Manufacturing spotlight: Asia Pacific’s AI revolution

APAC is where some of the world’s strongest AI spending growth will be found, at 72.9% CAGR through 2018.

There are many drivers for this, including growing demand for greater business insights, improving productivity, and harnessing the ever-growing data volumes (APAC cloud traffic by 2021 is forecast to be just behind North America). Accelerating the potential are the advances in cloud storage and infrastructure, along with the rise in the Internet of Things.

At the heart of this spending growth is the manufacturing industry, where companies are racing to transform processes, increase output and drive down costs. Of course, the region already has a head start, given the high number of automotive and electronics companies already established. Adding AI means APAC is in an era described by IDC as ‘Robotics 3.0, [where] intelligent robots are characterised by their ubiquitous sensing and connectivity, cyber-physical fusion, autonomous capabilities, and more human-friendly multi-mode interaction’.

The Singapore effect

Singapore has long been a destination of choice for companies seeking to test and explore AI. A government-wide partnership invites firms to ‘catalyse, synergise and boost Singapore’s AI capabilities’, and follows on from the stated aim to become a Smart Nation. It’s therefore of little surprise that Accenture forecasts AI $215 billion in gross value added by 2035. To complement the Smart City initiative, Bloomberg reports the city-state built a ‘dedicated town for self-driving buses’. The goal is to gather data that shows what’s needed for autonomous vehicles to succeed.

Chips are down for Japan

Japan’s rich manufacturing heritage is continuing in the form of government-funded AI chip development. Developing chips for next-generation technology has until now been cost-prohibitive for all but the likes of Intel and Google. However, the Japanese Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry is now providing support to startups and smaller companies, enabling them to compete and help the country’s manufacturers successfully transform.

Challenges for APAC

However, there are several challenges to further AI adoption. Like the rest of the world, there’s a skills shortage – the pool of AI experts remains low. Infrastructure is patchy and often siloed – and requires extensive network and data centre transformation. There’s also the fact that many in the APAC workforce may see the rise in AI as a threat to their jobs. And of course, AI relies on data, which in turn relies on modern data centres.

Fewer resources will be needed to produce more items, and at more consistent quality. The workforce will be disrupted, but the outlook is promising – Gartner predicts 2.3 million new jobs worldwide, replacing 1.8 million traditional jobs. Companies that solve these challenges will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

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