Automation, blockchain, and cybersecurity.
When it comes to all things digital, these ABCs are some of the key things to look out for in 2018.
Although we’re seeing a gradual “plateauing” of innovative ideas, new emerging technologies are presenting opportunities for us to reimagine the future of how we do things.
So says Ehon Chan, executive director of the Asean Centre of Entrepreneurship at the Malaysian Global Innovation and Creativity Centre (MaGIC).
The 31-year-old said he hopes that 2018 will bring more radical and imaginative innovation to transform many of our industries, and create unprecedented opportunities for lower income groups.
“Beyond the application of technologies, we’ll see more creative ways of delivering services and maximising existing assets for business operations from startups to corporations, and government services to the social sector,” he said.
According to Chan, this would partly be driven by the changing nature of customer expectations, and the above emerging technologies becoming mainstream by way of improved safety, greater stability and being better understood.
Add to that the Government’s heavy investment in this area, such as many of MaGIC’s programmes, the establishment of the Futurise Centre and the Cyberjaya Innovation Fund for the Future, and the regulatory sandbox as announced in Budget 2018.
“I hope to also see more innovation that can be adopted by multi-disciplines to capture a global market. This will facilitate more capital and a new market for radical innovation, while keeping our industries and economy resilient,” he added.
In Chan’s opinion, the top three heavily-discussed topics that will affect the technology arena in 2018 will be the Industrial Revolution 4.0 (including Industry 4.0), blockchain and its products, and cybersecurity.
“There will be a lot of activities around Industrial Revolution 4.0, from the promotion to implementation of technologies associated with it.
“Automation, Artificial Intelligence (AI), advanced robotics, machine learning, the Internet of Things, and 3D printing will become key topics of discussion and see more adoption by industry players and startups,” he said.
Blockchain’s rapid growth over the past year will also drive more innovation in 2018.
“There will be even more focus on cryptocurrency, and Initial Coin Offerings (ICOs) will create new challenges for regulators and opportunities for the innovators.
“We will see an increase in pilots and trials in the adoption of blockchain across various industries and sectors, from new ways of delivering aid to authentication,” he added.
Chan also foresees an increase in sophisticated cybercrimes, and an increasing need to protect citizens.
Thus, with many developments and more governments investing in the digital economy, cybersecurity, net neutrality and virtual privacy, these will become key topics at all levels of society.
“Heavy investments in this area, especially by large public and private sector players, will see cybersecurity become a key player in the larger tech scene,” he said.
Girls in Tech Malaysia advisory board member Munirah Maarof is also looking forward to developments on the rollout of the Futurise Centre and the Digital Free Zone.
The intellectual property (IP) lawyer and IP valuer pointed out that Budget 2018 announced an allocation of RM1.5bil for IP financing.
Munirah is keen to see more information on how local small and medium enterprises (SMEs) can access the funding, with the hope that it will spur more local content creation and Malaysian ownership of innovative technologies.
“Also seeing the Government announce 2018 as the Year to Empower Women, we look forward to seeing more women rise up to innovation, especially in the cosmetics and fashion industry. To more sustainable and innovative wearables!” declared the 32-year-old.
And while discussions have heated up on Industry 4.0 on various platforms this year, Munirah hopes to see a shift of focus to adapting to the changes ahead, especially in the education sector.
She also foresees a movement of focus from STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) to a more holistic STREAMED (science, technology, engineering, arts, mathematics, entrepreneurship and design).
“For 2018, the possibilities are endless with AI, augmented reality and blockchain. I look forward to seeing how various industries adopt these technologies.
“For businesses, perhaps we’ll be seeing more companies opening up the new post of a chief innovations officer,” Munirah mused.
As for Reza Razali, chief executive officer of Slurp!, a point-of-sale system designed for the food and beverage industry, he hopes 2018 will see continued growth for the local tech scene.
“Compared to when I first started, the tech scene has grown to be a more exciting and sustainable ecosystem over the last few years.
“I am excited at the convergence of cloud, the Internet of Things, and blockchain especially for retail technologies, which will further enhance retail productivity,” said the 34-year-old, who formed his first tech startup in 2008.
While Budget 2018 “looks great” for startups or growth companies if well-implemented, Reza finds that the implementation “sometimes falls short”.
However, he remains hopeful there will be an increased availability of growth financing opportunities beyond the seed level or idea stage, as a lot of funding is focused on the early stage.
“When you’ve found a MVP (minimum viable product) and want to go beyond Malaysia, the pool of funds you can access locally is limited. This could be in the form of debt or equity,” he said.
As for Pixaworks Creative Sdn Bhd chief executive officer Inbaraj Suppiah, the 36-year-old is looking forward to working with more aspiring tech entrepreneurs through various entrepreneurship programmes.
“I also hope there will be more quality programmes from both the government and private sector to support and encourage tech entrepreneurs, especially in the early stages when they really need guidance.
“We need successful startup founders to give back to the community, to ensure the ecosystem remains vibrant,” he said.
Inbaraj agreed that FinTech – financial services technology – will still create a buzz in the year ahead, but added that there’s a chance PropTech (property technology) might spring a few surprises, as 2018 is slated to see the launch of a few PropTech startup accelerators.
And blockchain will remain an area of particular interest.
“It’s still new and there’s so much to explore. I’m not a financial expert but I believe we will be seeing many more exciting products in this space next year.
“It’s still a heavily regulated space, so we will be seeing more and more innovation as the relevant authorities start to loosen up,” he added.
On the horizon
• The year ahead will see the CES (Consumer Electronics Show), the world’s biggest tech trade show, taking place from Jan 9 to 12 in Las Vegas, Nevada.
• Gamers can also look forward to E3 (the Electronic Entertainment Expo) from June 14 to 18 in Los Angeles, California.
• Locally, the Malaysia eSports League (MESL), organised by the Mineski Events Team and offering the largest prize pool of RM500,000 for a local Dota 2 tournament, will have its grand final in February 2018.