The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the way people in Malaysia live and work. As the nation gears up for the next normal, businesses are racing to reach, connect and engage with consumers more virtually. Sectors that were already innately digitally-focused – especially e-commerce – were able to lead the way in this transformation. In contrast, the pressure to transform was greater for physical industries like manufacturing, agriculture and ports, due in no small part to their asset-heavy nature and the pandemic influencing a drop in their economic activities.

As many physical industries only began accelerating digital transformation due to the pandemic, the time is now for them to harness Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) technologies. With Malaysia boosting nationwide connectivity via the National Digital Infrastructure Plan (Jendela) and aiming to launch the 5G network by the end of 2021, the country’s physical industries must now look at investing in the future of industrial digitization via 5G+.

The next, crucial step after 5G
With 5G’s impending arrival in Malaysia, physical industries will need to do more than implementing foundational 5G networks to bridge the digital divide. Enterprises can no longer just have any 5G network infrastructure; they must also have one that enables the synchronization between enterprise ICT (information and communications technology) and industrial OT (operations technologies). Essentially, they must innovate both digital and physical systems, which would then work with each other to the organization’s benefit – this is what 5G+ entails.

Nevertheless, there are many factors behind industrial digital and physical systems and it can be a difficult task to determine which 5G+ approach to prioritize. Nokia Bell Labs identified a suite of ecosystem technology enablers that can power industrial 5G+ transformation: pervasive 5G networks, edge infrastructure and cloud platforms, augmented intelligence and machine learning systems, private networks, advanced sensor and robotics, end-to-end (E2E) security, and network-as-a-service business models.

SPE gains – the next gamechanger for physical industries
Physical industries seeking to reap the most rewards out of their digital transformation (and at speed and scale) with 5G and 5G+ enablers must complement them thoroughly via Safety, Productivity, and Efficiency (SPE) gains. These comprise:

Safety: the decrease in safety-related incidents. Industrial sites using AugI/ML – when merging it with intelligent video sensing – proactively enable the detection of accidents before they happen, improving both worker and equipment safety.

Productivity: the volume increase of goods or services generated from the same asset base. Through AugI/ML systems, a factory can improve its forecasting capabilities of specific market demands – enabling pre-emptive operations while shortening response times and taking full advantage of operational capacities.

Efficiency: the capacity to decrease the number of resources consumed for the same level of output. Here, advanced sensory technologies – especially those using video analytics powered by AugI/ML – can detect machine failures before they happen, thereby helping to limit unexpected disruptions in industrial sites.

Malaysia is poised for the next big inversion
Although ICT investments were expected to drop when the pandemic broke out, they have since rallied – due in no small part to government-led digitalization initiatives such as the MyDigital Blueprint. These efforts, along with the acceleration of 5G implementation by the end of 2021 and its eventual ascendance as the country’s connectivity backbone, mean that Malaysia has already arrived at the key inflection point for mass 5G+ adoption.

Already, we are seeing how physically dependent sectors are embracing 5G+ enablers. For instance, one of the country’s top glove manufacturers is developing advanced production facilities that use IoT technologies, while a local technology company introduced an IoT-based smart parking system to help optimize public parking spaces and reduce traffic congestion.

As Malaysia races to emerge out of the current crisis via greater digital adoption, its physical industries will be better positioned to improve their competitive advantage via SPE gains, even after riding the initial wave of adoption. Ultimately, these gains will be intensified with the nationwide adoption of 5G+, thus creating more avenues for such industries to contribute to the economy with greater impact.

Article above contributed by
Datuk Mohd Rauf Nasir
Managing Director
Malaysia, Maldives and Sri Lanka