|Santanu Dutt, ASEAN Head of Technologies, Amazon Web Services (AWS) |
Digital transformation is the new norm. If you look at the industries today, it is not just startups or certain enterprises that are transforming themselves digitally and are using technology or public cloud platforms like AWS. It is a constant across all customers and industries, through traditional industries like manufacturing, education, healthcare, and agriculture, or mainstream commercial industries. These industries are now employing cognitive services, analytics, machine learning, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to transform operations – and almost all of this is happening on public cloud.
AWS is at the forefront of transformation and helping customers transform is in our DNA. We believe that we have a culture where we move fast and operate almost like a small company, although we have 700,000 employees in amazon.com. This mode of operation keeps us on the edge with constant releases of new offerings, services, and technologies.
Technology trends and new solutions
Machine learning is at the core of many industry trends and it is maturing into what we call wise technology. We also see trends to adopt developer productivity. We are trying to make this much easier with our service offerings like intelligent search which even small customers can integrate into their websites, ridding them of the need to hire large tech personnel. Through our offerings, they can become more productive within days.
For example, we released Amazon Kendra in last December. It is not a search engine in the traditional sense, like others in the market – it is an engine which makes customers’ search engines much more powerful.
Another example is our suite to create 3D, AR, and VR applications called Amazon Sumerian, which will help customers develop creative applications and engage customers.
Take our customer called Maxis in Malaysia as an example, who transformed their retail stores in Kuala Lumpur by installing digital screens packed with impactful technologies that are actually learning to engage customers automatically. This not only made store operations completely digital, it also increased customer engagement – and the entire transformation took them only a few days.
In the future, Maxis is planning to add a conversation interface. Today, the digital images only wave to say hello, but later on, they will be able to communicate with customers, peruse their purchase history and information on what the customer is interested in, and maybe even receive inputs about problems so that by the time the customer gets to the customer service desk, 30 or 70 per cent of the problems had already been solved.
Machine learning – powerful tool today
Machine learning is a focus of our development with a number of new functions and services announced in recent years such as Amazon Polly, Amazon Connect, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Transcribe, and others, which help solve customers’ problems or enable businesses to make predictions and forecasts, automate processes, and integrate voice services, voice recognition, and computer vision, among others.
Machine learning is commonly seen as something too futuristic that can only be used for prediction. However, it is also utilised to solve real-life business problems. It has gone beyond simple prediction: it is now used for forecasting, supply chain management, and is a core part of automation and robotics. It is used in computer vision, natural language processing, and gaming, and many other tangible real life areas.
An example of this is Seoul, where a petrochemical company decided to use AWS’ face recognition technology to ensure employee security at its work sites. They input all employee ID cards and taught the software to recognise whether a human is wearing a helmet. They then connected this with Amazon Polly, which can issue voice messages addressing workers by name and reminding them to wear helmets, without the need for a security guard.
Modern technology is becoming incredibly popular, especially in Asia. In countries like Indonesia or Vietnam, there is such vast agricultural land that traditional farming methods cannot yield to optimal results.
A Vietnamese company, WeatherPlus, monitors the weather through more than 300 weather stations. They collect data from IoT sensors and transfer it to the AWS cloud, which is known for its scalable computing capacity to analyse the information. They also try to predict rainfall and analyse the images to predict the spread of diseases for agricultural crops in Vietnam. With this technology, farmers will have better information on weather patterns to increase yields.
Machine learning has a great role to play in the industry that is in the limelight of our current time, healthcare. The uses of computer vision – a part of machine learning – are becoming increasingly apparent. We can now feed in high-quality pictures and train software to detect anomalies and irregularities, helping to diagnose diseases at a much earlier phase.
In today’s world, there are multiple vendors offering competing products in any field. We do not bring out products and services keeping the competition in mind – we focus on the customer and work backwards from there.
AWS started offering cloud services, even before the pioneers in this industry. Our first official set of public offerings started in 2006, when the industry did not even know about cloud computing or web services.
Having 14 years of experience makes a massive difference. We always expect other players to actually use and come up with cloud computing platforms because the value proposition for end customers is immense. But you need certain experience to run things at very large scale. In cloud, you're not onboarding a single customer. We have billions of customers, and the security this requires as it is essential that there are no outages.
All of this comes with experience, which cannot be replicated. We also have the broadest and deepest functionality, with 175 different products and services, running on have data centres or infrastructure across 24 different geographical regions in 24 different cities across the globe.
The scale of AWS is unparalleled, which is hugely appealing for international giants and small-time businesses alike.
Millions and millions of our customers say that culturally AWS is different. We are not a company that focuses on competition and ends up on a customer's doorstep on the last day of the month to make a quick sale and reach the monthly quota. We are customer-obsessed, and our pay per use model ensure that customers pay us only for what they use. There is no long-term licensing cost or any fixed-term contracts.
In addition, we have a pay per use pricing model that actually helps customers run more experiments to try innovative projects. If it does not seem to work, they can discard it and move on to the next project. Imagine if our pay per use public cloud platform did not exist, how difficult – and costly – it would be in the old world to innovate?
On AWS, you literally pay by the minute, and after an hour or two, if something is not working, you shut it down and you stop paying. Many a customer told us about how their pricing has reduced. In 14 years, we've actually lowered pricing across our different services. While most vendors in the industry are looking at inflating costs, your AWS bill almost always goes down.
A lot of people actually underestimate operational expenses like power, manpower or cooling costs. You have to upgrade, patch, and manage – there are so many other operational expenses that people tend to ignore. Through AWS solutions, it is entirely possible to use the cloud to innovate at a much lower cost, using technologies like machine learning that allow vendors to get into new business avenues and stage digital transformations at a much lower cost.
Soon, we will add Indonesia to our regions, the second one in Southeast Asia after Singapore. This is a precursor to further investment in other regions in Southeast Asia. Having said that, we already have lots of use cases where business customers have been utilising our services through our Singapore branch. We have a great many customers globally on the AWS platform who have been enjoying our seamless services without any issues.