NEED DRIVEN IN­NO­VA­TION

How Asia is stay­ing ahead in global tech­nol­ogy adop­tion

HWM (Malaysia) - - THINK - by Zachary Chan

As a pre­cur­sor to the an­nual IFA con­sumer elec­tron­ics trade show in Ber­lin (1-6 Septem­ber 2017), the IFA Global Press Con­fer­ence is usu­ally held months ahead, and is an event for or­ga­niz­ers Messe Ber­lin to wax lyri­cal about the state of the con­sumer elec­tron­ics in­dus­try. The usual charts are shown on how there’s still a pos­i­tive trend even dur­ing th­ese times of eco­nomic tur­bu­lence; how con­sumers to­day are will­ing to pur­chase higher priced, bet­ter equipped ap­pli­ances; and how tech in­no­va­tions are con­stantly cre­at­ing new prod­ucts and new mar­ket seg­ments pre­vi­ously un­avail­able to the av­er­age con­sumer.

Think of re­ally mun­dane things that you never knew you needed tech­nol­ogy to do for you, such as con­nected tooth­brushes with em­bed­ded sen­sors and an app to tell you if you’ve missed a spot, or au­to­matic nail print­ers that prom­ise to make nail bars ob­so­lete.

It’s no sur­prise that the in­dus­try has mostly been in­ward look­ing. Con­sumers are of­ten force-fed in­no­va­tions la­beled ‘the next big thing’. Most of the time they aren’t—think 3D TVs, a trend that never re­ally took off. And some­times, through over-engi­neer­ing, tech­nol­ogy ends up com­pli­cat­ing things that should have been sim­ple with­out. The most re­cent cul­prit you may have heard of is the un­nec­es­sar­ily high-tech Juicero juicer.

So, it was quite in­ter­est­ing that Ger­ard Tan, GfK’s APAC Di­rec­tor of Dig­i­tal World pre­sented that Asia isn’t just lead­ing the world in tech­nol­ogy adop­tion, but that con­tent has been essen­tial to drive in­no­va­tion and mar­ket growth.

eS­ports, for ex­am­ple, is pegged as be­ing

re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing de­mand back into the slug­gish PC mar­ket, with the APAC re­gion show­ing a to­tal spend­ing of US$3.4 bil­lion on gam­ing PCs and pe­riph­er­als last year, a 77-per­cent in­crease from 2015 to 2016.

Asia is also boast­ing the largest wear­able mar­ket on the planet, with a 51-per­cent growth rate in 2016. Out of the 42 mil­lion units sold in 2016 though, 55 per­cent were of health and fit­ness track­ers, and only 17 per­cent were smart­watches. This re­in­forces the point that in­no­va­tion should fill a need as smart­watches have yet to find their pur­pose.

Smart­phones, how­ever, have long proven them­selves as be­ing the wun­derkind of modern tech­nol­ogy. The tip­ping point of em­brac­ing the dig­i­tal world comes in a 2017 GfK Con­sumer Life re­port where smart­phones (95 per­cent) have fi­nally sur­passed wal­lets (94 per­cent) as the one item that young adults can­not leave home with­out.

Be­yond stan­dard e-com­merce and even gig economies, Asia is a hot­bed for e-ser­vices and so­cial com­merce ex­per­i­ments where dig­i­ti­za­tion is ram­pant and the smart­phone be­comes a hub in solv­ing lo­cal­ized is­sues. GoJek, a mo­tor­cy­cle taxi app helps zip past the stand­still traf­fic con­di­tions in Jakarta, In­done­sia, but Go-Jek isn’t just an­other Uber, it of­fers all man­ner of ser­vices that rise from lo­cal needs, from goods de­liv­ery to home ser­vices such as clean­ing and mas­sages.

In China, WeChat has grown be­yond a mes­sag­ing plat­form into an allpur­pose app with a built-in e-wal­let to do every­thing from call­ing a cab to pay­ing your util­i­ties bill. Over the course of the Lu­nar New Year in 2017, it has been re­ported that 46 bil­lion dig­i­tal red pack­ets, ‘hong baos’, were ex­changed over the plat­form, a 43-per­cent rise over 2016.

An­other re­cent mo­bile de­vel­op­ment sweep­ing through China in­clude sta­tion-less bike shar­ing, where one can lo­cate a nearby bi­cy­cle through GPS, un­lock and pay for the ride through the app, and lit­er­ally park it any­where af­ter you’re done. As a so­cial ex­per­i­ment, it’s one that sup­pos­edly helps solve last mile trans­port in ar­eas not ac­ces­si­ble by ve­hi­cle, or to pro­mote a health­ier lifestyle. How­ever, the sys­tem is rife with po­ten­tial abuse with the need for bet­ter reg­u­la­tion. Yet, the bike-shar­ing boom has yet to abate. Ma­jor players such as Mo­bike and Ofo have ex­panded be­yond China into other Asian coun­tries.

As long as there’s a need or prob­lem to solve, Asia is spear­head­ing and em­brac­ing dig­i­tal so­lu­tions faster than ever. And that’s a good thing for in­no­va­tion.

Ger­ard Tan, Di­rec­tor APAC, Dig­i­tal World, GfK pre­sent­ing about the rapid adop­tion and trans­for­ma­tion of Asia Pa­cific con­sumer tech land­scape at the IFA Global Press Con­fer­ence 2017 in Lis­bon, Por­tu­gal.

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