Artificial Intelligence and Robotics scenario in Thailand and ASEAN



The advancements in aggregation and data collection, computer processing power, and the use of algorithms have helped engineers and scientists to make huge leaps in the development of artificial intelligence. Now machines can perform tasks for which human cognition was required. Computers could only perform rigidly defined tasks in the past. However, with the development of machine learning, they can be offered a general strategy for learning which can enable them to adapt without being programmed explicitly. Lots of such systems are now in commercial use.

Adopting such techniques is already influencing health care, finance, and transport. The impact can already be seen in the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). US and China are currently leading the race in developing commercial technology leveraging AI. Even though ASEAN countries are lagging behind in adopting AI technology, Singapore is leading the pack for technological advancement related to AI. AI tools are being increasingly deployed in different sectors, like financial services, transportation, media, and health care.

AI and Robotics in Industries 

It refers to a plethora of technologies that enable machines to perform tasks that require human intelligence, such as visual perception, image recognition, and decision making. It is a single domain phase. AI has infiltrated numerous aspects of human lives in recent years. Most of the acclamation goes to machine learning, wherein computers ostensibly program themselves.

In general terms, AI falls into three broad categories.

By empowering machines and applications with human-like cognitive capabilities, AI enables automated decision making with very high accuracy and speed based on data-driven intelligence and self-learning abilities. It enables machines with algorithms, which renders intelligence and enhances its capability to learn from deducing patterns of raw data models.

AI is slowly penetrating into every aspect of business operations and gradually transforming the company’s service and business models. Emerging technologies are increasingly being adopted by companies in both public and private sectors and enhancing the customer experience with different touchpoints. With the convergence of IoT and communication technologies such as 5G, the future of AI applications is all-pervasive.

Frost & Sullivan had estimated that global spending on AI and ML will grow to THB 1.8 trillion by 2021. AI market revenue in Thailand is estimated to be around THB 69.39 billion by 2025.

The top 3 application areas for AI and Robotics are:

Healthcare

AI is taking healthcare research, diagnostics, and therapies into new horizons. Sensing brain signals using brain computing interfaces (BCIs) and translating them into actions to control prosthesis or repairing damaged vision are some of the new uses of AI technology in the healthcare sector. The beneficiaries of this technology are usually people with different disabilities since this thought-controlled technology has the potential to provide effective support for a variety of disabilities.

Advanced medical research areas such as next-gen gene sequencing and cancer research are also being aided by AI technology. Applications such as targeted drug delivery, remote patient monitoring, and personalized medicine leverage AI for accurate results

Gaming & Entertainment

AI-powered responsive and realistic games and entertainment modalities are making a mark to deliver a more personalized user experience. AI technology is extensively used in video games to render an illusion of intelligence in non-player characters (NPCs). This makes the gaming experience more realistic with in-game objects becoming more responsive. Interactive gaming, which is capable of learning user moves and responding accordingly, is an attractive idea for both gamers and designers.

ICT

The widest range of applications of AI is in the ICT domain, where the primary focus is on technology and application development. AI algorithms form the backbone of machine intelligence. These innovations are being widely used across sectors such as retail, e-commerce, consumer electronics, robotics, homeland security. Additionally, AI is playing a key role in dramatically transforming cybersecurity. The integration of intelligent self-learning algorithms is enabling security solution providers to develop proactive security solutions that can identify cyber-attack threats and prevent them.

How important is it for Thailand 

With the advent of Thailand 4.0 and the wave of silver tsunami flooding the country, it is expected that many possible applications of AI would be in the healthcare sector, diagnosing and treating patients or helping senior citizens. According to research by Frost & Sullivan, 40% of digital transformation initiatives would be supported by AI and cognitive abilities in the coming years. It would also account for 40% of Thailand’s GDP. There is enormous growth for AI in financial technology (Fintech)

Future Outlook – According to reports by Frost & Sullivan, spending on AI and ML would grow to THB 1.8 trillion by 2021.

Here is a table of a trend over the next 15 years as speculated by Frost & Sullivan

Thailand has been moving forward at full steam, due to the growth of smart algorithms that can imitate, assist, and augment human tasks in foreseeable and automatic ways. Microsoft has been competing for head to head with IBM to bring AI to life. Azure Machine Learning by Microsoft is being used for predictive analytics while Bot framework helps developers with natural interactions through various channels. The most common use case in Thailand is the application of machine learning to process data into predictions, for instance, to analyze user data to predict future purchases.

According to insights by Bangkok Biz News, Thailand is gearing up to use machine learning extensively for the future of property development. FazWaz group is planning to launch machine learning-powered Chatbots to build a virtual property agent. It would be one of the first property tech companies to do so. The adoption of AI would massively scale up within a few years. The banking sector plans to use machine learning for fraud detection. 95% of the jobs would be transformed with the wave of AI adopters within the next 5 years

Thailand is promoting AI and Robotics Technology

Thailand is promoting the adoption of robotics and AI technologies across industry sectors. Several manufacturers based in Thailand have seized the opportunities offered by the investment promotion policies of the government to enhance production efficiency by embracing these modern technologies.

The future of production in Thailand will be based on mass customization where the factories are driven by AI and adaptable mechanisms. The industry has now reached a stage where growth and production efficiency is now dependent on the deployment of robotics technology and AI and is essential for a competitive edge.

The Thai government is offering various incentives to service providers who offer AI and robotics-enabled services for everything from control and processing systems to commissioning and installation. Incentives are also being offered to the factory operators and manufacturers for implementing these modern technologies.

Automation and robotics are one of the S-curve industries that are being targeted by the government to drive economic growth into the future. The Thailand Board of Investments (BOI) is offering attractive privileges to support the investments in the targeted industries. The promotion packages are focusing on technology. The more a certain project involves the use of advanced technologies like robotics and AI, the higher the chances are of getting better incentives. There can also be a corporate income tax exemption for as much as 13 years.

In order to encourage the Thai automation sector to grow by helping to improve the overall industry, the investments in which the value of linkages to the automation industry reach at least 30% of the total automation system, can enjoy a 3-year corporate tax exemption of about 100% of the investment. However, in order to get the BOI approval, they would need to apply before the upcoming year ends.

According to the data collected by BOI, manufacturers based in Thailand are becoming more aware of the fact that they need to keep their machinery updated in order to increase production efficiency. During the 2016 to 2018 period, the Thailand Board of Investment has awarded incentives worth 5.22 billion Baht to 36 efficiency improvement projects. 11 robotics and automation manufacturing investment projects were approved by the BOI during 2018 alone which amounted to about 1.46 billion Baht.

Innovations in digital technology can open major opportunity in ASEAN 

In the approaching decades, the developments in the digital world might open a lot of opportunities in ASEAN economies and boost prosperity and productivity. With the adoption of the existing technologies, along with the advances in software, hardware, automation, robotics, and AI, there is a huge potential to transform the business capabilities. As a youthful region with a globally competitive innovative enterprise and manufacturing sector, ASEAN Region can take advantage. However, this also means that a lot of workers in the region would face considerable upheaval.

Since AI technologies can boost productivity dramatically, they can disrupt the economies of the region and the workers. An MGI research published previously showed that the technologies available currently can automate about half of the work activities that are performed in four of the biggest economies in ASEAN – Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines. These industries generate more than $900 billion in wages. That is a lot of workers and professionals whose work environments would be dismantled.

Also, it needs to be noted that technical feasibility is not the only factor that affects the automation of jobs. The companies will also consider the costs of implementing and purchasing technology systems, the benefits of doing business, labor market dynamics, and the social and regulatory acceptance. Also, the nature of many jobs will change. More work would require interacting with machines and the region would need to develop a different set of workforce skills.

The AI technologies have the potential to contribute to positive social outcomes in  ASEAN  if it is harnessed in the right way. The innovations in Machine Learning can enhance financial inclusion and credit models. The AI solutions can bring in new dimensions in remote and preventive healthcare. This might also improve diagnosis and speed up the development of new drugs. The adaptive learning algorithms can play a role in delivering virtual and industrialized education too. However, most of the region would need to develop a good foundation in data ecosystems and foundational digital infrastructure to realize the type of opportunities in the markets.

Most of the companies in ASEAN will need to make some basic changes in the management culture. For instance, they need to develop a style of decision making that is based on data. They will even need to make striking innovative partnerships with specialist firms that can inculcate the scarce skill sets that are needed for AI efforts. This would be a thoughtful approach to strengthening the data infrastructure that is needed to prioritize the investments and efforts. New businesses and startups can create their infrastructure in such a way that they involve these changes.

The market is already started to drive the adoption and development of AI. The governments will also need to play a critical role to deliver these benefits across society. Thailand is already making efforts to make its manufacturers and technology-supplying companies more gullible to the idea by offering them incentives. There are three major priorities – developing AI talent, establishing a regional policy framework to support the development and adoption of AI and, encouraging usage at the local levels. It has to be ensured that AI contributes to inclusive growth and positive social outcomes.

AI and its impact on job creation 

There is growing recognition and anxiety that AI would be having a disruptive impact on the labor markets. According to a paper published by MGI, there is a potential of replacing half of all work activities by automation. Since automation would apply at the basic task level, there are more occupations that AI will change than it will eliminate. This would change the demand for certain workforce skills and would increase the churn in the labor market. The first wave would include jobs with a very high proportion of time devoted to processing, data collection, and routine physical tasks.

These include office administration, food preparation, and factory production. The impact on the labor markets is quite substantial. But it does not mean that companies would replace workers with machines because it is feasible. The pace and extent of automation would be determined by how companies view the businesses and weigh the considerations like the technologies, the ease of their usage, the customer experience, labor market dynamics, social acceptance, their capabilities, and a lot of other factors.

Like most other technology disruptions, AI also has the potential to offer a high boost in productivity in the ASEAN Region. The adoption of AI can add about 0.8% to 1.4% to the annual GDP, considering that the human labor displaced in the process contributes in the same way to redeployed roles. The opportunity is about creating new ways for growth in addition to finding efficiencies. While 20% of the AI-aware executives said they cited labor cost savings as their primary motivation for adopting AI, while 25% said that they had introduced AI to help the businesses expand.

Digital transformation will disrupt the workforce but the impact has never been quantified. Technology and the Future of ASEAN Jobs forecast that artificial intelligence in hardware, software, and robotics will change the employment landscape among the largest economies by 2028. The sector which would be hit the hardest is the agriculture sector. There is a demand for elementary as well as skilled agricultural workers as the jobs can replicate the use of technology. The productivity gains would also reduce prices and drive growth and this will create new demand for workers in other sectors like retail, wholesale, construction, transport, and manufacturing.

The employment in the developing economies has shifted from the low-value agricultural to low-value manufacturing jobs. This is a stepping stone to the higher value jobs and the services sector as the economy develops. The report has painted a scenario where 40% of the new jobs would be created in the manufacturing sector in the upcoming decade. The developing ASEAN economies would have to jump from the manufacturing phase and move to services to keep up with the rapid changes in jobs.

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Andy Aditya

As Business Startup Specialist, Andy is often hired as a Virtual Director/Consultant to assist Business Owners in Thailand. For total business information and consulting for doing business in Thailand - Pls check - startupinthailand.com
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