This article has been written by Peter Moore, Regional Managing Director, Asia Pacific and Japan Public Sector, Amazon Web Services
2020 was a year like no other. By March, COVID-19 had spread around the world impacting families, businesses, and communities. And, one year later, many are still fighting the spread of the virus, which has since introduced several new variants that are threatening our communities. The speed at which the virus spread left diagnostics for the disease lagging and the healthcare community looking for new ways to use technology to help.
As countries grappled with the challenge of scaling COVID-19 testing, we launched the Amazon Web Services (AWS) Diagnostic Development Initiative to help organizations around the world apply the power of the cloud to accelerate diagnostics research and development. Through this initiative, AWS committed $20 million in computing credits and customized expertise from the AWS Professional Services team to support customers using AWS to drive diagnostic innovations.
In the first phase of the initiative, AWS has helped 87 organizations in 17 countries ranging from startups, nonprofits, research institutions, and businesses. We have awarded $8 million supporting a range of diagnostic projects including molecular tests for antibodies, antigens, and nucleic acids; diagnostic imaging; wearables; and data analytics tools that use artificial intelligence and machine learning to detect the virus.
As we launch the next phase, we are excited to broaden the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative’s scope and distribute the remaining $12 million this year. From 12 April 2021, we are expanding the scope to three new areas: 1) early disease detection to identify outbreaks at the individual and at the community level, 2) prognosis to better understand disease trajectory, and 3) public health genomics to bolster viral genome sequencing worldwide. While AWS will prioritize COVID-19 projects, we will also evaluate projects focused on other infectious diseases. We will accept applications through the end of the year, with priority consideration given to applications received before July 31. Interested organizations can apply here.
AWS has seen transformative innovations in how startups and organizations diagnose disease over the past year, from machine learning-powered X-ray imagery analysis to new developments in rapid, high quality, and direct-to-consumer tests. These changes will continue to evolve and improve a country’s ability to respond to future outbreaks.
Speeding customer innovation
The AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative has accelerated projects that are changing what is possible with medical diagnostics and having an immediate impact on COVID-19 detection. These projects are not only enabling the medical community to rapidly respond to COVID-19, but also have implications for many other infectious diseases. Here are some examples of the projects funded by the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative:
Medo uses Artificial Intelligence (AI) to help healthcare professionals quickly identify severe COVID-19 cases
Medo is an AI healthcare startup founded in Singapore and headquartered in Edmonton, Canada, that leveraged support from the AWS Diagnostic Development Initiative to expedite the development of its Medo Lung solution. Medo Lung would allow a quick ultrasound scan of the lung to be reviewed by an AI algorithm to detect whether a patient has normal lung function or is suffering from complications such as interstitial pneumonitis, which leads to many of the severe complications associated with COVID-19. These scans could be performed in thousands of patients together with diagnostic swabs in COVID-19 screening clinics, to assist with rapid, accurate patient triage by helping identify those who urgently need to go to hospital. This would also eliminate the need for patients, particularly the elderly, to leave their homes and visit a doctor unless absolutely necessary, preserving hospital resources, and avoiding potential exposure in the process.
By leveraging AWS and ultrasound, Medo has helped radiologists and clinicians to perform and facilitate the diagnosis of several other medical conditions, in addition to the lung. As a result, caregivers are able to more quickly and accurately diagnose common and critical conditions, and therefore are able to understand the right course of treatment for patients quicker.
Medo currently pilots its Medo Lung solution in Canada. In addition to COVID-19, Medo Lung will also scan for diseases like pneumonia, pleural effusions, pneumothorax, and pulmonary edema.
“COVID-19 really crystallized our vision of democratizing medical imaging and bringing our solution to as many people as we can by highlighting the need for AI-driven diagnostics that can be administered by any caregiver at the point of care where it’s needed the most, keeping patients comfortable and safe. With the help of advanced AWS AI and ML services like Amazon SageMaker and Amazon Textract, we were able to develop Medo Lung that will make a big difference for patients in both the short term and long after the pandemic subsides.” — David Quail, Co-founder, Medo
Artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping us to democratize ultrasound self-diagnosis across the planet with the help of AWS. The cloud has allowed us to greatly improve patient outcomes, including in remote areas that would not otherwise have the infrastructure needed to perform or manage such patients. Scanning an organ takes just a few seconds and our algorithm provides reliable results in less than a minute, making access to medical imaging and early reliable diagnosis a reality for all.” — Dr Jeevesh Kapur, Radiologist and Co-Founder, Medo
Oncophenomics detects mutated COVID-19 virus quickly through next-generation sequencing
Oncophenomics is a healthtech startup based in Hyderabad, India that develops diagnostics solutions for cancer and infectious diseases. The company is studying the genetic epidemiology of the COVID-19 virus in India and is addressing the need for rapid, accurate, and affordable testing and applying it at scale so that the country can implement a test and track approach to identify infected individuals and impose quarantine measures on those infected with the more dangerous variants of the COVID-19 virus.
Not all diagnostic tests in the market are able to detect these new variants of concern. Confronted with the lack of variant-specific diagnostic tests, Oncophenomics has developed a two-step comprehensive saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution that is able to test patients for COVID-19 on-site in minutes (self-administered test; no need for swabs, or requiring the support of a phlebotomist or lab technician) and the positive samples are shipped to a centralized laboratory to accurately diagnose COVID-19 virus variants using third-generation real-time long-read sequencing (Oxford Nanopore Technologies) approach to sequence the complete viral RNA within hours with the same saliva sample.
The sequencing data is being uploaded and analyzed on AWS Cloud using Oncophenomics’ proprietary bioinformatics pipelines and allows the startup to compare every patient sample against a global repository of more than one million COVID-19 virus genomes via GISAID (Global Initiative on Sharing Avian Influenza Data – an initiative that promotes the rapid sharing of data from all influenza viruses and the virus causing COVID-19) within minutes and generate a variant report quickly with clinical correlation.
Governments, public health initiatives, laboratory and healthcare professionals can use this platform to effectively identify the individuals infected with COVID-19 virus variants and plan appropriate interventions to prevent the further spread of the virus in the community. Such rapid interventions are needed to combat the second wave of COVID-19 cases rising in India and other countries.
Oncophenomics’s saliva-based COVID-19 diagnostics solution will undergo ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research – the apex body in India for the formulation, coordination and promotion of biomedical research, is one of the oldest and largest medical research bodies in the world) performance evaluation and clinical validation by June 2021 for CDSCO (Central Drugs Standard Control Organization – India’s national regulatory body for pharmaceuticals and medical devices) regulatory approval and will be launched in India first, followed by Singapore and other APAC markets.
“AWS makes it easy for us to work on the cloud. Our goal is to address the issue of COVID-19 test performance in light of new variants affecting the conventional RT PCR (Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction) tests – its accuracy, specificity, and sensitivity. We have devoted all our resources to developing a robust end-to-end COVID-19 diagnostics solution within a short time frame and at a critical time where the world is facing an imminent threat of a new wave of COVID-19 infections. Some of the data analysis is computationally intensive and can only be run on the cloud.
Without the publicly available datasets (GISAID) and AWS’s scalable cloud computing capabilities, it would have been impossible to develop this COVID-19 variants testing solution. Currently, our saliva-based testing solution, the part-1 point of care test is targeting India specific mutations (while the part-2 nanopore sequencing can discover all mutations), but we hope to customize it for any region across the world to help combat the new COVID-19 wave.” — Dr Shibichakravarthy Kannan, MBBS, PhD, Founder & CEO, Oncophenomics Inc.
Stanford University School of Medicine develops smartwatch-based “alarm system” for diagnostics
Researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine’s Healthcare Innovation Lab have developed a smartwatch app designed to correctly flag signs of fighting a potential COVID-19 infection. The app is powered by an algorithm that detects changes in an individual’s resting heart rate and step count. Early results are promising, and a pilot trial successfully alerted newly infected individuals as early as 10 days before they became aware of any symptoms.
The app has entered the next phase of study, and the Stanford team is recruiting participants with the goal of reaching 10 million participants to increase its ability to detect signs of COVID-19 in real-time. This smartwatch-based early detection system was built on AWS with the support of the AWS Professional Services team, who has collaborated with the researchers to help the study scale its data processing pipeline.
“We’re hopeful that ongoing screening using wearable devices can provide scalable diagnostics solutions to overcome current testing barriers, and that expanding data access to a broader range of researchers will contribute to new discoveries that improve human health. We look forward to continue pushing the boundaries of what is possible with the cloud.” — Michael Snyder, PhD, professor and chair of genetics for Stanford University’s School of Medicine
We continue to be inspired by the ingenuity of our customers across the world in their use of cloud technology to accelerate diagnostics to help citizens fight against COVID-19 during this trying time, and support governments to prioritize healthcare resources to save more lives. We look forward to supporting broader uses of cloud technologies to enable organizations and communities to identify and respond even faster to future outbreaks.
In the new normal, everything is moving online, including employee workloads, leadership insights, and how the services and businesses interact with customers or clients. Organisations must undergo a digital transformation to create entirely digital processes, better experiences and streamlined operations.
Successful digital transformation allows all processes and systems to communicate with one another. Users have a single source of truth, updates occur in real-time, and data is integrated.
The transformation enables organisations to effortlessly pivot when necessary because all their systems and teams are interconnected. Everything can be done quickly and without impacting the operations – whether it is to add more users, connect new business software or begin automating tasks.
In a cloud-first strategy, organisations are not merely adding a new layer of technology when they transform. They are expanding their IT capability in an entirely new way. Data and systems are hosted in the cloud, allowing for a seamless, effective and adaptable connection of all their IT.
Increasingly, companies of all sizes are aware of the potential and power of the cloud. Due to the increased security, scalability and convenience, more businesses and services are moving their apps and data onto the cloud.
Within this suite, that offers consumers a significant advantage is cloud communications. As remote and hybrid work models become the norm, cloud communication is quickly gaining importance.
The OpenGov Breakfast Insight with Indonesia’s top public sector leaders on 1 December 2022 at the Westin Jakarta provided the current information on the benefits of the most recent cloud technology that can help the nation’s public, education, financial services and healthcare sectors.
The Cloud at the Heart of the Digital Transformation
Mohit Sagar, CEO & Editor-in-Chief OpenGov Asia, believes cloud-based strategies are being adopted and implemented by companies of all sizes to spur growth and increase profits. Cloud has fundamentally altered business communications.
Cloud transforms how people communicate, collaborate and conduct business in today’s digital world. It has sparked advancements in machine learning, the Internet of Things (IoT), devices, healthcare and autonomous vehicles.
“The cloud offers cutting-edge features and functionality that let staff members collaborate and communicate in ways – and places – they never imagined,” says Mohit. “Organisations can outsource systems management tasks like provisioning, switching, data storage, and security to cloud communications providers.”
Moreover, with remote and hybrid models, employees report higher productivity and greater satisfaction.
Nonetheless, according to Mohit, even though remote and hybrid models are becoming increasingly popular, they will not be successful if they are not based on the right technology. Cloud communications are a crucial component of any hybrid or remote work environment.
With cloud-based communication tools, staff can easily switch to working remotely, teams can keep meeting, and operations can go on as usual.
“Technology for collaboration will be more crucial than ever with employees working in different time zones and locations. Hence, teams have the resources to connect with coworkers across boundaries thanks to cloud communications,” Mohit explains.
Organisations can make the most of their resources with cloud communications, which can quicken implementation, increase flexibility, and provide limitless high-volume information exchange. Moreover, cloud communication security features guarantee adherence to data privacy laws.
The technology, protocols and best practices that safeguard cloud computing environments, cloud-based applications and cloud-stored data collectively constitute cloud security. Understanding exactly what needs to be secured and the system components that must be managed is the first step in securing cloud services.
As an overview, cloud service providers are responsible for backend development against security vulnerabilities. Clients should concentrate primarily on the proper service configuration, safe use habits, and selecting a security-conscious provider.
“Clients should also confirm that any end-user networks and hardware are properly secured,” Mohit says.
Every step taken to secure the cloud aims to facilitate data recovery in the event of data loss; guard against malicious data theft on networks and storage; prevent human error or carelessness that results in data leaks, and minimise the effects of any data or system compromise.
The transition to cloud-based computing has resulted in a significant evolution of traditional IT security. While cloud models offer greater convenience, always-on connectivity necessitates new security measures. There are a few ways in which cloud security differs from conventional IT models as a modernised cyber security solution.
According to Nathan Guy, Zoom Phone Leader, Asia Pacific, Zoom, the macro business environment has significantly changed. Businesses are under tremendous pressure to increase productivity, adapt quickly as competition heats up and be productive to keep up with the rapid pace of innovation and technological advancements.
This problem is becoming even more pressing because of economic uncertainty. Without effective communication between customers, prospects and employees, it will be impossible to address these issues.
Nathan highlighted that the workforce is also experiencing a generational shift. People prefer the option of remote employment. And they are asking for cutting-edge equipment and communication systems as they need to do their jobs.
With every new tool and app that is made available, communication becomes more complex and confusing. Employees, clients, and potential customers are just a few stakeholders with preferences and expectations about how, when, and where they conduct business.
“Due to this, many businesses choose their battles carefully when it comes to facilitating communication,’ says Nathan.
Among the routes they take are keeping up with currently used systems deemed adequate; embedded communication tools included with other software packages; exploring multiple solutions depending on the situation; among others. “These strategies are meant to provide the organisation with fundamental communication.”
Such methods allow for some flexibility but also change the environment for prospects, employees and customers. People are compelled to alternate between various solutions based on their needs.
Some consumers “separate” from a favourite brand after just one disappointing interaction. Today’s harsh reality is that communication is a critical path activity; your business will also fail if it fails. A path that is crucial to the business failure.
Nathan believes that organisations must go beyond essential communication to universal communication. Creating intuitive connections to all parties – employees, customers, and investors – regardless of location, device, or business activity – will have a tremendous advantage in this uncertain business environment.
“You do this by combining the connection needs of the individual and organisation by delivering a consistent and quality experience for all participants, making human connection effortless, and enabling rapid innovation to maintain relevance,” says Nathan.
These steps could result in:
- Meeting both the organisations’ core business needs and the demands of their customers;
- Refocusing internal resources away from administering communications and towards new services and capabilities; and
- Improving the agility and the perceived value both in the company and the market
An organisation’s reputation is directly linked to the quality of its communication services. In addition to the fact that employees, clients, and customers can work from anywhere, people returning to the office do not want them to be disappointed by the home office environment to which they have grown accustomed.
Expectations have increased; a session that fails due to dropped participants or subpar audio/video is unacceptable and embarrassing. Organisations must adapt to this new hybrid environment and guarantee that everyone receives high-quality service regardless of circumstance or location.
“When communications are disrupted in today’s world, business transactions become impossible,” claims Nathan. “Organisations can eliminate a work-limiting unpredictability risk by doing this. They provide a controlled experience by enabling the staff to work without concern about the underlying technology.”
By using a top-notch infrastructure specially built to prevent failures, Zoom will protect organisations from communications breakdowns. Organisations could troubleshoot the underlying cause of environmental problems and take preventative measures. This allows the workforce to concentrate on their work without unneeded interruptions or uncertainty. Hence, employees will have confidence that the communication system they provide will work as expected.
Differences in network performance and bandwidth can seriously impair audio and video quality and lead to intermittent problems, preventing some users from participating fully. Even with severe packet loss, organisations can use Zoom to deliver a productive meeting experience. This makes it possible to eliminate local network and infrastructure variability, which is crucial when doing business internationally.
More complexity is being added to communications. “Now you have workers returning to the office, frequently in a hotel setting, as well as those travelling or working remotely,” says Nathan.
Three main contexts have been produced as a result: remote, office and mobile. Unfortunately, all too frequently, people are forced to juggle a patchwork of disjointed point solutions created during the pandemic. This includes a personal cellphone, a videoconferencing option for small meetings and another tool for significant events.
Nathan believes that employees and clients must learn to use a different interface. Even if the organisations stick with a single vendor, many have expanded through acquisitions, leading to various products with no shared characteristics.
“There’s no doubt that communication platforms are a big part of how hybrid teams work,” Nathan asserts. “A modern communications platform like Zoom could help boost productivity, add to what can be done, and show how engaged employees are.”
Fireside Chat: How to Prepare for the Transition to the “Cloud Culture”
According to Deddy Kartika Utama, Head of Information Security, Ministry of Home Affairs (Kemendagri), policies regarding political and general governance and regional autonomy are developed, determined and implemented by the Ministry of Home Affairs.
The Ministry also plays a role in establishing regional and village administration, governing issues, regional finance, demographics and civil records.
Given the number of parties involved and the nature of the hybrid organisation, including the Ministry, maintaining consistency may prove difficult. Because of this, compelling and trustworthy means of communication are crucial.
Cloud communications, Deddy emphasised, continue to be the preferred method of meeting the growing demand for efficient organisational communications, considering the advent of the hybrid workplace. With cloud computing and communications, organisations can quickly expand or contract to meet fluctuating demand.
In the public sector, by using internet-based connectivity to reduce lag time and unreliable connections, organisations can communicate with their team and customers through various channels, including email, voice calls, chat and video.
Through the advancements in IT, organisations now have access to a flexible, instant, scalable, stable, and conveniently located environment. Organisations that switch to cloud-based communication technology can take advantage of full cloud communication’s mobility, scalability, security, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.
The rapid development of cloud computing services and collaboration technologies has apparent benefits for remote and hybrid workforces. It enables teams to work together and achieve their shared goals even when they are not physically present in the same office.
“Using a cloud collaboration strategy, coworkers can work together on documents stored in the cloud while having access to the same files and making changes to them in real-time,” Deddy explains. “One method for cutting costs while maximising organisational resources despite growing communication capabilities and reach is to concentrate on the quality of the technology.”
By utilising the cloud, businesses have found cheaper alternatives while ensuring that their customers can access their data and systems from any location at any time. Transitioning from traditional to cloud office culture is exciting and promising. To protect the organisations and their operations, a solid security foundation must first be established.
According to Deddy, the potential of cloud computing is becoming increasingly apparent to various organisations, and it is also growing. “Organisations are already transitioning from the traditional office culture to the cloud culture, and doing so is profitable. They can save money and space by switching to cloud technology.”
Nathan emphasised the significance of cloud security, albeit that most organisations are already utilising cloud computing in some form. “Organisations are still hesitant to move more data and applications to the cloud due to security, governance, and compliance concerns when storing their content in the cloud.”
By partnering with Zoom, the human connection could be simplified and security could be included. Organisations can capitalise on the habits and competencies individuals have developed over the past two years. Additionally, they will ensure consistency across multiple use cases.
“By partnering with Zoom, businesses will be able to maintain their relevance through rapid innovation. They have access to a constant stream of new capabilities that reflect actual user requirements,” Nathan claims.
According to Mohit, a critical component of cloud security is the protection of data and business content such as customer orders, secret design documents and financial records, among others.
Preventing leaks and data theft is critical for maintaining customer trust and safeguarding assets that contribute to competitive advantage. “The ability of cloud security to protect your data and assets makes it critical for any organisations that are transitioning to the cloud.”
Development partners can assist organisations in meeting a broader range of customer needs, resulting in increased market reach. As a result, when developing cloud applications, make sure to include platform or integration capabilities as well as a partner strategy.
“Your cloud partner strategy should be based on business potential, engineering capability, and platform marketing. A balanced strategy will enable a larger partner ecosystem, more comprehensive customer solutions, and increased revenue potential,” Mohit concludes.
Enterprise transformation refers to a significant shift in the way a company conducts its day-to-day operations. This could involve adjusting an organisation’s fundamental technology, the structure of the company’s workforce or the way the company creates and markets its goods.
Enterprise transformation can take many different forms, one of the most prevalent of which is when an organisation makes a significant change in the products or services it offers. Currently, with digital technology, adjustments like this are occurring more frequently.
Companies are realising that they need to modify their approaches to meet the ever-evolving requirements of their customers as well as the consistently expanding standards set by their rivals.
Simultaneously, several Digital technologies, including Artificial Intelligence, the Internet of Things, Blockchain, Big Data, Virtual reality, Augmented Reality, Robotics and automation, among others, have the potential to transform how businesses operate. They can transform various functions of the value chain, such as logistics & supply, manufacturing, engineering, marketing, customer service, corporate management and support functions.
With their versatility and agility, these technologies can be deployed to numerous industries, among these are Healthcare, Food & Beverage, Manufacturing, Services and Mobility.
Innovative Business: What Lies Ahead?
“Businesses need innovation, not only for survival but for future growth,” says Vikram. “Innovation could emerge as product innovation, process innovation, service innovation or business model innovation to create a long-term sustainable advantage.”
Enterprises have been creating legacies based on research and development (R&D) which has LED them to incremental innovations. However, innovation is disruptive or transformational and it can be around product processes, services and business models.
Transformational innovation represents innovation that transforms businesses and innovates processes to create long-term sustainable, competitive, profitable business models. Disruptive innovation is targeted more towards identifying and inventing new mechanisms to solve existing and anticipated problem statements in businesses, which is also expected to have a business impact.
Many businesses do not distinguish between R&D and innovation. Enterprises today, however, are better able to distinguish themselves from one another and can understand and appreciate the impact that innovation has in comparison to R&D’s function.
R&D is an essential part of most businesses, and the benefits it brings are usually small and mostly limited to the people who work in R&D.
Innovation, on the other hand, isn’t just a function; it’s also a way of thinking for the whole organisation. It affects everything from the process to the product to the service to the business model, and the expected size of its effects is disruptive rather than incremental.
This further demonstrates how the current difficult business and economic environment has forced companies with lower levels of technology adoption and digital maturity to rethink their operations.
Enterprises can now assess the possibilities that technology integration may bring about, not only to address their current problem statements but also to consider new opportunities, whether it takes the form of a product, service, or business model.
There are a few common KPIs that should be measured regularly to gauge an organisation’s and its employees’ level of digital maturity. Vikram believes that because every organisation is unique, the KPIs used for assessments will vary.
For example, the key metrics for some common functions, like customer experience, data and insights, strategic and leadership, technology, operations, digital skill sets and so on, would need to be customised based on how they have changed and how they are changing now.
“We can get innovations which can predict based on the data analytics for the next 10 years,” Vikram reveals. “Every organisation should think out-of-the-box. Then they only need the right set of people who can guide them for the KPIs to be defined.”
Additionally, a variety of industries, including those in healthcare, food and beverage, manufacturing, services, FMCG, mobility, hospitality, and many more, can adapt to new technologies.
The following are crucial actions that businesses need to take today to digitally transform their futures:
- Identify your key employees’ level of digital maturity
- Research the technologies that are currently being used by the Enterprise’s various functions
- Select current issue citations
- Sort the problem statements according to priority
- Assess a system for locating, evaluating, and integrating digital technologies
- After a framework has been chosen and put into place, make the process iterative
- Establish it as the Enterprise’s mentality
Urban Ideas and Solutions Through LKYGBPC
When it comes to entrepreneurs who are truly pushing the envelope, Vikram is looking for certain characteristics. One of these is how the participants interact with businesses, which is determined by a unique set of criteria.
“And because we engage with various sets of parameters when looking at entrepreneurs, we can combine their efforts with those of the business,” Vikram explains.
Therefore, they bring the enterprise work and the entrepreneurs together when looking at the entrepreneurs, especially in the GHV DX LAB framework – they are the project managers and the system integrator for GHV.
The digital transformation, specifically the adoption of online business models and the general shift of economic and social activities online, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic, has altered how economies operate, businesses function and societies interact.
The exploitation of data is the driving force behind the emergence of a new type of data-driven economy. It creates new opportunities for international cooperation to leapfrog the intermediate infrastructure of the industrial age, taking advantage of the new markets made available by digital platforms and the improved service delivery made possible by smart technologies.
In addition, the most effective mechanism in education would be to integrate innovation and entrepreneurship at the earliest possible stages of the educational system. In today’s context, entrepreneurship is about more than just passion, raising capital, or coding something; it’s about building a network around yourself to support your entrepreneurial journey. The network is critical.
Vikram spent sixteen years in Japan before relocating to Singapore and India to establish a business. He has realised that he must contribute significantly to society. For Vikram, LKYGBPC is a fantastic platform that can be an integral part of any entrepreneur’s entrepreneurial journey.
As opportunities for entrepreneurs are created through this platform, a global network of mentors and other ecosystem partners are integrated with LKYGBPC to focus on the entrepreneurs. “I think it’s a fantastic platform that is desperately needed right now, not just in the context of Singapore or Southeast Asia, but for the global market,” Vikram is convinced.
He believes that a combination of all these factors pushed him into the venture capital world. “I enjoy being a techie. But I’m enjoying my current role as a mentor to thousands of Asian entrepreneurs.”
Vikram has mentored over 1200 startups to date, including 3 that will soon be unicorns. He has personally invested in over 50 startups, and through the GHV Fund, he has invested in over 20 startups. “Every day, I learn something new and give it back to society in the same way.”
Building intellectual property (IP) rights has been the best part of his digital journey so far, and he hopes to keep doing this. “The level of self-satisfaction I feel is never as high as when I say IP is greater. You can make a lot of money consulting, but that doesn’t get me excited if you can’t create IP and work together. And that’s why what we’ve been doing around it can be great,” Vikram concludes.
Seven intelligent robots have been installed in the wards of Yishun Community Hospital (YCH) to welcome patients and bring supplies to the bedside. These brand-new Temi Robots, known as Angel, were introduced to support nursing care so that nurses could focus their time and energy on clinical tasks while still giving patients a personal and meaningful touch.
These robots are loaded with patient education materials that patients and their caregivers can easily access, in addition to providing announcements and reminders throughout the day in all four major languages.
They also have a variety of features like games and entertainment, teleconference tools, and translation capabilities. YCH hopes to further improve patient engagement and satisfaction in its wards with the new addition.
A pilot project using Nao Robots was also used by YCH in previous years to assist dementia patients in their rehabilitation. Robot Therapy, which was started by the staff at YCH in 2018, is now a part of the therapy-related services offered there.
YCH, which is conceived of as a healing space for patients, offers intermediate care for recovering patients who do not require the intensive care services of an acute-care hospital. With rehabilitation and therapy at the heart of the hospital’s mission, the team was eager to investigate the potential of the innovation, Robot Therapy.
Because they can perform a wide range of tasks with little to no value added, hospital robots offer a reliable solution, freeing up doctors, nurses, and surgeons to focus on more high-value work. Robots have become an integral part of the healthcare industry, with many hospitals now using them to perform both surgical and administrative tasks.
In addition, prior to the arrival of Nao Robots in Singapore, a few local nursing homes used Paro, a robot that mimics the appearance, movement, and sounds of a baby seal. The therapeutic robot seal’s use is like animal therapy in that the robot helps to calm elderly people who have dementia or a loss of cognitive function.
The Nao robot, on the other hand, came with higher expectations: it can express emotions like laughter or sadness during interactions; it can interact and communicate with patients in different languages; and it has optic, audio, and impact sensors and motors to detect surroundings, interpret detection, and activate programmed responses.
Various interaction and language modes can be programmed into the Nao robot. The YCH Robot Therapy team took advantage of this by incorporating the robot into specific therapy sessions. This increased efficiency freed up nursing time, which could then be used for other care activities. Nao robot therapy sessions were trialled with 48 patients from the Dementia ward in October 2018.
Patients with Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) require more care and attention, so this was chosen as the pilot ward. By introducing the Nao robot, YCH has increased patient engagement, motivate them to engage in social activities, and shorten the time required for social activities so that caregivers could concentrate on other care-related tasks.
The implementation process was divided into three stages: training staff, selecting suitable patients and assessing seniors who participated in the Robot Therapy programme using the Observed Emotion Rating Scale.
Singhealth asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic, which hastened the adoption of these solutions and accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare systems globally, has sparked a tremendous interest in digital technology and virtual health solutions.
A group of clinician innovators from SingHealth sought to ascertain whether digital interventions are more affordable and provide patients with greater value and benefits in anticipation of this continuing upward trend, and they discovered that this may not always be the case for some eye conditions.
Both in normal circumstances and in times of crisis, Thai people are known to generate a lot of innovative ideas and continue to develop products that make their lives better. This encompasses and encapsulates the nation’s most recent campaign, Innovation Thailand, which promotes Thai creativity to a global audience.
The Innovation Thailand Alliance consists of partners from a variety of sectors including government agencies, private organisations, educational institutions, and civil societies. Through it, the National Innovation Agency of Thailand (NIA), is expanding the scope of its Innovation Thailand platform.
The fundamental goal is to use national/local ideas to revitalise the nation by promoting awareness of and pride in inventive Thai works. Allies will serve as ambassadors in the effort to promote Thailand as an innovative nation. They will be able to exchange knowledge and skills with one another at the same time.
All stakeholders are enthusiastic to help Thailand achieve its goal of being one of the world’s top 30 innovative nations by 2030 and turning Thailand into an innovation-driven country.
Innovation Capabilities of Thai People
The National Innovation Agency’s mission is to support and develop Thailand’s innovation system to promote economic restructuring and competitive enhancement.
“We began the Innovation Thailand campaign before COVID-19 because we faced a significant challenge in terms of how not only Thai people but also global clients, perceive the nation’s unique products and services,” explains Dr Pun-Arj.
Even though this may not be directly related to innovation, the NIA has attempted to communicate and brand national innovation in such a way that it can be easily connected not only with Thais but also with international customers – this is how they started the Innovation Thailand platform.
Thailand is a tourist destination and one of the top three in the world, which has caused the country to innovate their lifestyle as well as their livelihood.
Thai culture places a high value on craftsmanship and attention to detail. Thai innovation for artful living is a process created exclusively by the fusion of modern technology and knowledge passed down from one generation to the next.
“We have created ingenious solutions through this method that enhances the standard of living in terms of society, prosperity, health, safety, and the environment,” Dr Pun-Arj furthers.
They began to construct a community to exchange ideas, develop, and manage innovation that would result in delivering some information or any significant strategic movement that the government could initiate.
They are recruiting more Chief Innovation Officers from not only the private sector but also the public sector and universities, as part of their primary target group.
Dr Pun-Arj is looking to enhance the opportunities brought in by innovation, particularly at the regional level in the city. This is because they are working not only on economic development but also on the skillset of the social innovation division and platform.
“As a result, our primary focus is on regionalisations of innovation possibilities, as well as startups – innovation-based firms,” reveals Dr Pun-Arj.
He believes that every successful community is built upon a robust and well-functioning infrastructure. Hence, Thailand’s industries and infrastructure will be modernised to meet upcoming challenges.
“In the past, one of our five-year priorities included buildings which we identify as system integrators. As the system and ecosystem become more robust, we are transitioning from system integrators to full core facilitators.”
He emphasised the need to consider the impact of being a system integrator before transforming themselves into focal facilitators. Furthermore, the country wants to make better use of the enormous resource of innovation in universities to conduct research and technology in collaboration with other organisations across the world.
Through the City Innovation Index, which focuses primarily on districts and cities, the NIA promotes and monitors the constant innovation and evaluation of diverse organisations. Periodically, they performed surveys in particular industries to evaluate and propose answers for the difficulties they face.
A strong innovation strategy will evaluate the overall objectives, the target portfolio for innovation initiatives, and the process for allocating the necessary resources. The portfolio clearly defines innovation-critical benchmarks and bounds. Therefore, the nation will become democratic and transparent.
“I believe the government’s most essential innovation strategy focuses on three specific concerns. You must have highly strong and capable businesses of all sizes that will establish a very strong enterprise on its own. And secondly, you must have laws and regulations,” Dr Pun-Arj asserts. “In addition, governance is also required and identifying future risks.”
Thailand is struggling with several issues, including inequality, which includes limited access to public services, digital technology, education, and environmental problems. High manufacturing costs and new types of competition in the global supply chain became challenges for Thailand, with this, innovation has emerged as the country’s answer.
Additionally, there are many challenges in terms of digital transformation and government service and the nation is pushing for innovation that can deliver a good policy and deploy it into practice.
In the previous five-year plan, NIA primarily focused on the job of system integrator into four core facilitators. “That is why the short-term strategy is to train management in the methods, programmes, and activities that we have implemented over the last five years.”
NIA is primarily concentrated on strengthening the potential of regional innovation in several key sectors such as new technologies, assistance for startups, venture capital creation or investment for innovation, and internationalisation of Thailand’s innovation.
Dr Pun-Arj envisions a stronger Thai economy and society, with innovation playing a key role in propelling it. The Bio-Circular-Green Economy (BCG) model is a plan for the country’s growth and post-pandemic recovery. The BCG model focuses on four strategic sectors: agriculture and food, wellness and medicine, energy, materials, and biochemicals and tourism and creative economy.
It emphasises using science, technology, and innovation to turn Thailand’s comparative advantage in biological and cultural diversity into a competitive advantage. The primary aim is to support the sustainability of biological resources, develop local economies and communities and make Thai BCG industries more competitive and resilient to societal changes.
The approach is meant to make Thailand’s economy, society, and environment more sustainable and inclusive. “To achieve the 2030 goal, we must work incredibly hard to encourage innovation in this BCG economy. At the same time, the national policy needs to be improved.”
Dr Pun-Arj has been recognised as a pioneer in the domains of foresight and innovation management in the country. He counsels anyone aspiring to be a great innovator to fully comprehend the concepts of uncertainty and failure.
“Innovation will help us grow as a community or nation by making ourselves and others aware of the importance of innovation,” Dr Pun-Arj concludes.
Astronomers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have completely automated the classification of 1,000 supernovae using a machine-learning (ML) algorithm. The Zwicky Transient Facility, or ZTF, a sky survey instrument located at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, collected data that the algorithm was then used to analyse.
“We needed a helping hand, and we knew that once we trained our computers to do the job, they would take a big load off our backs,” says Christoffer Fremling, a staff astronomer at Caltech and the mastermind behind the new algorithm tagged as SNIascore.
A year and a half after SNIascore classified its first supernova in April 2021, they are approaching the pleasant milestone of 1,000 supernovae. Every night, ZTF scans the night sky for alterations known as transient events. This covers everything, from asteroids in motion to recently devoured stars by black holes to exploding stars known as supernovae.
ZTF notifies astronomers worldwide of these transient events by sending out hundreds of thousands of alerts each night. Other telescopes are then used by astronomers to monitor and learn more about the nature of the shifting objects. Thousands of supernovae have so far been found thanks to ZTF data.
Members of the ZTF team cannot organise all the data on their own due to the constant flow of data that comes in every night. According to Matthew Graham, project scientist for ZTF and research professor of astronomy at Caltech, “the traditional notion of an astronomer sitting at the observatory and sieving through telescope images carries a lot of romanticism but is drifting away from reality.”
Instead, to help with the searches, the team has created ML algorithms. SNIascore was created to categorise potential supernovae. There are two main categories of supernovae: Type I and Type II. In contrast to Type II supernovae, Type I supernovae are devoid of hydrogen.
When material from a companion star flows onto a white dwarf star, causing a thermonuclear explosion, a Type I supernova is produced. When a massive star collapses due to its own gravity, a Type II supernova happens. Type Ia supernovae, or the “standard candles” in the sky, can be classified by SNIascore. These are dying stars that explode with a steady-state thermonuclear blast.
Astronomers can gauge the universe’s expansion rate thanks to Type Ia supernovae. Fremling and colleagues are currently expanding the algorithm’s capabilities to classify additional types of supernovae soon.
Every night, after ZTF has recorded sky flashes that may be supernovae, it sends the data to the SEDM spectrograph at Palomar, which is in a dome a short distance away (Spectral Energy Distribution Machine).
To determine which supernovae are likely Type Ias, SNIascore collaborates with SEDM. As a result, the ZTF team is working quickly to compile a more trustworthy data set of supernovae that will allow astronomers to conduct additional research and, ultimately, learn more about the physics of the potent stellar explosions.
“SNIascore is incredibly precise. We have observed the performance of the algorithm in the real world after 1,000 supernovae” says Fremling. Since the initial launch in April 2021, they have found no clearly misclassified events, and they are now planning to implement the same algorithm with other observing facilities.
According to Ashish Mahabal, who oversees ZTF’s machine learning initiatives and is the centre’s lead computational and data scientist at Caltech, their work demonstrates how ML applications are maturing in near real-time astronomy.
The SNIascore was created as part of the ZTF’s Bright Transient Survey (BTS), which is currently the most comprehensive supernova survey available to the astronomical community. The entire BTS dataset contains nearly 7000 supernovae, 90 per cent of which were discovered and classified by ZTF while the remaining 10 per cent were contributed by other groups and facilities.
A Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) collaborative research team has synthesised a nanoparticle named TRZD that can perform the dual function of diagnosing and treating glioma in the brain. It emits persistent luminescence for the diagnostic imaging of glioma tissues in vivo and inhibits the growth of tumour cells by aiding the targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs.
The nanoparticle offers hope for the early diagnosis and treatment of glioma, especially cerebellar glioma, which is even harder to detect and cure with existing methods. The research results have been published in Science Advances, an international scientific journal.
Limitations of existing diagnostic and therapeutic approaches
Glioma is the most common form of malignant primary brain tumour, accounting for roughly one-third of all brain tumours. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose glioma, the technology lacks sensitivity. Cerebellar glioma, a relatively rare brain tumour, is even harder to detect with MRI. To facilitate early detection and treatment, an alternative method with improved sensitivity and precision is needed to diagnose glioma.
A chemotherapy agent called Doxorubicin is an effective treatment for glioma. However, its application may also damage normal cells, and it is associated with a range of side effects. To enhance doxorubicin’s clinical efficacy and minimise its side effects, a novel approach is needed to apply the drug to tumour cells in a more targeted manner.
In response to the diagnostic and therapeutic needs of glioma, a research team co-led by Dr Wang Yi, Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemistry at HKBU, and Professor Law Ga-lai, Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has synthesised a novel near-infrared (NIR) persistent luminescence nanoparticle called TRZD, which can play a dual role in diagnostic imaging and as a drug carrier for glioma.
An imaging probe for glioma diagnosis
The research team evaluated the efficacy of TRZ (i.e., TRZD without doxorubicin) in diagnostic imaging for glioma with a mouse model. First, TRZ particles were excited by UV light to initiate luminescence. Mice with tumour tissues injected into their cerebrum and cerebellum were then treated with TRZ. Over the next 24 hours, TRZ luminescence was detected at the tumour sites of the mice.
However, when the same experiment was conducted with TRZ without T7 peptides, and TRZ without both the red blood cell membrane coating and T7 peptides, no luminescence was detected at the tumour sites of the mice. The results show that the red blood cell membrane coating can prolong the function of TRZ by stabilising the nanoparticle, and it can slow down its natural uptake by the human body.
The research team further evaluated the anti-tumour efficacy of TRZD using a group of mice who had had their cerebrum and cerebellum injected with tumour tissues.
After applying TRZD for 15 days, the average diameter of their tumours was reduced to 1 mm. They also survived 20 days longer on average compared to the control group, who had not received TRZD. Besides, cell death was observed in the tumour region but not in normal brain tissue.
The results indicate that TRZD’s therapeutic effect on glioma has good selectivity because doxorubicin is brought specifically to tumour cells due to T7 peptide’s strong affinity with tumour cells’ surface receptors and its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. As a result, doxorubicin can be applied in a more targeted manner, and hopefully, its side effects can be minimised with reduced drug dosage.
The team concluded that the nanotechnology demonstrates promising potential, and it could be developed into a new generation of anti-glioma drugs that can perform the dual function of diagnosis and treatment. It also offers hope for the development of treatment protocols for other brain diseases.
Aquaculture is important to the Thai economy. To ensure the long-term growth of this important industry, it is necessary to strengthen the production system by increasing farmers’ sustainable farming capacity and implementing Aquaculture 4.0.
To help with this effort, the nation’s National Electronics and Computer Technology Centre under the National Science and Technology Development Agency (NECTEC-NSTDA) created Aqua-IoT, an IoT-based monitoring system for water’s physical, chemical, and biological qualities.
Dr Supanit Porntheeraphat, Principal Researcher of the NECTEC Digital Agriculture Technology Research Team, explained that the project to develop a digital aquaculture system began at NECTEC in 2010 at the height of disease outbreaks that severely harmed Thailand’s aquaculture industry and the overall economy. The system has been constantly developed and improved since then.
The integration of key data – physical, chemical, and biological water qualities, as well as weather – into a single dashboard allows users to understand the relationship between the data, analyse the data, and make informed decisions.
Dr Supanit added that Aqua-IoT is made up of four major systems: the Water and Weather Monitoring System, the MuEye System, the ChemEye System, and the Minimal Lab System. The first system measures water quality (temperature, pH, and dissolved oxygen) as well as weather (wind speed and direction, light intensity, and rainfall).
These variables are critical for aeration and feed management. The MuEye System is intended to track the growth of aquatic animals and parasites, whereas the ChemEye is a chemical reader that measures the levels of nitrite, ammonia, chlorine, phosphate, and pH in the pond.
Minimal Lab is a probiotic application management system that monitors bacteria growth. The system is also integrated with BIOTEC-NSTDA disease diagnostic tests for shrimp and fish, with test results automatically sent to an online database that users can access via a web browser and a message application.
Aqua-IoT technology has already been licenced to businesses, allowing the devices to be sold commercially. Its advantages include energy and feed cost savings, as well as disease risk reduction. On the first crop, a return on investment can be expected.
The research team began introducing Aqua-IoT to aquaculture farmers in the eastern region in 2020. Working closely with farmers, according to Dr Supanit, allows researchers to better understand their requirements and needs, which leads to the development of other technologies to support aquaculture farming.
An automatic shrimp counting machine for managing pond density and a lift net machine that automatically measures shrimp density for feed and water quality management are two technologies under development.
Udon Songserm, the owner of Wasin Farm in Rayong Province, shared his Aqua-IoT experience. He clearly sees the benefits of cost, time, and labour savings after having the system installed in one of his ponds. He no longer needs to be on-site all the time to keep an eye on his ponds.
Dissolved oxygen data enables him to activate aerators only when needed, rather than always having the machines on, significantly reducing energy costs. Data on water’s chemical and biological properties prompt him to take appropriate actions to avoid losses caused by toxic conditions and disease outbreaks.
Udon also stated that some of the data collected from this pond, such as temperature, can be applied to other ponds in the area. The temperature has a direct effect on dissolved oxygen and can thus be used to manage aeration.
The NSTDA is tasked with accelerating science, technology, and innovation development in Thailand to respond to industry needs and improve the country’s competitiveness in the global economy, thereby contributing to national economic and social development. NSTDA is made up of five national research centres and two organisations involved in technology transfer and business development and promotion including the NECTEC.