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Insights into IoT development in the Asia-Pacific region

Could you tell us more about your role at Schneider Electric? I’m the Executive Vice President in charge of Internet of Things (IoT) and digital transformation at Schneider Electric. My responsibility is to drive the execution of IoT strategies that support digital transformation- I am managing a team of 150 people operating across Schneider Electric so I work with every business unit in the company. We have 4 business units and I work with them, from defining the IoT strategy to defining the business models and value proposition for the customer, and executing the strategies both from a technology point of view and from an operational capabilities point of view. So how do we define the direction, what kind of value proposals do we want to address for customers, what kind of offer do we need to design, leveraging the common platform to design it, leveraging common operating capabilities to deliver it to customers.

Could you share with us some of the major IoT initiatives or projects that you are currently working on? There are probably around 50 projects across Schneider Electric. If we go across those different projects, one of the things we are developing for our customers is different vertical asset performance management, Schneider Electric delivers to customers technologies that they integrate and use in their systems. Whether it is electrical distribution management or building process automation, in many of those different applications, we deliver the core technology that is the intelligence of those different equipments. With IoT, the ability to bring to our customers value, we have the ability to bring to customers a better visibility of their operations and better visibility on how to improve their operations. One of the dimensions of this is asset performance management (APM), helping customers to identify optimum parameters of usage of their assets, predict any deviation from those optimum parameters and act on those deviations so that the systems work properly. I say APM in general because this could take very different flavours. You have APM in the sense of preventive maintenance, so let’s say one of the applications that we have with one of our divisions is preventive maintenance for rotating machines, so motors, turbines, any large EV rotating equipment that you have for power generation. Those equipment are not only very expensive, when they fail, restoring their capabilities takes a lot of time and a lot of money. If you have a turbine that fails, then you can imagine not only is it disruptive to operations but also by the time you source another turbine, you replace it,  it takes up a lot of time. So preventive management in that field, being able to identify any deviation of the parameters, anticipate failure and maybe perform the maintenance operations that is necessary, changing a mechanical part, modifying the parameter before it fails has a lot of impact. There are two dimensions where we can leverage IoT at the level of the city, there is the optimum usage of any critical facility, whether it is the energy or water supply or hospitals.

We can bring better management, usage and operating conditions of the different assets that  are important to the city. At the same time, there is also the optimisation, how do you optimise investments? Cities are very sensitive to the level of investments they have to do for their citizens, they don’t have infinite budgets, so they want to be sure that they allocate their money in the best way. So all the things we do around optimisation, efficiency, how we can get a better  outcome based on the assets is also important in terms of impact because it maximises outcomes while minimising consumption of the assets.

I understand you have been in the Asia-Pacific region for 15 years. Could you share with us your thoughts and insights on the growth of IoT and development of Smart Cities in the region? I lived in China and lived in Singapore for 4 years. What I’ve seen in the development of this region applies very well to IoT. First, there is a massive trend of urbanisation, which puts a lot of stress to infrastructures for cities. IoT is a foundation that could be leveraged to optimise the usage of those infrastructures and minimise the stress that comes from the population. So I think this big movement of development of IoT and digital technology will help to sustain our development. And the other angle is when I look at the profile of the people, a lot of things are new and people are educated on new technologies, it’s also a fantastic opportunity to be competitive in the global marketplace. You start from infrastructures that are new, instead of being built on legacy. You are also having a population that keeps up to date on the trends using the latest technologies. The young engineeers who are just fresh out of universities, who have been educated on the latest IT technologies and use of software is very different from the profile you will find in France where you have a very experienced engineer but is less keen on new technologies. This person in the other part of the world will have a lot of advantage in terms of experience but will be less able to consume new software technologies. The users here (in Asia) will have a different profile, they will have less much experience, so how do we compensate that? A lot of things to do in terms of user experience, access to knowledge, knowledge base and so on but at the same time, they will be able to consume the knowledge that we can give them, using the latest technology.

So it’s important for Schneider Electric to acknowledge that the world is made up of diverse people along those two axis. Japan is different from China, which is different from Indonesia and Malaysia.

We know that Schneider Electric works closely with the public sector in Singapore. How do you think the IoT scene will look like in both the public and private sectors in 3-5 years’ time? We have heard a lot about IoT in the past 3-4 years, it has really become a hot topic, there’s a big buzz and everyone is talking about it. I think we are really entering the age of realization. So whether we are speaking about the public or private sector, I think we need to demonstrate to customers, with companies like Schneider Electric, the value of IoT with real things. So this is where we’re really entering, we’re leaving the age of the birth and entering the age of realisation and I think Schneider Electric is very well-positioned on that matter. Then when it comes to the difference between the public sector and the private sector, what I think is very interesting is that there is a technology side of the story and there is a business model side of the story. IoT is the opportunity to invent new business models especially when you think about things that are developed as a service. I think it’s interesting from the public sector perspective because they see the constraints as , “I don’t want to do any major upfront investment as I prefer to consume the capacity as a service”. With IoT, we can new bring business models that will offer value to the consumers of the public sector in a way that was not possible before. Maybe I could give the example of energy management. In the traditional way of doing energy management, we have to invest in large equipment and buy a lot of software, install these with the system integrator, then reap the benefits of this in a cycle of 10 years.

If we are able to, this is what we do in some markets, deliver what I just described as a service, then it means that the customer will be able to get the benefit at the same time as they perform the service. This lowers the barriers to entry and works very well for the public sector because it is much easier to say to citizens that new services are being provided that doesn’t tax too much on the finance of the collective because you get the benefit at the same time as the service. It also means that the public sector needs to position themselves not just as a supplier of services, but also as a broker of services: “How can I create the infrastructure so that the supply of services can meet the demand of services? How do I facilitate the supply of services to my citizens?” That’s the difference in terms of role from building additional services. All those new services that citizens are willing to have: how are these optimised? A city cannot add all the different services because it will be too much of an investment but how can the government associate those services to existing things? Governments/public sector can be a broker of those services to citizens, I think that’s a very important development.

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