Filtration maker opens global IoT lab in S'pore

Mr Yeoh and Mr Fischer at the opening yesterday of Mann+Hummel's first global Internet of Things lab. Mr Fischer says that smart air filtration systems could help Singapore manage the haze.
Mr Yeoh and Mr Fischer at the opening yesterday of Mann+Hummel's first global Internet of Things lab. Mr Fischer says that smart air filtration systems could help Singapore manage the haze.PHOTO: MANN+HUMMEL

German filtration maker Mann+Hummel, opening a laboratory that is a world first for the firm, has raised the possibility of helping to tackle Singapore's haze problem with its smart filtration products.

The firm yesterday launched its first global Internet of Things (IoT) lab in Singapore, where it already has its Asian headquarters. The Fusionopolis Way lab will focus on research and development of commercial, industrial and automotive air filters using smart technologies, such as those making use of advanced sensors and predictive capabilities.

Work on more than 10 projects is under way, with another 30 in the pipeline, the group said. It aims to double headcount at the lab to 10 employees by next year as it continues to hire system, hardware, firmware and software engineers and data scientists.

The lab is part of Mann+Hummel's investment here that is expected to amount to $10 million over the next three years. Mann+Hummel's supervisory board chairman Thomas Fischer said at the launch that the IoT is set to become "the playing field of a more mature digital economy". The IoT refers to linking a range of smart devices using the Internet.

"We have to invent and adopt smart technologies to manufacture smart products in smart factories," he said, noting that smart air filtration systems could help Singapore better manage the haze.

"Imagine thousands or millions of automotive, industrial and residential air filters in and around Singapore measuring and improving air quality and - being connected through the IoT - alerting Singaporeans about the next haze before it even arrives."

He said the haze could be tackled using "predictive insight from a network of connected smart filters".

"Imagine a world where smart filters make Singapore an even smarter and more liveable city."

Group vice-president of technology Charles Vaillant said the group chose to set up its IoT lab in Singapore because of the country's strategic location in South-east Asia: its proximity to many emerging economies, its access to a rich supply base in the electronics and software industry and its vibrant start-up ecosystem.

He said the group expects to see the largest growth come from Asia, which now accounts for 20 per cent of its global sales, at more than 600 million euros (S$921 million). Mann+Hummel employs over 80 people in Singapore and more than 3,000 in Asia.

The lab is the latest to join a growing number of industrial IoT-related investments here. Emerson Electric, which has set up a global pervasive sensing centre in Singapore, is deploying its industrial IoT solutions in several chemical plants on Jurong Island. TuV Sud opened its digital centre of excellence earlier this year, and Siemens launched its digital factory manufacturing design consultancy in September to help companies digitise their factories.

Mr Yeoh Keat Chuan, managing director of the Economic Development Board, who was at yesterday's launch, said Mann+Hummel's investment is "well aligned with Singapore's strong interest in growing industrial IoT capabilities".

"Industrial IoT will allow manufacturers to increase productivity, improve time-to-market and reduce operating costs by enabling predictive maintenance, remote monitoring and efficient energy consumption," he said. "Singapore is striving to become the world's first Smart Nation... In fact, for Singapore, data is fast becoming a new 'natural resource' that can be refined and modelled into a form that can be used to drive economic growth."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 12, 2016, with the headline 'Filtration maker opens global IoT lab in S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe