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The Future of Technology: Redefining Less


Everybody is talking about going wireless and cashless. However, what are the implications of embracing these “less” other than the promised higher efficiency and greater simplicity? Dr Chong Yoke Sin, Chief of Enterprise Business Group from StarHub, weighs in on these trends and shares the opportunities wireless and cashless bring to both users and the technology community.


Q: Question, YS: Yoke Sin


Q: What are the implications as wireless becomes pervasive?

YS: With increasing adoption of wireless, the Internet of Things (IoT) will foreseeably also become more popular. After all, IoT presents a neat way to collect data subtly. Instead of getting users to enter data manually into systems for analysis, wireless and IoT have enabled data to be collected in real-time as people go about their everyday activities. More than just capturing data, IoT allows data to be analysed more promptly, at the edge.


Q: What do you think is fuelling the growth of the wireless trend?

YS: As chips become cheaper, more powerful and more compact all at once, the implication is that people can now do more with less. What used to be possible only with mainframes can now be done on our mobile gadgets. Naturally, people are looking to feed off these capabilities to do more on their mobile gadgets – be it their phone, watch or even possibly an embedded chip under the skin (in the near future). Rich content, fast computing on mobile, demand for connectivity on the go, anywhere, anytime has fuelled the growth of wireless.


Q: Compared to China, cashless has not caught on as quickly in Singapore. What do you think is the reason?

YS: It may sound controversial. But in part, I believe this has to do with the trust Singaporeans have in our banking system and financial institutions. The value of our currency and the reputation of our banks are both highly regarded, which is great; but it also means that people are in less of a hurry to go towards cashless. Plus, cash is really quite easily available in Singapore. Thanks to our dense network of automated teller machines (ATMs), cash is literally always just a few steps away!


However, I do believe that going cashless is inevitable. Once people try going cashless and gain confidence in the system, the whole slew of latent demand will take off. Because when the initial inertia wears off and more people get into the cashless mode, they will come to discover the convenience it brings, its advantages over the traditional cash system and, ultimately, the possibilities it brings.


Q: How do you think going wireless and cashless will change the world today?

YS: I think our traditional concept of businesses and boundaries will disappear. Today, our industries are organised around a set of core business activities, which stem from their physical presence. In the new economy, where businesses are virtual, the concept of services will change. Rather than think of banks as places for financial services or telcos for telecommunications services, these services are but enablers for fuller lives made possible through connectivity of these services instantly, anywhere, anytime.


These concepts are relatively new today. So both incumbents and new startups are exploring to see which configuration works best in terms of partnerships and synergy – should banking go with insurance and healthcare? Or should a telco partner energy? Or a combination of the entire spectrum of life services providers at one virtual place? What we know is that while big companies have the resources and the muscles to reach out further and cover more ground; the smaller players have less legacy issues and can move faster to create new solutions. The expectation is that we will see unlikely players moving into spheres that used to be dominated by the big incumbents. And over time, new businesses and new industries will come into being.


Q: How will these changes impact the tech industry?

YS: In the future, more professionals will be tech savvy. Although there will still be tech specialists whose jobs are to create and design tech systems, but more will be technically savvy users with the ability to apply artificial intelligence (AI) to their work and play. Thus, for both tech professionals and every other professional, it is key to know and learn AI. They need to be able to harness AI to discern, interpret and engineer new solutions to meet current needs, as well as evolve these solutions to keep up with changing demands.


Q: Do you think rising incidents of data security breaches will halt developments in wireless and cashless?

The security landscape is advancing, albeit slower than technology. So even if security breaches may cause developments to temporarily stall, they will correct themselves once people come out with solutions to protect themselves from these security flaws. From there, technology will improve, become more resilient, and growth will resume.


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