SME Spotlight

Flow of technology drives business

Technical director Marcus Koh (far left) and managing director Welch Xu believe in constant innovation and Intellectual property protection.
Technical director Marcus Koh (far left) and managing director Welch Xu believe in constant innovation and Intellectual property protection.ST PHOTO: CHEW SENG KIM

Dr. Who Waterworks is riding the technological wave to create new products that will give it a competitive edge. In the fourth part of a series exploring the role of intellectual property in business strategies, managing director Welch Xu and technical director Marcus Koh tell Wong Siew Ying how innovation drives the company.

Q The company was founded 16 years ago. How has it evolved in that time?

Mr Xu "I am the founder. The firm started off as an ordinary water bottler, then I developed oxygenated water and designed our own bottles, which became very popular. Today, we supply bottled water to about 90 per cent of the five-star hotels in Singapore.

As a company, we believe in constant innovation. A few years ago, I started working on Nano-Artesian water, and it's been bottled and is now out in the market. The next big thing for me is the interactive media water dispenser, for which I am in the process of securing intellectual property protection."

Q What is Nano-Artesian water?

Dr Koh Nano-Artesian is produced using a proprietary nano-technology process. More specifically, the water is enhanced to be alkaline ph8.5 - 9.5, contains essential minerals, electrolytes and helps in actively hydrating and detoxifying the body.

Inspired by nature, I looked for methods to mimic nature - a technological replication of nature's aquifer. After two years of research work, I came up with a process that not only purifies the water but also creates that taste profile and water quality that is comparable to natural artesian water.

Two options are available to the consumers - the bottled Nano-Artesian water and Nano-Artesian water system cartridges that can be installed with any direct piping system to filter the water.

CREATING NEW IDENTITY

When there is IP protection, it encourages companies to try out new concepts, to go out and create their own identity. For me, I will not stop looking for the next breakthrough.

I see it as creating  new identity for my business.

MR WELCH XU, managing director of Dr. Who Waterworks

Q What is so special about the media dispenser?

Mr Xu "It is a smart water-dispenser machine that is fitted with an interactive screen, which can be adapted for different uses - to provide information or even for advertising.

It can be placed outdoors and has the ability to dispense both chilled and ambient temperature Nano-Artesian water. The interactive media content can be designed as required. For example, if it is placed in a zoo, next to the elephant enclosure, it could stream information about the elephant. A cloud system makes it possible to stream information to the dispenser.

This machine may include sensors, so if someone walks near the dispenser, it may say: "Feel thirsty? Refill, don't landfill". The aim is to encourage people to drink more water, and to use their own bottle - to cut down on the use of plastic."

Q How do you plan to integrate other technology with this new water dispenser?

Dr Koh "I am in the process of creating mobile apps and to link the machine to different devices. For instance, you can download the app on to your phone and it could help track the amount of water you have drunk. Perhaps it can also detect that you have been working out, so it can calculate your hydration needs. There are many possibilities. In-house apps will be created and hopefully will be rolled out by the end of the year." Mr Xu "With this machine, everything is online, connected to wifi and cloud. When the filter needs to be changed or if there's a problem that needs trouble-shooting, the machine will automatically send an alert to a service adviser, who will arrange for someone to look into it."

Q Why is intellectual property protection important to your business?

Mr Xu "Intellectual property is a form of identity. Having IP is a way of saying that the company has been innovative in creating new products, be it hardware or software. It also recognises the effort of staff to generate new ideas.

When there is IP protection, it encourages companies to try out new concepts, to go out and create their own identity.

For me, I will not stop looking for the next breakthrough. I see it as creating new identity for my business." Dr Koh "Another reason IP is important is that it helps to differentiate us from our competitors. It helps you stand out, especially if the company is competing globally.

I strongly believe in IP protection, whether it is the registered design or patents or trademark.

I have successful registered about 12 IPs, including trademarks and registered designs. They included our company name and logo, the shape of our water bottles and the words Nano-Artesian."

Q What are your plans for the media water dispenser?

Mr Xu "I believe this product has big potential. I am in the midst of getting IP protection for it. Once that is done, the plan is to mass-produce the water dispenser and to market it first in Singapore, then overseas.

I am hoping to work with government agencies and organisations for the dispenser to be placed at various places - it could be in offices and hotels or schools or the airport.

One advantage is that we can customise it for different markets; it is highly scalable.

There is an intention to showcase the dispenser at international water shows and exhibitions around the world. I will likely work with IE Singapore on this."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2016, with the headline 'Flow of technology drives business'. Print Edition | Subscribe