2017 and now have grown to 115 countries in 2021. We see the market for IoT has begun to grow faster in the last three years due to the awareness and fusion of many technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Virtual Reality/Augmented Reality, Blockchain, Big Data Analytics, Robotics, and Drones. In all IoT deployments, it will require some form of an IoT platform, and this is where FAVORIOT would like to excel – To IoTise all Businesses.
Credit to Exeleon Magazine
Web Version Link – https://exeleonmagazine.com/100-dynamic-leaders-of-2021/
Article Web Link – https://exeleonmagazine.com/mazlan-abbas-of-iotising-businesses/
Articles worth reading:
Favoriot IoT Platform is the third IoT product that we developed. This is the turning point of our business – To IoTise Every Business.
It took us nearly two years to build our first IoT product – Raqib. Mainly because we have so many things to do, and we are very new to this kind of IoT entrepreneurship.
Since Raqib is an end-to-end solution, we need to identify the partner for the hardware since we can’t build the wearable in-house. Furthermore, the devices need to send data and connect to our IoT platform, create a mobile app, and develop a CRM system.
In 2018, we started with a simple trial, and later in 2019, we were able to have our first few customers using the solution during their trip to Hajj.
As per the second IoT product, Favorsense, we built it within a year and quickly introduced it to the market. We received a lot of feedback which we used to improve the solution.
But then, we also realized that we already had our third IoT product, i.e., the IoT middleware itself, while building the rest of the ioT products. Still, we never thought of offering this solution to others. We have begun to get user feedback by allowing users to use it for free until we started charging them in March 2019.
The Problem Statement
When we built our first IoT product, we learned that it is such a massive effort and takes a lot of resources – time and money. The same goes for our second product.
We decided if somehow we could collaborate with others to develop other IoT solutions by using our platform. We thought that the country had many IoT talents ready to build its IoT solutions, and we were wrong!
There are not many takers who can jump straight into the IoT world and build their IoT products. That’s when I realized the country is lacking this kind of talent? Where are they?
I am fortunate to be in many local Universities as their Industrial Advisory Panel or Adjunct Professors. That’s when we realized many of the current syllabi did not cover structured content about IoT. However, many universities are excited to get their students to select the IoT as their Final Year Projects (FYP). Still, unfortunately, many of the students have to learn on their own.
In the industry, they have started to get more interested in how IoT impacts their business but are unsure how to build or deploy their innovative solutions using IoT.
Even the whole ecosystem of IoT in Malaysia is not very strong because there are not many players as yet.
For Favoriot, we see this as an opportunity because our IoT platform can become the enabler to learn IoT and be used in commercial IoT deployment.
How Big is the Market
According to Mordor Intelligence, the IoT market reached $761.4 billion in 2020 and is expected to reach $1.39 trillion by 2026.
There are four (4) components in building end-to-end IoT solutions – Sensors, Connectivity, IoT platforms, and Applications. We have touched a sweet spot, i.e., to become a preferred IoT platform for any IoT deployments.
IoT was “officially” introduced in Malaysia in 2014 when the Nation launched its National IoT Strategic Framework. However, it seems to be early days, and it took some time to make people aware of its impact. However, IoT got another “jump-start” when Malaysia Industry 4WRD -National Policy on Industry 4.0 at the end of 2018.
In 2020, the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic, and many industries were affected by the lockdown—the idea of using emerging technologies to solve social distancing issues. Thus, the time for the IoT market to grow is about to begin.
The IoT Solution
The reasons why we want to offer our IoT platform as the third IoT product are as follows:
- In every IoT deployment or project, there will be an IoT platform component. The idea is to deploy IoT solutions without involving high cost by using a Cloud-based IoT platform.
- We are not able to build and customize to all user requirements.
- We want to create a platform where the students can also use in their IoT projects.
- This platform also can be used for Laboratory experiments.
- Thus, the platform needs to be open and easily used with user-friendly APIs
- The middleware comprises security, business rules, and notification engine and supports various protocols such as MQTT, CoAP, and REST.
- Offer this as Platform-as-a-Service to allow as many users to subscribe to the platform and create their own innovative IoT applications easily while maintaining the ownership of their data.
- Have the ability to charge the user in various subscription Plans such as Free, Beginner, and Developer Plans. Furthermore, we can also have a customized package and make it available on-premise.
- Build a Generation-IoT (Favoriot) community that can share and learn each other’s projects and success stories.
- Complete documentation, tutorials, GitHub, and forums are made available.
Initially, we started offering the free package to the Universities in early 2019; we noticed not many active users. Many of them use other competitive platforms such as ThingSpeak, ThingsBoard, or Blynk.
We realized that due to the unfamiliarity of the Favoriot platform and not many tutorials regarding the usage, we decided to compile as many use-cases, step-by=step tutorials made by some community members and upload them to our Favoriot YouTube channel.
I take the opportunity to introduce the Favoriot IoT platform in many of the invited talks, conferences, or webinars. Coupled with contests and special offers and bundled with training packages, we have reached more than 115 countries worldwide and more than 5300 users.
We started with users subscribing to the platform themselves, but now we have begun engaging with corporate users by having customized solutions.
The Growth Point
We have reached a stage whereby talents who graduated from the Universities are equipped with the knowledge of building IoT projects (and using the Favoriot IoT platform) more structured.
These new talents will become the catalyst for the growth of IoT in Malaysia and other countries around the world.
The IoT Adventure has become more enjoyable than ever!