AIoT: Helping to build a smarter world

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The global electronics community has recognised the importance of embedded solutions and intelligent devices, which require the balanced fusion of hardware and software programs. In line with the latest developments, artificial intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IoT) have gradually combined into a new domain—the AIoT. The Taiwan International AIoT show, organised along with TAITRONICS (Taipei International Electronics Show) 2018, gave a glimpse of AIoT’s immense possibilities.

By Paromik Chakraborty

Banking on Taiwan’s hardware manufacturing strengths and highlighting the need for improved software capabilities, the main focus of this year’s TAITRONICS was on modern technologies like AI, IoT, cloud computing and Big Data analytics.

Dr Ming-Hsin Kung, deputy minister, Ministry of Economic Affairs, Republic of China (Taiwan), shared his thoughts: “Today, it is not only about components and hardware. Software and applications are also powering innovation. The ‘Double Industry’ has reached US$ 150 billion and is growing. With these capabilities, we are going to shape the Silicon Valley of Asia initiative.”

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As explained by T.C. Gou, chairman, TEEMA (Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association), it is estimated that by 2020, AI will have investments of over US$ 46 billion globally and all smart applications will be included under its umbrella.

James C.F. Huang, chairman, TAITRA, said: “Forty four years ago, Taiwan’s electronics industry was not very powerful. People were facing many challenges with designing and producing chips. Today, Taiwan is one of the largest manufacturers of electronics. However, we need to focus more on software too, so that we combine it with our hardware capabilities to leverage technologies like AI and IoT.”

This year, the featured technology domains included cells, batteries and power supplies, electronic components and parts, meters and instruments, as well as industrial process and automation equipment. The five feature pavilions focusing on AI and smart technologies were the major highlight of the year. The ‘Artificial Intelligence Platform’ showcased smart living applications through AI learning. Then there was the pavilion for ‘Cloud Computing & IoT Application in Taiwan-Cloud’ that represented a coming together of major telecom operators to explore the latest cloud business technologies. The pavilion for the ‘Smart Industrial Parks’ focused on the latest domestic information system services in the 5G era, while the ‘Smart Living & Healthcare Centre’ pavilion showcased smart wearable devices, health detection and wellness products, technologies and service solutions. At the ‘Taiwan Energy Storage System Industry’ pavilion, Taiwan’s parts and component manufacturing and systems integration capabilities were highlighted.

Innovative solutions and technology trends
Essentially, TAITRONICS was a blend of conventional solutions and modern technologies. This year, the emphasis was on integrating IoT, data analytics, machine-to-machine communication and machine learning capabilities in products.

Smart products took centrestage at the show as solutions providers exhibited connected innovations for enterprises, factories, smart cities, healthcare as well as consumers. For instance, a unified communications and control solution for enterprises and factories, called Moreconn, was introduced by Mobiletron Electronics Co. Ltd. With an IoT gateway, it connects geographically distributed premises (on an international scale) through voice and video communication. Its analytics features enable remote team collaboration and real-time troubleshooting. Nietzsche Enterprise Co. Ltd exhibited an NB-IoT/LoRa-enabled smart parking solution —a platform being used by individual parking space owners as well as by city administrators.

The Ayuda Smart Robot was another eye-catcher, launched by Syscom Computer Engineering Company. The robot is intended for assistance-based operations like opening doors, care for the elderly, complaint report generation and so on, and is being used by banks, hospitals and the Taiwan Police. Using a variety of sensors like LIDAR, auto sonic sensors, cameras (with computer vision), and microprocessors to process the sensor inputs, it has capabilities like facial recognition, natural language processing based conversations, documentation and more.

Smart home products were also widely available. For instance, i-Control Wi-Fi Remote Control Box, a product by AIFA Technology Corp., can convert a smartphone into a remote for any infrared-powered appliance (TV, air conditioner, set-top box, DVD player or even remote-controlled fans and lights). The i-Control box enables 360-degree IR-control. Hence, IR appliances can be operated irrespective of their position inside a room. Phytrex Technology Corporation introduced its smart speaker and smart plug systems.

Cloud computing and IoT solutions providers brought together a range of products. One of these was a low power NB-IoT automotive dashboard camera by Askey Computer Corp., which, apart from providing a clear view and safety instructions to drivers on the road, also provides real-time navigation updates to car owners. Askey also makes solar-powered bus stop solutions with on-screen bus status displays. Far Eastone showcased its real-time enterprise vehicle monitoring and alert platform. Another smart solutions provider showcased a drone that can be used as a smart agriculture solution for automated pesticide and fertiliser distribution.

Innovations in the medical electronics field were also widely available. Healthy Foot, a set of Bluetooth-enabled cloud-connected electromedical devices for end consumers by ZCon Telehealth, can provide data on weight control, eye health, diabetic conditions, sleep and brain relaxation. The BoostFix Posture Detector, a non-intrusive medical device by Compal Electronics, can detect problems with one’s posture, any internal injuries or joint issues, and in turn, help in remedying them. Ostar Spectra Meditech Corp. showcased a cardiac monitoring device that can be used like a blood pressure monitor to detect cardiac fibrillation.
There were many interesting AI solutions and concepts as well at TAITRONICS—like a cashierless retail store system, emotion detectors, a platform to detect levels of diabetic retinopathy, and so on. Many of these solutions were exhibited by research teams from the Industrial Technology Research Institute (ITRI), Taiwan.

This year marked the 44th Taipei International Electronics Show (TAITRONICS) and the first Taiwan International AIoT show (AIoT Taiwan). The event, jointly organised by the Taiwan External Trade Development Council (TAITRA) and the Taiwan Electrical and Electronic Manufacturers’ Association (TEEMA), was hosted at the Taipei Nangang Exhibition Center, Hall 1, from October 9 to 12, 2018.

Test and measurement players showcased their latest range of oscilloscopes, spectrum analysers, EMI testers and other innovative test solutions. There was a smart car key test station and an interesting multi-channel LoRa tester, which integrates all the necessary LoRa tests in one device and claims to reduce test equipment costs by up to 70 per cent. Both were from Good Will Instruments Co. Ltd. Then there was an electric vehicle charging station cum testing solution, a flat panel display (FPD) tester that can test a display that has up to 8K resolution (8192 x 4320 pixels), a high-power DC electronic load tester, and an integrated test system which combines an oscilloscope, a power source, a power meter and an electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) simulator, all within a single platform. All these solutions were demonstrated by Chroma ATE Inc. A range of smart air quality meters, water quality meters and RCS silica dust and PM meters were showcased by MIC Meter Industrial Company, all of which use a range of connectivity technologies like Wi-Fi, NB-IoT, Bluetooth Low Energy and more.

In power electronics, Power supply solutions by Mean Well Enterprises Co. Ltd included the KNX protocol, which allows components to work in sync with other KNX-compatible electronics from third party vendors. These solutions can be used in medical electronics, industrial power failsafe units, LED kits and more. A power conditioning system displayed by Delta Electronics Inc. can be used for applications like power quality improvement, load shifting, peak shaving as well as energy storage from solar sources. The system has 97.6 per cent efficiency and can also provide energy analytics for the user reference.

Startup focus
The startup ecosystem has grabbed everyone’s attention around the globe. Taiwan is no exception, as witnessed by the presence of the large number of startups at TAITRONICS. Six startup players were recognised and acknowledged at the event for their innovative products and solutions. Their solutions ranged from industrial applications, security and automotive, to medical, 3D printing and more.

For instance, the Smart Auto Liquid Nano Material Inspection System showcased by FlowView Tek can provide real-time inspection images of electronic products with the help of a specialised liquid. An edge-AI powered real-time object and subject search and detection platform launched by Ironyun Inc. can be used for urban security applications. CardiNova, a cardiovascular disease monitoring device the size of a band-aid, was introduced by Singular Wings Medical.

There were other noteworthy solutions from startups, including an intelligent automotive camera by Chimei Motors, the Caduceus Smart Surgical Glass by Taiwan Main Orthopaedics Biotechnology Co. Ltd, a 3D Projection Mapping Media Server by Bruvius Multimedia Creative Co. Ltd, among others.

The India connect
India has been a significant business partner-nation with Taiwan. Over the past few years, there have been many announcements about major MoUs and collaborations between firms from the two countries. Robert Hsu, CMO and executive secretary, Cloud Computing and IoT Association, Taiwan, spoke on India-Taiwan business opportunities. He said, “India has a strong ecosystem for software as well as a capable talent pool for new technologies. Taiwan has a strong hardware manufacturing environment with good quality control processes. The nations can well complement each other with their strengths, and in turn, address areas that need improvement as well.”

He added, “About 20 years back, many Taiwanese companies moved to China because of lower costs and conducted global businesses from there. However, with the recent US-China friction, the taxes on Chinese products have gone up at a global scale, and the companies are coming back. This a great opportunity for emerging nations like India too. We can all complement each other to utilise this opportunity better.”

Representatives from many global companies at the TAITRONICS show also expressed their interest in expanding their business in India, as the Indian T&M market has supposedly been growing at a rate of over 50 per cent in 2018. For instance, Chroma, which has been a part of the Indian T&M landscape, is expanding its presence with a new office in Chennai soon, which will focus on battery and power test solutions.

Kenmec also revealed its global expansion plans for the next year, with India being a major target market. Lukas Lai, project manager, marketing strategy department, Kenmec, said, “We are looking at India along with USA and Europe as potential markets next year. Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are also in our plans, as mature markets. We expect up to a 15 per cent boost in our current revenue figures from these markets.”

Enterprises like Mobiletron, MIC Meters and Askey also expressed interest and plans for the Indian market. All these companies are exploring the Indian market’s potential and looking for suitable distribution partners to expand their presence here.

Johnson Chang, executive vice president, Nietzsche Enterprise, said, “We are already working with Reliance Jio in India to deploy our smart parking solutions. We are doing proof-of-concept launches in Mumbai. We are also looking at expanding our partner channels and would like to connect with more property owners in India to deploy our end-to-end platform further in the country.”

However, some global players who were not planning further expansion in India cited price sensitivity, low availability of quality material and lower overall revenues from the country as the major reasons for not pushing forward.

“The Indian industries should focus more on the quality of the product they invest in, rather than the price. While the scenario seems to be changing for the better, India still has a long way to go,” explained an exhibitor from Tenmars.

A spokesperson from Chroma said, “Grid stability is a challenge in India since power availability is inconsistent. However, keeping that in mind, we are providing data recovery solutions to our Indian customers.”

Tony Fu, general manager, Kingtec Technical Company Limited, talked of bringing its 3D printers to India. “We are currently evaluating the Indian market. Going forward, if we decide to do business there, we would like to start with our basic 3D printer to fit in with the cost-sensitive nature of the Indian market,” he said.

Closing notes
The show opened its doors to newer technologies and gave visitors a closer look at the exemplary hardware manufacturing capabilities that Taiwan possesses—something India can take note of. It is motivating to see the increasing number of players from Taiwan entering the Indian market through distribution partners, and gradually increasing their presence with offices and engineering facilities within the country. While India has a lot of ground to cover, the positive views of international players towards the country can enthuse its people to move forward towards success.

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