The future of computing and technology in Asia is bright


In 2016, ubiquitous connectivity will push its way to the forefront of people’s lives. Several major innovation trends have reached tipping point as Intel prepares for one of the most exciting years in its history in Asia and across the globe. These include the demand for smaller PC form factors offering massive new capabilities,new sensory interfaces that transform how people interact with computing, the transformation of everyday objects into smart devices, and the breakneck acceleration of big data and cloud.

Ubiquitous connectivity promises to deliver deeply personal benefits. For example, as Intel’s RealSense depth-sensing camera capability is used in more devices, it will become standard for human faces to double as security password sand for machines to respond to hand gestures and vocal commands. Revolutionary advances can be expected in wearable, virtual reality, and biometrics. Heralded by CEO Brian Krzanich at the Intel Developer Forum in August 2015, the journey towards Human Senses computing has only just begun.

For its part, the ennoblement of smart devices and robotics through Internet of Things (IoT) technologies is set to deliver new value to individuals – but also whole societies. While IoT is hardly a new concept, it is on the brink of transforming industries such as manufacturing, automotive, retail, energy, and health. And while the impetus for faster deployment is largely coming from private enterprises, 2016 is likely to be the year when government-led smart city initiatives in countries such as India and Singapore truly come alive.

Importantly, the boom in connectivity will also be a force for human prosperity and empowerment. In Asia Pacific and Japan, it will bridge digital divides between urban and rural populations, men and women, and rich and poor. In emerging markets such as Indonesia and Vietnam, smartphones are already giving millions of consumers affordable access to broadband and computing for the first time. Meanwhile, mature markets such as Japan and Korea continue to feature innovation across form factors and devices.Intel’s roadmap, combined with the ingenuity of the region’s tech ecosystem,will help make 2016 such an extraordinary time.

The outlook for products

In 2016, Intel will address a wide range of computing needs. Notwithstanding the growth of mainstream product niches such as 14- and 15-inch notebooks and 10- and 11-inch tablets thanks to their popularity among many middle class consumers in emerging markets, 2016 will be defined by a push towards smaller form factors that blend versatility and portability with massively improved performance.

The outlook for digital penetration is also positive, with the increased scope of 3G, 4G, and 5G data networks encouraging more consumers to purchase mobile devices. It is impossible to overstate what a revolution this represents. Five years ago, when tablets and smartphones did not exist, PCs cost the equivalent of up to three months of the average income in an emerging market such as Indonesia or Vietnam. For many people, computing technology was simply un affordable.

Today, PC penetration remains less than 5% in emerging markets such as Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines, even as mature markets are highly saturated. Nonetheless, tablets and smartphones (and particularly prepaid services on 3G) are giving consumers access to technology and broadband connectivity at far lower price points. For many people throughout the region, the ability to access desired content and live-streaming is no longer prohibitively expensive. Instead, these consumers are increasingly seizing the opportunity to seek their preferred combination of bandwidth and cost.

It is worth noting that the popularity of the 2 in 1 device – blending the capabilities of the tablet and PC – has exploded in mature markets such as Japan and Korea, as well as urban areas within India. By contrast, the tablet market has slowed, under siege from 2 in 1 devices from above and so-called 6-inch “phablets” (a cross between a smartphone and a tablet) from below.

Emerging markets will be a major focus for Intel in in 2016, leaning heavily on collaboration with local original equipment manufacturers (OEMs). The China tech ecosystem, particularly in cities such as Shenzhen, has become a crucible of innovation involving local OEMs among others, all of which are eager to generate new solutions that add value to Intel designs. Over the next year, Intel’s goal will be to expand the stack of 2 in 1 offerings and improve affordability across different price points.In the meantime, feature phones – and increasingly, low-cost smartphones – will remain a vital entry point to technology in these markets.

By contrast, in mature markets featuring near-universal penetration (as well as the more affluent segments of emerging markets), new Intel product features are likely to inspire many consumers to upgrade their PC hardware.

In 2015, Intel enjoyed a period of aggressive innovation with the successful rollout ofthe processors. Cherry Trail enables tablet and smartphone users to enjoy a desktop-quality visual experience that can handle casual gaming and graphics-intensive tasks. Meanwhile, Skylake offers high-performance processing, facial recognition, and advanced graphics as well as long battery life. Its power efficiency and compact fan-less design makes it an ideal product for ultrabooks, smartphones, tablets, and the fast-growing segment of 2 in 1 devices. In 2016, both these processors will find their way into ever-smaller form factors.

Miniature form factors to drive inclusion

A key trend to watch in 2016 is the potential for miniature form factors such as Intel’s Next Unit of Computing (NUC) and Compute Stick to drive greater take-up of computing throughout Asia Pacific and Japan.

The user case for the NUC – as a miniature PC that fits within a human hand yet offers capabilities that rival a desktop – is particularly compelling in emerging markets. Although it requires a connection to other components that must be purchased separatelysuch as a keyboard, monitor and hard drive, it is ideal for people eager to customize setups. The NUC’s compact size makes it ideal for homes and workplaces in densely populated Asian cities where floor space is scarce. In addition, its ability to store and play high-quality media including movies, music, and games makes it a dynamic home entertainment tool.

Finally, the NUC’s power efficiency enables massive cost savings and upscale potential. For example, a school in an underprivileged communitymay quickly exhaust its power budget with only a handful of desktop computers. By contrast, using NUCs allows exponentially more students to gain access to classroom technology. This represents an incredible opportunity in Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam which have a 2.4% penetration rate and 89 million students combined.

Originally innovated in Malaysia, the Intel Compute Stick is another miniature, low-cost form factor with exciting potential to erode technology adoption barriers. At present, there are about 50 million digital television sets in South East Asia. By plugging in the Compute Stick, a television monitor can instantly become smart and compute-ready, offering a variety of attractive educational and entertainment uses. For example, students could simply take their Compute Stick to school each day rather than have to carry around a laptop or a USB that’s susceptible to viruses. In a sign of things to come in 2016, Intel has begun collaborating with telecommunications providers such as StarHub in Singapore and PLDT in the Philippines to bundle the Compute Stick as part of home broadband and video-streaming subscriptions. Businesses have also shown interest in using the form factor to deliver intelligent digital signage.

Human Senses tochange how people interact with devices

The personalization of the computing experience through sight, sound, and touch is another key trend that is set to crystallize in 2016. Whether this involves the use of Intel’s RealSense cameras in devices that respond to human gesture control, industrial virtual reality headsets with Intel’s latest Core i8 processors, or voice-activated smart watches and phones, these technologies have been in a nascent and experimental stage until now. The early setbacks with sensory devices will be steadily resolved in 2016, and their benefits increasingly appreciated.

Voice recognition has come a long way from the time when the use of an unfamiliar accent could derail the technology. Today, its success is reflected in the growth of digital personal assistants such as Siri for iPhone, Cortana for Windows 10, Google Now for Android, and Amazon’s Alexa app, each of which offers hands-free convenience and voice control. It is becoming more accepted and natural to talk to devices in homes, workplaces and cars. This enables people to spend time on more creative and productive pursuits rather than fiddling around with navigation systems.

Intel RealSense camera technology will extend the concept of Human Senses to a whole new range of face-and gesture-enabled experiences, reducing reliance on the mouse and keyboard. For example, users of Windows Hello in Windows 10 can already take advantage of facial recognition logins, ending the need to remember passwords. Video gamers can scan their face or body in three dimensions and effectively step inside the screen as active characters. RealSense video conferencing is another promising user case, allowing participants to edit and substitute any background they desire (such as a vista of the Petronas Towers if they’re dialling in from Kuala Lumpur).

Over the coming year, RealSense technology willpercolate further among developers, unleashing new creative possibilities. A big leap forward can be expected from embedding RealSense not simply in personal computing platforms but also in IoT interfaces and robotics. For example, robots with three-dimensional sensors will become better at avoiding collisions, enabling them to navigate more autonomously within industrial sites and homes.

Security applications of RealSense should alsodraw increased attention.For example, governments across Asia Pacific and Japanare showing a keen interest in real-time biometrics authentication technologies such as iris and fingerprint scans. Many are seeking to follow the impressive example of India where more than one billion people have been biometrically recorded as part of the country’s national ID system.RealSense technology could be used to bridge security gaps at sensitive mining, industrial, and oil and gas exploration sites. Virtual and augmented reality is another area of potential. For example, three-dimensional cameras could soon transform the digital shopping experience by allowing fashion customers to be measured remotely or use fitting-room “magic mirrors” to overlay their body with preferred styles and colors. As online retail becomes more popular, face-to-face vendors are looking for new ways to improve their storefront experience. In 2016, Intel will continue exploring the full gamut of possibilities, particularly in Japan.

The Internet of Things will truly arrive

Asia Pacific and Japanis well-positioned to lead the world in the connectivity of smart devices through IoT technologies, fuelled by dense urbanized populations and advanced 3G, 4G, and ultimately 5G network coverage. Public and private sector investments in IoT are beginning to move out of the blueprint and pilot phase towards live deployments. In 2016, an inflection will be reached as IoT’s transformational potential becomes clear.

For Intel, which has been involved in embedded technologyfor more than two decades,IoTrepresents a unique opportunity to bring the company’s computing and expertise to key industries. Intel is partnering closely with government agencies, private enterprises, telecom providers, and system integrators such as Accenture to understand trends and build solutions. The goal is to help clients connect vital objects in their environment to the cloud – for example, a factory’ssecurity cameras or an entire city’s traffic lights – and securely extract data from sensors. Customerscan then generate insights to more intelligently and efficiently manage their operations.

Industries where IoToffers high transformational potential in the region include manufacturing, where robotics and analytics can help companies smooth the production process, minimize machine downtime and reduce costs. In automatives, Intel is working with car device manufacturers to make the driving experience more intuitive – for example, by installing sensors to monitor stopping distance, providing more navigational and maintenance information on dashboard displays,and enabling makers to be instantly notified of faults. This collaboration is most advanced in Japan, where Intel’sgoal is to help deliver autonomous driving and smart traffic management in time for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. Transportation and logistics is another growth area, as companies seek real-time tracking of cargo in pursuit of same-day delivery from the warehouse to the customer. There is also heavy demand for IoT solutions to enable enhanced retail telemetry at the point of sale, smart energy consumption, and smart ATM banking.

Connected healthcare is another area where IoT is set to feature prominently, particularly as the population ages in countries such as Japan, straining hospital capacity. Many health services that would ordinarily require doctor’s visits or hospital stays can be substantially streamlined byIoTtechnology. In 2016, momentum will build in areas such as remote patient diagnosis, secure prescriptions between doctors and pharmacies based on centralised records, and wearables that monitor key wellbeing indicators such as a person’s blood pressure or heart rate.

Digital homehealthcare solutions will be another usage to watch. Here, robotics – already prominent in manufacturing and domestic cleaning services – is set to play an important role. In Japan, the market for humanoid companions is in its infancy, yet Intel’s experimentation in this area is designed to meet a growing demand as more elderly people require care, rehabilitation and monitoring. Across many markets which have an aging population, acceptance of the social service applications of robotics will likely become more widespread in 2016.

Cities to become smarter

In 2016, Intel will deepen its partnerships with governments in relation to smart technology deployments. While progress across Asia Pacific and Japan is haphazard, some countries have announced blueprints. For example, Singapore’s Smart Nation program is in a pilot phase; Malaysia is committed to a national IoT roadmap while India has allocated $7.3 billion for smart deployments across 100 cities – with the first 20 to be unveiled in January. Vision and rhetoric alone will not be sufficient to turn the smart city concept into reality. Instead, progress needs to be measured by establishing clear actions and usages that deliver a better quality of life for citizens.

Massive urbanization within the region is the key impetus for governments to undertake smart city deployments. Left on its own, city infrastructure simply cannot scale and evolve to accommodate rising populations. Singapore’s population, for example, is set to grow from 5 million to 7 million people by 2030. Given that existing roads are already clogged and there is no physical space to build new ones, this necessitates the development of smart parking, tolling, and public transport solutions (such as altering bus routes based on real-time passenger demand). Meanwhile, in India, cities and towns are severely strapped for infrastructure capacity as more people migrate from rural areas. IoT has a potentially transformative role to play in addressing issues such as congestion, air pollution, utility management, irrigation and fertilization, as well as access to healthcare.

Given the pressure on existing networks, 5G playgrounds will need to keep evolving in 2016 to handle the raw volume of data generated by smart deployments. One reason that smart CCTV infrastructure has failed so far is the difficulty in sending high-quality video around citywide networks.

At the same time, there are encouraging signs of experimentation. For example, in Hong Kong, ordinary citizens are helping to monitor air pollution using their smartphones, negating the need for thousands of sensors and monitors. In Taiwan, all point-of-sale information is centralized and fused with GPS data. This is being used to create new insights such as the ability to immediately identify the people affected by a food-poisoning outbreak. In Intel’s estimation, governments with an open data policy are best positioned to ensure their experiments with smart deployments succeed.

The future is bright

AsiaPacificand Japan will continue to be a lead adopter of computing technology in 2016. In mature markets such as Singapore, Japan, and Korea, device penetration is at saturation levels andyoung people’sthirst for connectivity borders on the obsessive. Cloud-enabled services have also achieved record levels of trust. Yet even in emerging markets such as India, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia, technology is increasingly viewed as a status symbol among the middle classes, and younger consumers are swamping social networking apps.(India hasmore Facebook users than any other country.)A visit to a trade fair in Jakarta or Shenzhen is like peering into a window into the future – and cool wearables are often found there before appearing in Apple or Best Buy stores on the other side of the world.In addition, while PC and 2 in 1 penetration remains massively untapped in emerging markets, smartphones are drawing people of all ages to the internet. Slowly but surely, the digital divide narrows.

Further progress in emerging markets in 2016 willdepend on persuading more people of the value they can obtain from technology, as well as providing the right pricing across different form factors and usage models. At present, many smartphone and tablet users are happy to simply access the internet. However, in the years to come, a concerted push is needed to encourage more people to not simply passively consume technology, but innovate, solve problems, and create fresh content with PCs. In India, Intel is leading an initiative to build 100 computing centres in remote villages to demonstrate the value of the PC form factor to rural consumers. Similar programs have been launched in other markets, often aimed at inspiring young people or encourage device adoption among women. A key barrier for low-literacy communitiesis the challenge of navigating English-language keyboards. This meansthat the potential for intuitive technologies such as RealSense to spark new interest in computing is immense.

The upside in emerging markets is that the absence of a legacy tradition is giving developers a chance to innovate with technologies such as RealSense from the ground up and potentially leapfrog other countries. In Indonesia, there is genuine momentum among youth-driven start-ups. A good example is Gojek, a new mobile app that allows people to book two-wheel transport and circumvent trafficcongestion. In India, new start-ups are appearing by the day.

Therefore, in 2016, Intel innovation is poised to act as a force multiplier for the innate strengths of Asia Pacific and Japan: itsincreasingly affluent middle-class population, its nascent start-up culture, its growing tech ecosystem, andyoung people who are the world’s leading adopters of technology.As a world of ubiquitous connectivity comes into view and begins to drive new value for individuals and societies, Intel is confident that the future of computing is bright.

Intel held its annual Year End session in Karachi.