The Internet of Things (IoT), a concept that describes a state where every day physical objects will be connected to the internet and be able to identify themselves to other devices has become increasingly prominent in every industry. According to Gartner 6.4 billion connected “Things” will be in use in 2016, which is an increase of 30% to 2015.
One market that offers great possibilities but has not been exploited to its potential is the ASEAN market. Often companies are discouraged by perceived insufficient infrastructure within those countries, but in the relatively uncontested market of Thailand this is changing.
The arrival of 4G wireless broadband networks as well as the proliferation and affordability of devices that are connected to internet will fuel the IoT technology adoption in Thailand.
In an interview at the 2015 edition of Asia IoT Business Platform, Sigvart Von Eriksen, CMO of DTAC stated that he is convinced that the IoT market in Thailand will explode in near future, featuring more than 400 million connected devices in Thailand alone in about 4 years’ time.
Numbers and sectors of IoT interest
According to a Frost & Sullivan report, Thailand’s IoT spending in 2014 amounted to US$ 57.7 M. This is forecasted to increase by over 1600% to US$ 973.3 M in 2020. The majority of this spending takes place in manufacturing and logistics. Thailand currently is the 17th largest global manufacturer and number 14 in auto production, according to Industryweek. A 2014 McKinsey report states that:
“Thailand has built a thriving ecosystem of manufacturers and assemblers, including BMW, Ford, Honda, Mazda, Mitsubishi, Nissan, and Toyota. Its long history of automotive manufacturing coupled with strong government support has created a relatively low-cost but skilled workforce in the sector.”
As the government plans to position itself as the center of the ASEAN Economic Community, the prominence of manufacturing is forecasted to increase, which will also increase its potential for IoT. The value of IoT in logistics is also expected to rise, as a new law by the Department of Land Transport (DLT) has taken effect this January, which will require public buses, trailers and trucks with over 10 wheels to install GPS navigation systems, that provide real-time information to DLT service centers on the vehicles coordinates, travel speed and driving time. Due to these developments both manufacturing and logistics are expected to increase to a total value of around US$ 445M by 2020, according to Frost & Sullivan.
Future potential according to the same report and judging from developments in our event in Thailand can be observed also in the smart city and healthcare sector.
Smart city and government IoT initiatives
Thailand is on the move to become ASEAN’s digital infrastructure hub by 2020, states Ms. Jeerawan, chairwoman of the Software Industry Promotion Agency. The government’s determination to drive digital growth finds its expression in multiple ICT and IoT initiatives. These initiatives include smart city plans in cities like Phuket, Chiang Mai and Bangkok as well as greater campaigns e.g. smart Thailand. The ICT Ministries vision for Phuket and Chiang Mai is that of a tech start-up community, that further supports the intention to turn Thailand into the digital hub of ASEAN, explains The Nation.
To further boost the country’s competitiveness ranking in the world Thailand is pushing its Smart Thailand project, which according to Anudith Nakornthap, the ICT minister, will further empower local stakeholders such as the education and business sector and will cut the costs of using ICT, herby improving the quality of life within the country. If realizing this plan broadband will increase its reach from 33% to 80% of the population in the next three years, reaching 95% in 2020, according to Nation Multimedia.
For its ambitious project, the ICT ministry has develop a digital economy master plan, which according to The Nation entails two phases:
- Main domain missions: hard infrastructure, soft infrastructure, service infrastructure, digital economy promotion and a digital society.
- Pilot projects centered on e-commerce, e-education, e-industry and e-government.
To manifest these projects the country is actively searching for partners to collaborate with, which represents a great potential for IoT and ICT solution providers. According to the Bangkok Post the ICT ministries of three ASEAN members plus South Korea have expressed interest in participating in the development of Thailand’s digital infrastructure as well.
Although the healthcare infrastructure might on a nationwide scale have some shortcomings, especially in rural areas, Thailand still can boast with highly technical and advanced hospitals as well as educated doctors in urban areas. Compared to other countries like the US or Australia treatment in Thailand comes at a more reasonable price. This is the reason for Thailand’s prominence as one of the main medical tourism destinations in Asia. According to a CNN documentary 1.1 million foreign medical tourists visited the country in 2013. As hospitals have to compete for part of their clientele globally, they tend to be very active in looking for new services and devices to increase competitiveness as well as becoming more efficient internally. Recently the interest therefore has shifted to IoT applications.
Another challenge the Thai healthcare system has to tackle in the near future is an aging population. The median age has risen from 19 to 38 within the las 50 years and will continue to rise to 51 by 2050, according to Worldometer. In order to deal with the subsequent consequences, the Thai government, hospitals and consumers are looking for solutions within the healthcare sector, which presents an unprecedented chance for IoT companies.
Another indicator for the rising demand and prominence of IoT in Thailand is, that its largest private company Charoen Pokphand Group (CP) recently created an IoT subsidiary, to help with applications in the field of farming, agriculture and logistics.