Welcome to The Week in Digital Transformation, our regular round-up of the week’s most interesting news, stats, and ideas from the wide world of digital transformation.

This week, we’ve got a bumper crop of news from the ASEAN (Association of South-East Asian Nations) region, with a report that looks into the digital transformation-readiness of several South-East Asian countries, and a survey on the digitisation of airports in the region.

Plus, Huawei’s chairman has emphasised the importance of digital transformation for telecoms companies in the era of 5G, and the commercial real estate sector is making small but important steps towards the adoption of technology.

Is the ASEAN ready for digital transformation?

In past digital transformation roundups, we’ve covered digital transformation case studies, trends and challenges from all corners of the world: from the UK to China, from the United States to Australia and New Zealand to Nigeria.

This week, we look to South-East Asia, as Tech Wire Asia has published an assessment of the state of digital transformation in the ASEAN – Association of South East Asian Nations – drawing on findings from a wider study by Cisco into digital transformation in the Asia-Pacific region.

The ASEAN is made up of ten nations in total, of which the Cisco study looked at six: Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Indonesia.

Overall, although the ASEAN region is optimistic about digital transformation, notes Tech Wire Asia, the report’s findings are less positive. Close to half (47%) of the IT executives surveyed from ASEAN regions report not having the budget necessary to build the right digital infrastructure, while 43% lack the necessary talent to create digital solutions, and 42% believe that their existing IT infrastructure will be unable to support the next generation of technology.

Tech Wire Asia acknowledges that the ASEAN’s different regions can vary significantly in terms of government support for digital transformation, as well as their priorities and needs. Governments in Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, for example, are providing a favourable environment for business-led digital transformation, leading to success and innovation with big data and analytics, AI, and automation technologies.

Adoption of Internet of Things technology, meanwhile, is low across the region, hovering at 28% adoption for the six ASEAN nations surveyed. Author Soumik Roy notes that, despite the huge potential promised by IoT, “the technology requires a fair bit of investment to implement — which ties back to one of the initial findings of the report highlighting the lack of budgets to create and build new and exciting digital solutions.”

He concludes by urging governments and businesses to “work hand-in-hand” to ensure the region prepares for, and makes progress with, the critical process of digital transformation.

Digital transformation is driving future growth of airports in ASEAN

And in more ASEAN news: a new survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan among airport industry stakeholders has highlighted the benefits of digital transformation and digitisation for airports in the ASEAN region, particularly Malaysia.

In a press release announcing the survey’s findings, Frost & Sullivan reveal that 96% of industry stakeholders surveyed are in favour of airport digitisation, with 28% confirming that airport digitisation is a key pillar in their growth strategy, and 38% singling it out as the most important program at their airport.

“Airports globally as well as in the region are being transformed by the ongoing digitization of processes, products and services, the enhanced connectivity of travellers and employees, as well as the evolution of big data analytics,” says Amartya De, Associate Director, Aerospace & Defense Practice at Frost & Sullivan.

“New digital solutions are being implemented in order for airports to optimize processes, enhance business and operating models and improve customer experience. However, the pace of digital transformation differs greatly, depending on the airport size, location, operation and key internal and external stakeholders.”

He goes on to note that Malaysia’s airport ecosystem is the most mature and well-placed to harvest the benefits of digital transformation, while airports in Thailand, the Philippines and Indonesia are beginning to explore digital transformation as a potential solution to over-capacity and restrictions on expansion at key airports.

Interior of Kuala Lumpur international airport

Kuala Lumpur international airport in Malaysia (Photo by Allen, available via CC BY-SA 3.0)

As a global whole, airports are currently in what Frost & Sullivan terms a “data enlightenment” phase, which is expected to continue until 2020. Between 2020 and 2025, airports should be in the midst of “data driven strategy”, while 2025-2030 will be “data exploitation”.

Frost & Sullivan believes that the key traits of a digitally transformed airport – or “Airport 2030” – will include advanced technologies such as intelligent passenger tracking, predictive retailing and security, smart operation planning, seamless connectivity, and digital management of energy and waste.

The advent of 5G means telecoms must transform digitally, says Huawei chairman

5G, the next generation of mobile phone connectivity, is almost here. Promising speeds as much as 1,000 times faster than its predecessor 4G, with 100 times less latency, it has the potential to revolutionise our experience of the mobile web and particularly mobile advertising.

But Liang Hua, chairman of Huawei – which is a leading developer of modem technology and supplier of network equipment for 5G – believes that the telecoms industry must undergo digital transformation in order to unlock 5G’s full potential. Speaking at Huawei’s most recent Operations Transformation Forum, Hua said:

“In the 4G era, digital services can be seen as optional. But in the 5G era, where everything is on the cloud, digital services are not optional. They are a must.”

He called on the telecoms industry to “avoid silo systems and silo platforms” and build everything on a core digital platform to maximise re-use, sharing, and ROI.

Chief Strategy Officer of GSMA Laxmi Akkaraju, who also spoke at the event, agreed that the next era of digital would be driven by 5G and artificial intelligence.

“5G will be the core driver and will enable new services. AI will help us make sense of all the data generated – an estimated 250 exabytes per month by 2021.

“It will help us to develop new products and services for new revenue streams, ensure more efficient operations and better performance, and help us handle 5G network traffic loads,” she said.

From AR to bendy screens: What’s next for mobile advertising?

Commercial real estate is slowly warming up to digital transformation

How is digital transformation impacting the commercial real estate (CRE) sector?

Robert Finlay, founder and CEO of Lyra Intel, writes in Forbes Real Estate Council this week that the CRE sector has historically lagged behind in adopting technology, owing to the more pressing physical needs like pipes bursting, roofs leaking, and building acquisitions that tend to demand their attention. Coupled with the fact that CRE operators tend to be very thinly-staffed, there is little time or opportunity to explore the possibilities offered by digital optimisation.

However, Finlay believes that we are seeing the beginning of a shift in attitude within the sector. “Take a look at how much space is devoted to technology in commercial real estate publications. You will see articles about door handles and the latest energy ratings on commercial building systems, but little press around CRE-specific technology implementations. There has not been a great deal of emphasis on exploring any of the digital technology strategies that could prove useful to property owners.

“This is beginning to change. The biggest impact of the digital future is its capacity to transform a property company’s strategic vision and ambition. By leveraging digital technologies, companies can achieve more and do it faster than ever before.”

He emphasises that wild flights of technological fancy are less than helpful for pragmatic commercial real estate practitioners. “Today, in the tech sector, we are talking about artificial intelligence and virtual reality — lots of cool technology. When it comes to the CRE practitioner, in many cases, we are talking about a person who is manually collecting data.”

The upshot of this is that even small steps can bring about a significant change. “The smallest step is getting a property owner’s attention and showing them how CRE technology can be beneficial and can be of great value.” Showing practitioners what CRE tech is capable of, says Finlay, is the key to ultimately increasing retention and net operating income – and slowly ushering digital transformation into the sector.

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