Better late than never, so goes the saying. Even if the Philippines warmed up on the dotcom revolution 30 years behind Silicon Valley, with millennials and elder IT gurus working their way through the digital potholes of Philippine internet — and coming out triumphant only in 2012 — IoT is now truly here in the Pearl of the Orient Seas.
Manila Valley Founder and CEO Chris Peralta has always believed in the potential of IoT to motor the Philippine economy and drive business. This is why he has dedicated his professional life to help raise consciousness and skills in IoT adoption, giving specific focus to mentoring tech startups. In a rare event where a panel of IT experts discussed developments in IoT, Peralta noted that 58 per cent of IoT revenues come from Asia and that there is a shift of innovation in Asia, something that companies in the Philippines need to chart and get hold of as a great opportunity.
From Hype to So-What
Peralta’s optimism is shared by other tech CEOs, big and small. Jean-Marc Mommessin of Cisco says IoT today sees a lot of innovation and influx of disruptive technology from big companies as well as from start-ups. Over the past five years, he says, people have gone beyond connecting just to connect, and are now utilizing IoT for business where consumers and customers are the ones needing and wanting to connect. According to Mommessin, about 20 billion devices in the world are in the IoT. That opens enough opportunities and wide space for start-ups in the Philippines to move around.
Today, IoT is no longer just hype. People are asking the coveted question ‘so-what’? and are seeking for answers. This is specially so both for young entrepreneurs and their eager customers. Jun Lozada, founder and CEO of security app Galileo has found a niche in backhauling IoT payloads coming to the market. His company developed Galileo as a kill switch against cyber thieves, an innovative way to guarantee the safety of all devices in the IoT.
Other local tech start-ups have also found their niche in the IoT space, such as Jason Josol, CEO of JuiceBox, an app that allows the user to connect to Apple apps and FitBit and provides information on making juice for diabetics and for fitness enthusiasts. Another is the Clear Skies company founded by Vince Villena which provides drone services to whoever needs it.
To nurture their innovative trait and advance their purpose, tech startups in the country join Launchgarage which, according to its founder, Vince Ching, is a community of “bright-minded people with a shared passion for ambitious ideas that can change the world.” Almost like Steve Job’s garage with a wild twist, Launchgarage was born out of the start-up revolution and aims to wriggle its way out of the grip of big IT conglomerates such as Ayala. It’s an online hub where founders, disruptors, hackers, makers, designers, investors and change makers belong.
Launchgarage is a silver lining to an otherwise bleak horizon of conglomerates and business giants dominating the IT industry in the Philippines. Start-ups would like to swim into opportunities but funding is hard to come by. According to Peralta, angel funding in the Philippines are coming from rich families, a stark contrast from Silicon Valley where the number of venture capitalists that provide angel funding has reached 38,000. What Launchgarage is doing is to allow start-ups a wide, open area to play without prohibition, where each idea feeds into the community and forms a life of its own.
Slowly but surely, start-ups are beginning to change the landscape of the IT industry in the Philippines. Faced by challenges, including a snail’s pace Internet, tech companies find other ways to develop IoT platforms, such as the single-sideband modulation in radio communication, SMS or texting, and Bluetooth connectivity.
Surging IoT Business
The analyst firm Frost & Sullivan puts IoT among the most promising areas of business in the Philippines. Based on its estimates, IoT spending in the country will surge from a modest US$55.1 million in 2014 to a whopping US$766.8 million in 2020.
This data will surely attract a mass of players but as recent as 2016, in a report cited during the Philippine Cloud Summit, local enterprises need more convincing about the value of IoT. A primary concern is security, with high-profile hacking incidents deterring major players into dipping their feet in IoT.
Still, what’s outstanding, according to Peralta, is that Filipinos are very open to change. Obviously, there’s this Duterte-ist mindset dominating the people’s consciousness, driving them to try new things, new products, new discoveries.
Even if you fail, says Peralta, the people are welcoming. That should be a good enough assurance for start-ups in their race to succeed in the potentially multi-billion peso IoT industry.