Flir Asia BigData is a Malaysian Big Data Analytics company that provides Data Analytics-enabled mobile app platforms for enterprises and SMEs. By leveraging on Big Data and Analytics, the company’s solutions help organizations gain visibility and insights into their customers, business processes and marketing plan effectiveness. They also work closely with clients by providing data analysis and consultancy services to help them maximize the ROI of their deployment.
In an interview with BDAMY, Vince Ng, Flir Asia BigData’s CEO, provided insights into his company’s BDA journey.
BDAMY: How does your company use BDA?
VN: Our solutions combine the enabling technologies of mobile, cloud and big data to generate consumable insights for our clients that they can act on. In marketing, we use BDA to help businesses understand their customers better by addressing who the customers are, what they are looking for and how they make purchase decisions. For business process insights, we combine real-time data capturing through mobile apps from the mobile workforce, with external data sources such as client location, weather, distance traveled, etc. to streamline and improve job assignment and resource allocation.
BDAMY: How did you decide that you needed to use BDA?
VN: Our sister company, Flir Asia Sdn Bhd, has been the leading condition-based monitoring service provider to the power utility company in the past 17 years. Efficiency and responsiveness are the two key factors in being able to provide the highest level of quality in services and to stay competitive. As the business grew, it became increasingly challenging to scale the human resources needed to maintain these key performance indicators. A paradigm shift was needed to improve productivity of the field workforce while minimizing direct costs. BDA became the necessary enabler to not just gain insights into the productivity of the individual field engineers, but to also predict and anticipate the most cost optimized job assignment and scheduling.
BDAMY: How did you begin following the decision to use BDA?
VN: The journey began by interviewing and understanding from the business managers areas that are perceived to be inefficient, and data and information they would like to have to make better decisions, which are currently unavailable. We then set about defining the current SOPs and available data (17 years of equipment condition and failure data!), and analyzing what insights and answers can BDA help churn out. We then challenged our client further to provide a wish list of information that would not only help make them more competitive, but also benefit their customer (in this case, the utility company). We very quickly discovered that even by knowing the local weather at job sites on the scheduled work days, and being able to react to that instantly, can save 20% in direct cost! Such is the power of BDA.
BDAMY: What are the issues you had to bear in mind when deploying BDA?
VN: To fundamentally change the data capturing technologies used by the field workforce from pen and paper to a cloud-connected mobile device required a well thought-out retraining and adoption plan. But the most challenging, and rewarding, task was to help managers realize the full potential of data insights now available to them and how they can exploit the new data in decision making. The technologies behind the Mobile, Cloud and Big Data analytics are surprisingly mature and ready for commercial deployment and presented minimal obstacles.
BDAMY: What were the expected (or actual) ROIs seen by using BDA?
VN: The expected ROI for the BDA project at Flir Asia from the preliminary feasibility study was an encouraging 8 months. The actual ROI after the deployment of the project turned out to be even better; all the development and deployment cost was fully recovered within 6 months! Spurred by this very profitable investment into BDA, the company is now embarking on a second phase where BDA will be applied to the aggregated data going back 5 years and offering the resulting analytics insight to their customer, the power utility company. This represents a whole new revenue stream for the company.
BDAMY: Tell us about your BDA infrastructure and technologies used.
VN: Flir Asia BigData developed the solution from scratch, using mature and tested technologies such as .Net MVC, Xamarin, and MS SQL. The platform is then hosted on Microsoft Azure which provided the necessary tools for visualization as well as SQL Database-as-a-service which gave the platform the reliability and scalability needed. The BDA engine was also developed from the ground up using adapted Hidden Markov Model and Machine Learning algorithms.
BDAMY: What are the skills necessary to implement your BDA solution, and where did your company obtain these skills?
VN: With over 30 years combined experience and expertise in enterprise application and wireless tracking technologies, Flir Asia BigData’s technical team was well armed with the necessary background to deliver the project. The participating user groups identified were the business managers, operational managers, and field engineers who all played the role of Subject Matter Experts in their respective area. The team was completed with the hiring of two additional .Net developers, focusing on backend web services and mobile app development respectively.
About Vince Ng
A serial entrepreneur, Vince started his journey while pursuing his graduate studies in Canada when he co-invented a wireless location tracking system using a novel statistical algorithm which was subsequently patented. He founded and very quickly got funded for a technology start-up in Ottawa and was able to commercialize the technology with the help of VC funding. In five years, the company was acquired by a publicly-listed company and the technology was licensed to a US-based chip manufacturer.
Upon returning home to Malaysia, he started another technology start-up and was able to secure funding from Khazanah Nasional, acting as the CTO of the company. He then set about building a team to start developing a wireless sensor networks platform which saw commercial success not only in Malaysia but regionally in Thailand, Singapore, China and Australia. His work was acknowledged by winning MDeC’s APICTA awards in Best in R&D (Malaysia, Asia Pacific), Best in Start Up (Malaysia), and the Prime Minister’s Award.
Always looking for new challenges, Vince yet again struck out on his own and co-founded Flir Asia BigData with the focus on developing game-changing business solutions marrying Mobile, Cloud and Big Data Analytic to help businesses achieve their marketing and operational goals that they did not think possible.