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Flir Asia BigData exploits mobile and cloud to provide end-to-end data analytics for enterprises and SMEs

Flir Asia BigData is a Malaysian Big Data Analytics company that provides Data Analytics-enabled mobile app platforms for enterprises and SMEs. By leveraging on Big Data and Analytics, the company’s solutions help organizations gain visibility and insights into their customers, business processes and marketing plan effectiveness.  They also work closely with clients by providing data analysis and consultancy services to help them maximize the ROI of their deployment.

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In an interview with BDAMY, Vince Ng, Flir Asia BigData’s CEO, provided insights into his company’s BDA journey.

BDAMY: How does your company use BDA?

VN: Our solutions combine the enabling technologies of mobile, cloud and big data to generate consumable insights for our clients that they can act on. In marketing, we use BDA to help businesses understand their customers better by addressing who the customers are, what they are looking for and how they make purchase decisions. For business process insights, we combine real-time data capturing through mobile apps from the mobile workforce, with external data sources such as client location, weather, distance traveled, etc. to streamline and improve job assignment and resource allocation.

BDAMY: How did you decide that you needed to use BDA?

VN: Our sister company, Flir Asia Sdn Bhd, has been the leading condition-based monitoring service provider to the power utility company in the past 17 years. Efficiency and responsiveness are the two key factors in being able to provide the highest level of quality in services and to stay competitive. As the business grew, it became increasingly challenging to scale the human resources needed to maintain these key performance indicators. A paradigm shift was needed to improve productivity of the field workforce while minimizing direct costs. BDA became the necessary enabler to not just gain insights into the productivity of the individual field engineers, but to also predict and anticipate the most cost optimized job assignment and scheduling.

BDAMY: How did you begin following the decision to use BDA?

VN: The journey began by interviewing and understanding from the business managers areas that are perceived to be inefficient, and data and information they would like to have to make better decisions, which are currently unavailable. We then set about defining the current SOPs and available data (17 years of equipment condition and failure data!), and analyzing what insights and answers can BDA help churn out. We then challenged our client further to provide a wish list of information that would not only help make them more competitive, but also benefit their customer (in this case, the utility company). We very quickly discovered that even by knowing the local weather at job sites on the scheduled work days, and being able to react to that instantly, can save 20% in direct cost! Such is the power of BDA.

BDAMY: What are the issues you had to bear in mind when deploying BDA?

VN: To fundamentally change the data capturing technologies used by the field workforce from pen and paper to a cloud-connected mobile device required a well thought-out retraining and adoption plan. But the most challenging, and rewarding, task was to help managers realize the full potential of data insights now available to them and how they can exploit the new data in decision making. The technologies behind the Mobile, Cloud and Big Data analytics are surprisingly mature and ready for commercial deployment and presented minimal obstacles.

BDAMY: What were the expected (or actual) ROIs seen by using BDA?

VN: The expected ROI for the BDA project at Flir Asia from the preliminary feasibility study was an encouraging 8 months. The actual ROI after the deployment of the project turned out to be even better; all the development and deployment cost was fully recovered within 6 months! Spurred by this very profitable investment into BDA, the company is now embarking on a second phase where BDA will be applied to the aggregated data going back 5 years and offering the resulting analytics insight to their customer, the power utility company. This represents a whole new revenue stream for the company.

BDAMY: Tell us about your BDA infrastructure and technologies used.

VN: Flir Asia BigData developed the solution from scratch, using mature and tested technologies such as .Net MVC, Xamarin, and MS SQL. The platform is then hosted on Microsoft Azure which provided the necessary tools for visualization as well as SQL Database-as-a-service which gave the platform the reliability and scalability needed. The BDA engine was also developed from the ground up using adapted Hidden Markov Model and Machine Learning algorithms.

BDAMY: What are the skills necessary to implement your BDA solution, and where did your company obtain these skills?

VN: With over 30 years combined experience and expertise in enterprise application and wireless tracking technologies, Flir Asia BigData’s technical team was well armed with the necessary background to deliver the project. The participating user groups identified were the business managers, operational managers, and field engineers who all played the role of Subject Matter Experts in their respective area. The team was completed with the hiring of two additional .Net developers, focusing on backend web services and mobile app development respectively.

 

vince-ngAbout Vince Ng

A serial entrepreneur, Vince started his journey while pursuing his graduate studies in Canada when he co-invented a wireless location tracking system using a novel statistical algorithm which was subsequently patented. He founded and very quickly got funded for a technology start-up in Ottawa and was able to commercialize the technology with the help of VC funding. In five years, the company was acquired by a publicly-listed company and the technology was licensed to a US-based chip manufacturer.

Upon returning home to Malaysia, he started another technology start-up and was able to secure funding from Khazanah Nasional, acting as the CTO of the company. He then set about building a team to start developing a wireless sensor networks platform which saw commercial success not only in Malaysia but regionally in Thailand, Singapore, China and Australia. His work was acknowledged by winning MDeC’s APICTA awards in Best in R&D (Malaysia, Asia Pacific), Best in Start Up (Malaysia), and the Prime Minister’s Award.

Always looking for new challenges, Vince yet again struck out on his own and co-founded Flir Asia BigData with the focus on developing game-changing business solutions marrying Mobile, Cloud and Big Data Analytic to help businesses achieve their marketing and operational goals that they did not think possible.

Singapore libraries use Big Data Analytics for its users and employees

The Singapore National Library Board (NLB) – with 25 public libraries, over 1.5 million titles and more than 30 million loans per year – offers an excellent opportunity to build a business case for Big Data Analytics (BDA). And they did just that.

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Relying on vendors and building up its internal capability in unison, the NLB is currently executing some ROI-generating projects that ooze Big Data appeal:

  • Superior search results – data mining past loan record patterns and performing text analytics on them as well as books’ bibliographies to generate enhanced search results and recommendations
  • Demand Analysis – forecasting the demand for new and existing titles
  • Planning a library’s collection – optimization technology used to plan each library’s category mix, maximizing the number of loans given space and budget constraints

All these Big Data Analytics are done using a Hadoop cluster with 13 virtual servers on 3 virtual machine hosts. Elegant!

Business Information ASEAN (Sept 2014) has the full article here.

Open Data and Power Distance: A Strong Correlation

In his most notable work – Cultural Dimensions Theory – Geert Hofstede said that Power Distance measures “the extent to which the less powerful members of organizations and institutions (like the family) accept and expect that power is distributed unequally”.

In other words, countries with a low Power Distance Index (PDI) have confidence in equality for every citizen. A country with an elevated PDI has the people accepting (and expecting) that inequality exists between the leaders and themselves.

Figure 1 shows the PDI for the countries Hofstede’s team surveyed.

pdi

Figure 1. Power Distance Index. Source: clearlycultural.com

By golly, Malaysia has been accorded the highest PDI. In fact, Asian countries exhibit high PDIs while their Western counterparts, including Australia and New Zealand, have low PDIs.

In a separate matter, The Open Knowledge Foundation published the Open Data Index (ODI) that tracks how committed governments are to opening up their data on 10 key datasets, including transport timetable, government budget and spending, election results and pollutant emissions.

Figure 2 shows the top 10 countries with the highest Open Data scores.

odi Figure 2. Open Data: Top 10 Countries. Source: Open Knowledge Foundation

 

So, where do all these talk on PDI and ODI lead to?

We wanted to find out how Power Distance affects how devoted governments are to Open Data by correlating these two sets of indices.

Normalizing both the scores for Open Data and Power Distance, we plotted them on a scatter chart. Then a simple linear regression (best fit) was applied on both series.

The result is shown in Figure 3.

pdi-vs-odi Figure 3: Power Distance vs Open Data

Voila. A correlation between Power Distance and Open Data. The higher a country’s Power Distance Index, the less Open Data you can expect from it. And vice versa.

Malaysia has the highest PDI and there is currently very limited government datasets available to the public. On the other hand, the UK government (PDI=35) has released an avalanche of datasets to the world.

There is little doubt that Open Data drives innovation. A 2013 Open Data study by McKinsey concluded that the 1 million+ datasets made open by governments worldwide can lead to:

  • $3 trillion potential annual revenue in seven domains (education, transportation, consumer products, electricity, oil and gas, healthcare and consumer finance)
  • Identification of 3 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent emission reductions from buildings
  • 35 hours that could be saved by commuters from schedule changes
  • 100,000+ medical, health and fitness apps for smartphones
  • 50%+ consumer share of potential value

Power Distance is deeply rooted in a society’s culture. To get from where Malaysia is to where we want the country to be by 2020 – to have a high degree of data and information openness – requires a seismic shift in how we view and accept inequalities in the country’s power distribution.

 

References:

Open data: Unlocking innovation and performance with liquid information, McKinsey&Company, October 2013

Featured image credit: diginomica.com

Big Data Analytics helps fight infant cancer

Download this short paper and read about how Big Data Analytics is used to fight neuroblastoma, the most common cancer in infancy:

  • HPC and cloud computing used by scientists and oncologists to identify targeted and personalized treatments
  • Involves studying tumor samples from patients, getting the genomic sequencing data from lab instruments, analyzing that data to make decisions about the best treatment for the patient.
  • Data generated by the instruments are huge: up to 3TB per instrument and about 200 TB per patient

pediatric-cancer

Yahoo! Japan predicts Japan’s election outcome with single digit accuracy

Yahoo! Japan deploys Big Data Analytics (BDA) to create a better Japan by analyzing the online behavior of its massive user base. Through BDA, it is able to:

  • Capture users’ behavior in detail by analyzing access logs, search on images and videos
  • Optimize advertising via machine learning – their advertisements improve day after day
  • Successfully forecast Japan’s economic growth index before the government could publish the report
  • Predict the country’s election outcome, accurate to one digit

Vodafone Netherlands achieves customer intimacy through unified data

Watch the power of Big Data Analytics in enabling Vodafone to offer unified communications to its users.

  • Getting intimate with its customers means unifying data from multiple sources – billing, POS, channel data, customer plans, where customers purchased their phones and how customers are using their phone
  • Business and IT need to work together to create a data-driven company
  • Use predictive analytics to prevent customer churn

White Paper: BDA Malaysia Emerging Sector Profile 2014

A white paper on the state of Big Data Analytics (BDA) Malaysia was published by Big Data Malaysia in 2014 with the sole objective of raising the nation’s BDA profile. In this paper, a survey was undertaken to answer the following critical questions:

  • What are the opportunities and barriers to Big Data activity in Malaysia?
  • Who is merely “interested”, versus who is actually committed?
  • What is the current and future capacity for Big Data talent?
  • Where are the critical gaps in training and skills?
  • What are the soft inhibitors, including data access, regulation and perception?

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Based on the responses from 108 individuals from 90 organizations, the white paper then presented seven broad recommendations:

  • Foster a data-centric organizational culture
  • Equip the organization to manage and make decisions based on real-time data in order to remain competitive
  • Cultivate multi-disciplinary data science teams
  • Combine data from internal sources within the organization with external sources to spur innovation
  • Create a “data dictionary” of data assets relevant to the organisation to minimise friction for data science projects
  • Large organizations, and especially government, should make concerted efforts to release data to the public in machine-consumable form to unlock value hidden within their data assets
  • The Personal Data Protection Act (PDPA) should be frequently reviewed, and revised if necessary, to protect individuals while simultaneously encouraging data projects

The authors, Sandra Hanchard and Tirath Ramdas, also interviewed five leaders from a diverse industry landscape, obtaining their perspective on BDA in Malaysia. The five are:

  • Heislyc Loh, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, CoRate
  • Tom Hogg, Commercial Director, Effective Measure
  • Siim Saarlo, Chief Technology Officer, STATSIT
  • Robin Woo, Senior IT Manager, Western Digital Corporation
  • Ian Phoon, Data Scientist, a Malaysian bank

Overall, BDA Malaysia Emerging Sector Profile 2014 is an absolute must-read. The paper does a excellent job in removing any fever of uncertainty as to the current climate of BDA in Malaysia.

You can download the white paper from here or here.

DSA Guide Features Seven Malaysian Big Data Analytics Innovators

In March 2014, MDeC and DSA set out on an arduous two-month mission to work on a Big Data guide featuring companies in Malaysia that were involved in Big Data Analytics (BDA). We wanted to include suppliers and vendors, Big Data innovators that push BDA to the limits of current thinking, and beyond.

big-data-guide

Multinationals were deliberately left out because we wished to highlight homegrown companies. So we dug deep into our list of BDA vendors that fit the bill. The result is a Big Data compendium that showcases these seven Malaysian companies:

  • Neuramatix
  • Predictry
  • Speedminer
  • Raydar Research
  • Web Bytes
  • Fusionex
  • Pulse Group

Download the Guide To Big Data.