S'pore tech firm develops solution for real-time tracking of warehouse goods

Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (left) looking at Ascent Solutions' warehouse cargo tracking system with its chief executive Lim Chee Kean at the company's office in Pasir Panjang Road.
Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (left) looking at Ascent Solutions' warehouse cargo tracking system with its chief executive Lim Chee Kean at the company's office in Pasir Panjang Road.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO
Ascent Solutions corporate strategy head Huang Yihang demonstrating the company's warehouse cargo tracking system on April 12, 2021.
Ascent Solutions corporate strategy head Huang Yihang demonstrating the company's warehouse cargo tracking system on April 12, 2021.ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

SINGAPORE - Technology firm Ascent Solutions has invested more than $1 million to develop a solution that aims to improve transparency in the transport of commodities.

The company, which provides Internet of things (IoT) software to the logistics industry, spent about two years working on a "digital twin warehouse" service.

The solution will allow its clients to track the movement and storage of goods in warehouses in real time using computer vision - an area of artificial intelligence.

Mr Huang Yihang, Ascent's head of corporate strategy, said on Monday (April 12) the solution can create greater accountability in trade finance - financial instruments and products that facilitate international trade and commerce - and help small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) secure funding to do business.

"The solution will enable firms to ensure that what is supposed to be in the warehouse is really there, and it can help to create more visibility on the ground," he said, during a visit by Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing to the company's office in Pasir Panjang Road.

Ascent plans to deploy the service for customers in Singapore and Malaysia by June, and to roll it out to its other markets in the future as well.

It is part of the company's efforts to take a bigger bite out of the domestic market even as it has been rapidly expanding abroad since it was founded in 2010.

Ascent has set up shop in 18 overseas locations, including emerging markets in Africa, with Enterprise Singapore's support.

For example, Ghana's National Petroleum Authority implemented the firm's IoT monitoring solution last year to track the delivery of petroleum products in the country.

Ascent monitors thousands of heavy vehicles that transport petroleum products from 16 major depots to 4,000 petrol kiosks across the West African nation.

Mr Huang said the company's track record of working with governments has helped it to build brand credibility and win more customers in Singapore.

Chief executive Lim Chee Kean said the Republic used to generate about 20 per cent of its total revenue but now makes up 40 per cent as the firm deployed its solutions to meet Covid-19 needs here, such as in contract tracing.

Ascent was cited by Mr Chan as an example of a firm that has reaped rewards by going global.

"When they first started their operations, they did not just look at what's available for the domestic market. Their first step was to look at the global market and this is a very important point for all our companies seeking to grow their operations," said Mr Chan.

To be "born global", firms need to develop capabilities to understand the specific needs of their various markets, he said.

It is also essential for companies to have unique technological capabilities that allow them to create solutions for the international market, he noted.


Trade and Industry Minister Chan Chun Sing (centre) touring Ascent Solutions' office on with its CEO Lim Chee Kean (second left) on April 12, 2021. ST PHOTO: GAVIN FOO

"We cannot just be in this space to do arbitrage, whereby we apply other people's technology to solutions. That is possible, but it is always limited because the proprietary technology still belongs to someone else.

"For Singapore companies, including many of our SMEs, if we aspire to do well, then we need to have our proprietary technology and the IP (intellectual property) and that can be applied to the systems and services we want to sell to other countries," said Mr Chan.

He added that companies need to have a keen sense of opportunities and challenges in their markets, including Singapore, amid the pandemic to apply their solutions.