A few weeks ago, DTA received an interesting blog contribution from Kambyan Network, a Malaysian company that is looking to make waves and disrupt various industries through robotics technology – which they have coined as Robotic Process Automation – Field Operations (RPA-FO). So we reached out to the company’s Group Executive Director, Captain Sudhir A K Kumaren, to explain more about this transformative technology as well as provide a glimpse into the company’s vision in the industry.
Kambyan Network is a company that provides various services and solutions involving areas such as robotics, Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) development, advisory and training, and AI research, among others. Since the company came together in 2018, made up of individual companies such as Saffron Info Systems, RC Bumi Niaga, Adroit College, Global Aero Services and UAS & Robotics Academy, Kambyan Network has already established itself in Brunei, Singapore and India.
What we’re particularly interested in is the company’s efforts to extend RPA technology, which is already looking to be quite a disruptive technology in itself, out onto field operations. According to Sudhir, right now RPA is most commonly being deployed in static environments. In manufacturing, for example, it is used in the controlling of machines, CNC robotic arms, etc.
However, according to Sudhir, Kambyan saw that the technology could potentially be used to achieve much more and benefit more organisations in a wider range of industries if they’re able to somehow cut the cord – get rid of lines and lines of hydraulics and cables that allow the machines to function – and enable the machines to move autonomously in a 3D axis.
With that vision in mind, Kambyan sought out to infuse the tried and tested RPA technology into smarter, more mobile machines like drones, for example. The drones can then be armed with the necessary tools to perform tasks in a non-static environment. By doing that, he said, “we can design the workflow that is required for that particular machine, interface or even the tools.” This was the idea behind RPA-FO technology which Kambyan Network has since pioneered.
Moving Towards Digital Agriculture
At this point, Kambyan has already developed a number of drones built for agricultural purposes and conducted field tests which have yielded positive results. This would mean that if the technology takes off, farmers can soon depend on purpose-built drones to perform manual-intensive tasks such as collect data, as well as pick, harvest and transport crops.
While RPA-FO will undoubtedly help transform and digitalise traditional industries like agriculture and bring it in line with IR4.0, Sudhir added that artificial intelligence (AI) technology also has an important role to play to rejuvenate such industries.
He said that the biggest problem with the farming industry is that the traditional farmer always had a lot of inherent knowledge, passed down from generations; about the area, the farm, the seeds that they need to use, etc. However, this knowledge was lost over the many years due to several factors, such as industrialisation and outward migration from farming communities.
Thus, Sudhir said many of them are now dependent on third parties to give such inputs, which is not always beneficial for the farmers themselves or the environment, especially when large-scale usage of artificial chemicals and fertilisers are involved.
“So, to recreate a knowledge base of thousands of years into a community right now is practically impossible, unless you infuse AI into it,” remarked Sudhir. “Now, we can gather information based on sensors in the field, which feed back into a knowledge base, a data lake like what we have, and from there, we can decide what is the best intervention required, while doing analytics in the background.”
What’s truly powerful about technology is that now, such information can be made available to the farmer, on the spot, in real-time. In other words, he said, “AI is now becoming the de facto knowledge base for them (which traditionally, they had within their community). So, that’s how I see AI affecting and improving the lives of people in the rural areas.”
The Key is Accessibility and Connectivity
One of the major problems faced by farmers in the rural areas, globally, is that they are often resource rich, but cash poor. Sudhir commented that this has been due to market accessibility, which forces these farmers to rely on middlemen – thereby lowering their profits.
Hence, one of Kambyan Network’s aims has been to make knowledge and information accessible to people, even in the rural areas, so that they can make the right decisions. Kambyan hopes to achieve this through its ‘Man Using Intelligence Application’ (Manusia) platform.
With the platform, Sudhir said farmers would be able to have access to all the information they may need in real-time from “a single platform where everything is comprehensive”.
He explained further, “Whatever information the farmer wants, he can just call out and get it. And if he needs a service, we provide the service for him. If he thinks he doesn’t need it, that’s fine. The information is at least available, and he can take action, for example, when is the best time for him to plant, to harvest, to irrigate, etc.”
Sudhir added that 5G couldn’t come soon enough because the digitisation of traditional industries means that the number of IoT devices, robots and drones that will be deployed in the field is going to be huge – enough to swamp the current 4G networks very quickly.
The problem is that based on past experience, even if 5G does come, there’s no guarantee that those in the industrial or rural areas can have access to the same connectivity. To provide an alternative, Kambyan is doing research to develop an ad-hoc network that can provide enough bandwidth for organisations to command and control their machines and IoT devices in the field and ensure safe operations.
Making 4D Jobs a Thing of the Past
These advanced technologies that Kambyan offer are by no means only applicable to the agriculture industry. Sudhir mentioned that RPA-FO can be used anywhere where manual labour is an issue. “Be it warehousing, services, energy, mining, aerospace or manufacturing, we can see the application of RPA-FO for every industry,” he said.
Sudhir then gave some examples of how drones can be used to augment a couple of different industries. In security, for instance, self-deploying drones would be able to cover a much bigger patrol area than a security guard could, around the clock – taking pictures, sounding the alarm or intervening when an anomaly (or intruder) is detected.
Meanwhile, in environment control, Sudhir said autonomous drones could be sent in to detect noxious gases in place of humans, for obvious reasons – something that could have been be very useful if deployed for the toxic gas incidents in Johor which shocked Malaysia a few months back.
Most importantly, Sudhir remarked that these technologies can replace humans in doing the 4D (dirty, dull, difficult and dangerous) jobs – jobs that humans shouldn’t be doing in the first place. By getting machines to do those jobs, he added that people can focus on doing things that “they’re really good at, such as creative thinking, designing and problem solving, and get a better quality of life.”
According to Sudhir, another indirect benefit of bringing advanced technologies and gadgets into the mix is that it can attract the younger generation, who are less interested in doing intensive manual labour, to ply their trade in traditional industries like agriculture.
Replacing Old Jobs with the New
Sudhir concluded the interview by talking briefly about how Adroit College, Kambyan Network’s education and training arm, for those who are interested in this exciting field that he believes has a promising future. As such, he encourages students and working adults alike to join Adroit’s Open Days, which are held every month, with talks, lectures, and an opportunity for visitors to play around with some of the equipment and gadgets that Kambyan has to offer.
“There, they will also be able to take a look at some of the RPA-FO courses that we’re offering,” said Sudhir, adding that they have something called a “confirmed job placement” scheme within the group.
“We ourselves in the group, we need over 200 skilled personnel within the next 2 years. So, we’re willing to train and employ, which means there’s an opportunity for all who are interested in the field,” he explained. “Our idea is in 7 years, to make them technopreneurs who will have a median income of at least RM12,500 within the first 3 years. You don’t see anybody else having that kind of plan.”
Lastly, when it comes to building a career, he urged people to keep an open mind and not be too bogged down by the traditional ways of doing things. After all, the World Economic Forum report predicts that around 75 million jobs that exist today may disappear by 2022. On a positive note, the report also states that 133 million new jobs will be created. Kambyan sees itself as a cog in that job creation wheel.
“The evolution of technology is going eliminate a lot of jobs. However, new jobs are being created, like what we’re doing. So, they have to divert their focus. Of course, anything new can be challenging, but for those who are up for the challenge, it’s a way forward.”
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