Mr Ng See Sing is the General Manager for Portal City, a business unit of NCS Group. With more than 20 years of experience in the IT and Infrastructure Engineering arena, Mr Sing’s leadership sets the strategic direction to harness the benefits of active collaboration and integration of the services. He has managed autonomous service-based business entities under NCS that focused primarily in smartcard technology, loyalty and lifestyle programme, payment gateway services, e-commerce and m-commerce.
Mr Sing began his career by working with a number of national level projects such as the National NRIC Project, Automated Passport System, and Immigration Auto-Clearance Smartcard System and Security Services. Having helmed Portal City since October 2005,
Mr Sing has been instrumental in shaping it into a key player in an increasingly vibrant e-marketplace through syndication and market collaboration. Mr Sing’s portfolio also includes leading the company in capitalising business opportunities in the burgeoning cloud computing space. He led a team in developing cloud-based tools that deliver greater business value for organisations. Notably, he is the brains behind OnePlace™ (mobile communications, social media and business analytics on a single cloud computing platform) and OneCal™ (customisable official calendar alerts).
Ng See Sing has been recognised for his contributions to the local IT arena with several accolades such as The Minister of Home Affairs Awards for Outstanding Work Performance in 1994, SingTel Leaders Award in 2010, GemPlus’ New Partner Award Asia in 1999 and the Frontier award in 2006.
As phones are getting smarter, organisations need to push boundaries to stay relevant and merge computing and communications. There are three underlying concepts affecting this evolution: Control, Experience and Security. A smartphone with no content is like a shell without the pearl, but today’s content comes with the inevitable handing control over to the user, which many in corporate management find scary. This content provides ever-improving experience and users demand good network support, as they grow to rely on it. With sensitive data stored on mobile devices, security must be now high on the agenda, but it must not impede business processes and user enjoyment, so it all depends on hitting the right balance.
The concept of mobility is one that intrigues everyone in the IT industry. Questions like “how can I make this device more mobile” or “how can I reach my consumers while they’re on the move” are de rigueur in today’s competitive tech landscape. Gone are the days where “mobile” was a term only used to describe transportation. Today, to be “mobile” means one has to be savvy with technology and stay connected to content and communication wherever, whenever and however. No longer satisfied with just being mobile, cellular phones are increasingly getting “smarter” as well. Some manufacturers are claiming that their smartphones can double up as one’s PC, notebook or laptops.
With the ability for devices to do more, it is not surprising then that the transformation of the humble mobile phone is well received. In March 2011, market research firm Ovum reveals that Asia will account for 30 per cent of global smartphone sales, which will hit 653 million shipments by 2016 . In a later survey carried out by Ovum and Telecom Asia in April 2011, it noted that “smartphones and tablets have superseded netbooks and laptops to be the top two device drivers of mobile broadband traffic in the Asia-Pacific region” . In this survey, 50 per cent of respondents identified smartphones as the main driver of mobile broadband traffic in Asia, while 25 per cent felt that tablet devices are leading the way. These numbers confirm what we are seeing around us.
In light of this, the two questions I am asked most often are: “Will we one day see a consolidation of our communications and computing needs?” and “How are organisations going to adapt in an increasingly competitive product and services marketplace?”
I firmly believe that the rise of smartphones will not make PCs obsolete. In fact, smartphones should be seen as complementary to computers. Mobility enables seamless continuation from the desktop experience of gaming, online shopping, e-transactions and the likes onto the mobile platform. The tablet, as a hybrid of the smartphone and the PC, provides an option for this experience to be extended. Mobility has driven innovation at a pace and scale which was once deemed unnecessary or even unthinkable.
Former classifications of Generation X and Generation Y may be grouped into one category for future generations – Gen M, or (Generation Mobile). The demand for hardware, as indicated by earlier statistics, bodes well for device manufacturers as this creates a market for them to cater to this generation. However, a smartphone without the content is as good as an empty shell. This is the area that fascinates me because the possibilities for developers to push the boundaries in delivering content that enhance the end-user experience are endless.
In the April 2011 survey, respondents cited social networking, video consumption and web browsing as the three activities that will help steer the growth of mobile technology. The underlying concepts that bind these activities together are control, experience and security. These concepts become pertinent as technology and user demands grow in sophistication.
Mobility is a game-changer because it forces organisations to relinquish control to the end-user. More than just enabling consumers to access content on the go, technology has also changed the way organisations (both the private and public sectors) and their consumers interact. Communication is no longer carried out on a one-way street, but on a dual carriageway. Consumers want to be heard and they want to be engaged knowing that the organisations are listening and responding to their views.
Consumers are further empowered by social sharing made accessible on the mobile platform, allowing them to share their experiences of a particular brand or product with their friends instantly. Relinquishing of control to users is a scary proposition for organisations and rightly so. During a crisis, this can add fuel to fire when the conversation on the various portals becomes over-active with people commenting at the same time. However, we must not discount the same opportunities that are there to engage the audience on a channel that they are familiar with.
Apart from engaging the audience, the next important component is delivering enhanced user experience. Consumers are constantly looking for better ways to experience their content and even communicate with others. From voice calls and text messages to video calls and instant messaging (IM), the landscape is changing and it is pushing developers to support these enhanced needs. There are high definition (HD) PC peripherals to facilitate video calling - who knows, we might even see 3D calling direct from smartphones in future! This augmentation of reality will take the functionality of the mobile phone to a whole new level.
Today, the digital compass on mobile phones aims to guide users effectively toward the right direction. Apps create an opportunity for an ecosystem of businesses to come in. Using the digital compass example, a user can now find the way to the destination, and also discover points of interest along the way, like a florist on the way to the hospital. The creation of such an ecosystem is a win-win situation for all – businesses get an additional avenue to market their products and services, while consumers can get content that is timely and relevant.
Even with exciting possibilities of mobile technology, the issue of security still weighs heavily on peoples’ minds. With an increasingly mobile workforce, this is especially important as it exposes organisations to more threats. The IDC estimates that by 2013, the mobile work population will grow to 1.19 billion, accounting for 34.9 per cent of the workforce. It also notes that the largest numbers of mobile workers today are to be found in the Asia Pacific region. Organisations will not be able to reverse the tide of mobility. In fact, they won’t! Mobility facilitates productivity. Take Customer Relationship managers for example. When they go for a meeting with clients, they need to have the relevant information at their fingertips and be ready to provide a demonstration of the product. Such demonstrations have more impact, but usually involve risking security breaches. The key is to find a balance between security and usability. There is no point having a safe system if no one can use it.
Vendors need to understand the trends and the nature of the mobile workforce and to develop middleware solutions to achieve this balance. In Singapore, the Government is leading the region in its use of e-services and mobile services to enhance convenience for the people in their transactions. With the sensitivity of data involved, security is paramount.
The evolution of mobile phones is fascinating, not just in form but also in the way we rely on the technology. As consumers, we have already evolved. We have been shaped by the technology we use and crave for information all the time. I am sure everyone can identify with the frustration when our smartphones fail us or are slow to load information. We are becoming more demanding and more sophisticated and that puts developers on their toes to overcome continually these challenges. The true value of the smartphone ultimately lies in its functions. Consumers can expect an evolution of the value of the smartphone as companies continue to maximise its potential.