On June 2nd, we had a fascinating one-hour-long conversation with Mr.CK Vishwakarma ,the CEO at AllThingsConnected, Founder at IoTSG,talking about his unique experience and deep insights on the challenges& opportunities of IoT technology development.
Jokia: How would you describe yourself in three words? What’s your motto?
I call myself an Industry Observer, a Problem Solver and Restless Person. It is difficult for me to sit and observe a problem and not work on it. Basically, that's my nature since young. Be it building toys for myself when young, or building complex systems for my clients My goals are to address the needs of my customers and partners in simple yet practical and effective ways.
Jokia: Can you please share more about your educational and professional background? And we’d love to hear what brought you to IoT.
I earned by bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology in India in 2002, and then I came to Singapore to pursue my master’s degree in Mechatronics from National University of Singapore in 2005. I am a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Risk Management Professional (RMP) from Project Management Institute, USA.
Over last 16+ years of my professional experience, I worked in few industries:
1.) (2002- 2008)- advanced industrial automation systems where I used to design, manage complex industrial automation systems projects for Oil& Gas, Aviation companies.
2.) (2008-2015)- Broadcast & Media Technologies, managing large complex integrated news, playout system and solutions projects for big media companies and news/tv stations.
What brought me to IoT.
As you notice, I have extensive managing complex multi-technologies, and multi-vendor projects, around 2012 onward when IoT was getting in mainstream discussions, I noticed that organizations were looking IoT in silo, that means, companies were talking about devices, sensors, platforms, communications technologies independently, and were struggling to make sense of it from business point of view, let alone be able to deliver sometime end to end.
3.) (2014- ) towards end of 2014 Singapore started its Smart Nation initiative, and around the same time I initiated an IoT community, IoTSG to drive knowledge and networking among professionals interested in IoT, and in end of 2015, I left my job and started AllThingsConnected- an Digital Transformation Strategy and IoT solutions company based in Singapore.
IoT has in a way been part of my work all the time- as for us IoT is not about technology, but workflow design to address business problems, enabled by technologies. We are business first, technology experts.
Jokia: Why did you choose Singapore instead of other countries in Asia?
As most of young engineering graduates choose USA, EU to either pursue career or further studies, when I graduated from IIT, I worked with a startup from 2002-2003 in India, where we were conceptualizing Smart Energy Meter (too early that time). I had interest in advanced technologies then, but same time I was looking to explore east. Considering tech and education background, Singapore, S.Korea and Japan were on my radar. I chose Singapore as a gateway to South east Asia and I got full scholarship to pursue my masters. That's how I landed in Singapore in 2003.
Addtionally after several years of work, I am also a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and Risk Management Professional (RMP) from Project Management Institute, USA. As I saw Project Management skills are critical to run large complex technology projects.
Jokia: From your perspective, what’s unique and game-changing about IoT?
The key benefit of IoT, irrespective of industry, is that, a good IoT solution is integrated with multiple systems and sub-systems in the organisation. The business decisions which were earlier made on silo information, can now be enhanced with insights from other systems. E.g. unlike before, the inventory department in a factory may not need to stock a fixed amount of spare parts in advance taking space and lock in investment; but with IoT and predictive maintenance techniques they can now optimize the spare parts, leaving space and money for other priority cases in the orgnisation.
But same time, I warn orgnisations that don’t get into the buzz word hype of “Data is the New Oil” While it could be, but more important is to learn how to build a good oil well. That means what objectives are you trying to achieve and what capabilities you need to build strong foundation within orgnisation.
Jokia: Concerns over security issues are causing businesses to reevaluate public internet for IoT, opting for private networks. What are the IoT challenges holding back adoption? How prepared is IoTSG to play a leading role to solve the obstacles？
While Cybersecurity is a concern, but it can be addressed- just having a concern won’t get one anywhere- they need to act upon it.
The beauty and the challenge of IoT as I mentioned earlier is the integrated nature of IoT solution, and hence the cyber security risks increase with potential vulnerabilities and airgaps at different layers, e.g. at device, communications or platform.
We need to manage cybersecurity risks carefully (risk = likelihood X impact)
AllThingsConnected refers to the global standards, best practices, frameworks and guidelines and then work with its customers and partners, first by helping them to understand with the knowledge, and then conducting risk analysis, identifying potential gaps, before recommending and crafting right and fit security solutions. There is no silver bullet here, or one solution-fit-for-all approach in cybersecurity, it depends on use case.
Cybersecurity is a continuous journey, what you secure today may not be secured tomorrow.
Jokia: You have created practical strategies, and frameworks on how the traditional methods of operational technologies can be integrated with emerging technologies. Could you share 2-3 successful cases on helping the traditional companies to do the digital transformation?
Key challenges that traditional companies face that they are generally unaware of the rapid advancements in technologies, and disruptive business model transformation which might eat them away in the near future. Sometimes they are blind folded and believe that they can't be disrupted.
On other side of the spectrum there are companies who feel threatened who have read too much about buzzwords, yet due to the lack of the practical and real knowledge and feel worried and confused in the maze of buzzwords popularize by the various research organizations and vendors, that they give up easily and don't even start.It is called Vicious cycle of innovation, either one do nothing, or do too much- yet result in nothing.
Like I said,We handhold our customers carefully and walk the journey with them. Our focus is to speak in the language they can understand and relate their operation with. That’s where the domain knowledge and experience come in, which many technologies vendors lack. For an example: We have worked with organizations to help building their internal road-map for Industry 4.0 when they were looking to transform from High Volume- Low Mix production to High Mix- Low Volume production to remain competitive. It was a unique challenge as we had to not only address their current process but also the mindset of organization- which is even harder than to provide technology solutions. As you can now imagine, IoT is not just three letter words- but it is more complex to ideate, build, sell implement and scale- people are at the core of everything.
Jokia: With the experience as advisor for senior leaders on how advanced technologies can prime enterprises for the future, which are the biggest hurdles SME have to take when digitalizing their business with emerging technologies?
The challenges the SMEs faces are primarily their capabilities. SMEs do not have the luxury to hire a Chief Digital Officer or invest in complex and expensive solutions. Hence, they need to take a very careful phase wise approach in identifying the gaps and then implement the solutions.
We work with SMEs and help in their journey. We become their external CDO and trusted advisor, where our goal is not to push or sell technologies, but really help them to craft their digital journey, roadmap and implementation plans. We call it current state to future state scenario.
Big or small, every organization can today leverage the benefits of emerging technologies and innovate their business. Difference is what they have today and what they want to achieve. Not every use case is fit for Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, Edge Computing, 5G or flying robots. Once organization know the gaps in their process, they can slowly take step forward. Organizations of the future shall not ignore the team and workforce they need to upskill the team to be able to best leverage the technologies.
Jokia: You have spoken at 100+ leadership forums, and prestigious international conferences. What’s your benchmark to select the top-tier industrial conferences? How do you think the development trends of events industry in post-coronavirus era?
CK:I believe in sharing the knowledge and learn from other experts. My personal focus has always been to discuss use case and applications, instead of promoting technologies in silo. I regularly evaluate startup pitches, corporate solutions deck on simple criteria: “where, why and how will I use, and why would I pay for it”.
All the forums I participate, support, speak are evaluated on simple rule, are they are selling boxes or enabling solutions and ecosystem. How conversations in these forums will enable the participants to go back, rethink and apply what they have heard in their business.
Post Covid19 Scenario:
Most exhibitions companies will find difficult to host large physical events at least until H1 2021, but knowledge sessions/conferences are already going virtual. We also host regular virtual thought leadership sessions with global senior experts and responses have been very positive and fruitful. (We started posting few sessions on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCmu_7Fk9q0vydp34pDTtceg ).
I would like to take this opportunity and invite experts in this forum through you to collaborate with us, exchange insights or partner with us to grow in Singapore, Southeast Asia, we are just an email away.
We are PIVOT ing, and helping companies to PIVOT in this difficult time. Some opportunities and businesses may not be the same, but we are looking forward to drive new areas with IoT.On the conference networking, infact the platform we use, allow our participants to do that. If anyone wish to join, we have one on 4th June. And I hope with your great work Jokia, we could enable lot more such conversations and partnerships. We believe in what we call Total Ecosystem Value approach.
I have tons of material, if anyone would like to discuss, please do feel free to reachout via email@example.com .