SOLiD 's journey to digital transformation
"It takes five to 10 years for an ‘overnight’ success," says Mrinmoy Chakraborty, Vice President and Head of SOLiD Digital business at SOLiD Inc, Korea. "During my last 10 years in the Internet of Things (IoT) industry I have learned that, for any great technology business, we typically overestimate what will happen in the next year and underestimate what will happen in the next five."
SOLiD is a leader in providing wireless solutions that improve indoor connectivity and coverage in high-demand and hard-to-reach locations. SOLiD Digital business works with traditional core industries helping to transform them with new, digital technologies such as IoT, AI/ML, RPA and Blockchain.
Chakraborty believes that new technology should be embraced willingly by end users, stating that “even though new technology would bring disruptive change to business, it should bring gradual changes in the lives of people to make the change process natural and organic.”
Chakraborty has been at the company for over three years, but his journey here can be traced back to 2010, when he founded his first IoT startup after graduating from Stanford Business School. His engineering team and co-founding CEO were Korean, and he became fascinated by Korean technology and the Koreans’ exemplary work ethic. “I was excited by the opportunity to combine innovations in Korean hardware and Indian software for the global market," he says.
His startup introduced cellular technology into the pallet industry in the US market for the first time, which paved the way for customers’ digital transformation from a traditional “supply chain company” to a “supply chain information engineering company”. However this technology was ahead of its time. Step forward a few years to 2016, when he met the SOLiD co-founders, Chairman and CEO Dr. Joon Chung and co-CEO Dr. Seung Hee Lee. "These two brilliant visionaries built SOLiD as one of the global leaders in in-building wireless solution space. The following year, they entrusted me to build the IoT business for SOLiD - I saw this as my second chance to create a world class IoT organisation."
His arrival at the organisation is all the more remarkable given that he's the first foreign executive in SOLiD Korea’s 21-year history. "This journey started as an adventure with a lot of unknowns in a foreign land, but it's also been the best one of my career so far," he explains.
Chakraborty explains that SOLiD Digital has two main verticals: the “Internet of Moving Things (IoMT)”, which is essentially enterprise logistics, and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT), which relates to smart and safe factories. "In the IoMT space, our services create actionable intelligence from returnable, reusable, high value assets such as containers, trailers, and chassis in cold chain and multi-modal logistics environments.
"In IIoT, our focus is on offering industrial safety, asset monitoring and predictive maintenance as a service. My team’s priority is to offer solutions that are technically feasible, economically viable, massively scalable and offer an exceptional end-user experience that hides the complexity of technology from that user."
Chakraborty's priority is to make SOLiD the preferred “Internet of Value” partner for enterprises around the world, a term he prefers to IoT, believing that the hero should be the business rather than the technology itself.
To this end, the company’s technology roadmap is market driven and built for solving complex high-impact customer problems. For instance, in 2018 it primarily focused on its hardware platform on LPWAN (low-power wide-area network technologies), whereas in the last year it has evolved as a total solution provider, focusing more on end application software-driven services. "Some of the areas where we are building next generation solutions and co-innovating with partners are in seamless universal tracking in indoor and outdoor environments," Chakraborty says. "We're using hybrid sensor technologies such as WiFi, Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), Ultra Wide Band (UWB) and GPS augmented positioning technologies.
"Our future technology roadmap is geared more towards enterprise software suited for data based-services in large scale distributed environments. Edge intelligent solutions for 5G or private LTE environments will be some of our core future offerings."
In the last three years SOLiD has worked closely with several industry leading customers, mostly with $1bln+ revenues, to help them launch their early or even first digital transformation initiatives. One of these was a leading Korean bank, for which the company helped launch asset monitoring services for managing collaterals. This resulted in over 360% RoI over a period of nine months. In areas of safety and compliance, last year they conducted Proof of Concept (POC) in one of the largest factories in Korea. "We intend to take this service to production this year and it's expected to be one of the world’s largest industrial safety services,” he says.
The benefits to transforming the traditional industries the company works with using digital technologies include operational efficiency, safety and compliance, and productivity. "Some of our new customers are also looking at servitisation, or creating new service revenue business models. Once the customers see the value of digitalisation in areas of cost saving, productivity and safety, I believe they will gain more confidence and look at IoT as their new revenue earner. We have started seeing this happening, and expect to see more in the next two to three years.”
AI and ML are also key to transforming customer operations. "In our business, these technologies have significant implications in predictive maintenance, location positioning, edge intelligence and also in areas of industrial safety for predictive situational awareness solutions and in building a more resilient supply chain. Every IoT service is a data-based service, and applying AI/ML can make each service more responsive, predictive and proactive.
"At the same time, we are conscious of not force fitting technologies just because they're cool and trendy. Our approach is to find appropriate technologies that create maximum impact for our customers.”
Chakraborty explains that managing this digital change must be done with a human-centric approach. “Any new technology introduction is change management,” he says. “It changes people’s lives and even people’s vocabulary. Digital technologies make data transparent, and at times eliminate middlemen, which can be scary for people that are part of the ecosystem.”
Looking ahead, he sees an expansion in the company’s services. “In the past three years we have created a track record primarily in the Korean market. In the next few years, I see more large scale business expansion globally, in South East Asia, UK and the US. Also, our services will be more data intensive and more suitable for the 5G world.”
For many in the technology industry, the COVID-19 pandemic has fast-tracked digitalisation. Chakraborty is optimistic. “I have a very positive outlook for the post-Coronavirus world, especially for my friends and partners working in technology industries. I believe that digital transformation was never a question of ‘if’, it has always been a question of when. COVID-19 has decided one thing for us - the time is now.