Industry 4.0 initiatives to help develop Brunei Digital Economy

|     James Kon     |

AVAILABILITY of better job opportunities, quality of life, institutions and infrastructure have turned urbanisation into a global phenomenon. According to United Nations data, cities contribute to 50 per cent of global population and is expected to reach 57 per cent by 2025. 70 per cent of GDP is reported (McKinsey) to come from these cities, by 2025 top 75 cities alone will contribute 30 per cent of GDP growth globally. Brunei with 30.5 years as average age today caters to 77.6 per cent urban population (2018) growing at 1.66 per cent annually (2015-20 est). This key trend is challenging nations and their ecosystem to innovate and draft national policies to consider and address public safety, urban management (traffic, healthcare, education, society, etc), rising energy demands, better job opportunities, economic growth and environment through sustainable solutions.

Infrastructure at the Core and Rise of Digital

Sustainable development in a nation is a direct outcome of its infrastructure robustness and resilience, this is substantiated even in the Sustainable Development Goals for 2030 laid out by all 193 countries at the United Nations General assembly specifically through Goal nine ‘Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure’ and Goal 11 ‘Sustainable cities and communities’. Among any Nation’s top infrastructures like road network, hospital, Education institutes, etc, ICT infrastructure is certainly among the critical ones as it connects people to people, people to things and things to things within.

Realising and strengthening ICT infrastructure has accelerated Digital Economy globally with USD23 trillion additional opportunity expected to be realised by 2025 (Huawei GCI 2018). ICT investments and developments in areas like broadband, data centres, cloud, big data, IoT and now Artificial Intelligence (AI) are taking nations towards better digital maturity. Digital in the current era has proven to be the new paradigm which has transformed the way we connect with others and are increasingly exploring avenues to connect everything else around us. People embracing digital technology by has enabled industries to transform from a physical world to a digital one leading to Industry 4.0 phase. Since the 17th/18th Century, intervention such as opening sea routes to the invention and application of electricity, introduction of Internet to AI, each intervention has found itself to be adopted as a general purpose technology. Today when we buy an air conditioner or a smartphone, we assume electricity and Internet availability, similarly (AI) is the next general purpose technology that will lead to digital integration of people, Industries and enterprises.

This integration will keep the Infrastructure at the core of further development.

CEO of Huawei Technologies (B) Sdn Bhd Cheng Hao Charles in a group photo with Huawei Technologies officials at the Smart Future Forum in Brunei. – PHOTOS: JAMES KON
Konesh Kochhal, Director, Industry Ecosystem Engagements, Marketing of South Pacific Region, Huawei Technologies Sdn Bhd attending to guests

Realising Digital Economy

Technology development is happening at an unprecedented pace, innovation is driven by the attitude of technology trying to solve real problems one at a time. Real demands arising from aspiration of citizens collectively, the objectives of economic growth, intentions of governments to be aware and respond, digital transformation of enterprises and industries are proving to be the right ingredients to more digital platforms, interactions, services and management. The paradigm of digital is transforming the economies. USD5800 billion (2022) is committed towards building safe cities globally, 64 per cent of enterprises are pursuing digital transformation and 67 per cent of Global 2000 companies have digitisation as the core strategy. AI enables Industry 4.0 transformation to positively impact market competitiveness, productivity and Innovation (According to Huawei GCI 2018 report, one point rise in GCI improves market competitiveness, productivity and innovation by 2.1 per cent, 2.3 per cent and 2.2 per cent). Each nation must examine their digital ecosystem, to identify opportunities, create time bound strategic roadmaps and engage stakeholders to collectively strive for digital economic adoption and growth. The problems and solutions to address them are unique to each country and must be clearly identified to translate into national strategic plan.

Identifying the right solutions for Brunei

Network Infrastructure including 4G, Fiber and IoT are foundation for Smart Nation building today. Strengthening of existing fiber and 4G networks (reach, capacities and performance), building an elaborate IoT based sensor network that can enhance awareness, integrate urban management efforts and respond to emergencies in real time are key priorities today. Once the current infrastructure is robust and resilient, identifying future demands, synergies in systems processes will result in desired efficiencies and affordable services.

Building on current priority areas will be fundamental in undertaking 5G development in the future, for example:

– Consumer domain: 5G with 10 to 100 times faster access speed compared to 4G will enable new services in the consumer space such as virtual reality, augmented reality and other cloud services, enhancing the consumers experience to a new level. Watching popular shows, concerts and football matches virtually would be a reality. Virtual games and contentwill be developed for 5G mobile phones to not only play but also extend the application to virtual training environments for learning.

– Enterprise: In mid to longer term, 5G will see a lot of new applications in the vertical industry space; aqua marine fishing to digitise the fish farms by providing timed feeding, monitoring of the environment, controlling diseases and more. Other vertical applications include agriculture farming to increase the productivity of farming, utilise autonomous tractors and vehicles for efficiency. Smart manufacturing, remote e-health and connected drones for monitoring and control are some of the potential 5G uses that would create a digital lifestyle and change the way we live and work.

– Smart Nation or City implementations will have great uses such as making city transportation efficient through congestion avoidance methods, dynamically analysing traffic patterns to control congested roads and street lights in optimal ways. Smart Street poles for street lights can be changed to multi-functional poles including 5G small cell sites. Smart street lights will enable energy saving through on demand street lights during rain or cloudy days and nights, motion sensors activating lights during no traffic or movement. Some of the customised smart poles can have LCD displays for travel information, environment and weather sensors, security cameras, Wi-fi and emergency button for parks etc. Utility (water, electricity and gas) metres will be able to sense faults as well as deliver efficiency by controlling loss and leakages.

Smart Nation building a national policy to drive development

Strategic planning is crucial from both time and expected outcomes. Government enabling cross industry engagements and robust Infrastructure development will let the ecosystem respond with efficient networks and or smart industries saving operational cost nationally and contributing to the economic growth. Smart city nation programmes have benefitted globally in both developed and developing economies. Examples include Saudi Arabia implementing Smart Yanbu which saw a 16 per cent rise in inbound investment, 45 per cent street lights O&M efficiency improvements in Shandong province, China, Smart Government initiative leading to entry-exit permit processing time between Hong Kong and Macau improving from seven days to two minutes and 46 per cent crime rate reduction in Nairobi Kenya (safe city), to name a few. Huawei is actively building over 120 smart cities in over 40 countries worldwide.

The success factors for smart nation deployment are pivoted on

• Identifying the real and local needs

• Strategic planning

• involvement of stakeholders, government drive, operators and industry player

• infrastructure and spectrum readiness

• deployment in phases

Brunei can leverage on existing good foundation of 4G and Fibre network to evolve and transform efficiently and be ready for 5G to help realise the needs of a smart nation.

Getting 5G ready through collaborations and engagements

5G can be evolved from existing networks (infrastructure), which is the most efficient way to deploy the new technology in the initial phase. To maximise the 5G capability and potential, there would be a need to add new infrastructure such as opening up new sites and locations for 5G. This calls for several stakeholders to forge partnerships. A public-private partnership programme can facilitate a joint study on the possibility of using public buildings and infrastructure for 5G deployment. Cooperation between the regulators and industry in the area of spectrum identification is also essential to accelerate the 5G readiness.