By Asina Pornwasin
THE NATION WEEKEND
Strong Ambitions are motivating Thailand’s Electronic and Computer Technology Centre (Nectec). It aims to build the advanced technology ecosystem for the country.
To do that it needs to work out how to bring advanced technologies – including advanced sensors, artificial intelligence, and unstructured Big Data – to widespread commercial use throughout the economy, says Chai Wutiwiwatchai, Nectec’s director.
Under its strategic mission, Nectec will focus on eight advanced technologies in the next four years. First is the Thai People Map and Analytics Platform (TPMAP), based on Big Data concerning the Thai population, and which comes along with cybersecurity. TPMAP’s first data set consists of health, education, address, spending and financial information.
It would included a marked increase in collaboration between 11 organisations on collecting welfare data, and it will be completely integrated during this year.
“It is the Big Data strategy of the country, as well as data governance,” said Chai.
Second is a precision farming mission to drive smart agriculture. Nectec aims to support decision-making around technology, including an AgriMap and a precision control system, moving from fragmented implementation to integrated deployment throughout the whole nation.
Nectec is talking with IBM Thailand in order to collect satellite remote sensing to support the precision farming mission. It is also working with Mitr Phol to launch a pilot for precision sugarcane farming with the use of remote sensing technology using AgriMap.
“We aim this year to build a significant impact from our precision farming initiative throughout the country [advancing it beyond] fragmented pilot areas,” said Chai.
Third is the “smart factory” to support Industry 4.0. Nectec will establish the Cyber-Physical System Centre (CPS) as a demonstration centre, showing embedded systems, Internet of Things and other technologies used in the plant.
“In Thailand, there are a lot of manufacturing plants that need technologies to help improve their competitiveness and capability. This centre will play the role of a demonstration centre and to test the systems, as well as to simulate how the smart factory system works,” said Chai.
The centre will be established this year, first locating at the pilot plant in Science Park before expanding to the Eastern Economic Corridor of Innovation (EECi) over the next two years.
Fourth is advanced sensor technology, including the terahertz sensor. Chai says Nectec’s three strategic missions – smart farming, smart industry and TPMAP – all also require this kind of advanced sensor.
Next is artificial intelligence (AI). Boasting around 60 to 70 areas of AI expertise, Nectec aims to build AI as the country’s premiere technology infrastructure, including in areas such as language processing, computer vision, face recognition and chatbots.
Nectec will establish a high-performance supercomputer for tech and computing AI, investing around Bt300 for three years. The move is to help facilitate universities and the private sector to upgrade their computing and training in AI.
“The move is to create the AI human resources and the business capacity in the country,” said Chai.
Sixth is “smart city”, for which Nectec will play the role of developing technology. The centre does not focus on smart city as a whole, but rather is strong on developing CCTV technology. The centre will provide this technology to smart cities for two main purposes – traffic and surveillance.
“We are also focused on disaster management and city data management,” said Chai.
Next, up is science education. Nectec will collaborate with partners to co-develop the ecosystem for advanced technology throughout the country. The role of Nectec is to both initiate research and development and to actively work with the private sectors to bring advanced technology in wide use in the country.
KidBright, a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) education learning board, is an example. Nectec plays the role of “sparker”, building the initial 500 boards sponsored by Bangkok Bank, which was later expanded to 200,000 boards sponsored by the Ministry of Science and Technology and distributed to 1,400 schools nationwide. Another more than 500,000 boards will be created, sponsored by the private sector to apply in other kinds of learning.
“KidBright created an economic impact of Bt2 billion on the country in 2018,” said Chai.
Nectec has also developed the massive open online course (MOOC), a large e-learning system developed and provided by Nectec to nine universities, that then developed about 200 available online courses. Above 100,000 students now study through MOOC. The system can support concurrent users of up to 10,000 students.
Finally, there is health. Nectec collaborated with the Institute of Nutrition at Mahidol University to develop Big Data about nutrition for the health of Thais.
This led to the “Thai School Lunch” programme. The platform will generate a thousand-meal menu of healthy nutritious options, and connect to the supply chain to facilitate local food sourcing.
Moreover, Nectec will also focus on two future technologies – terahertz and quantum computing. There will be many more research and development initiatives around these two technologies in the future.