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Technology veteran leads the way for a safer city through strengthened connections

With the aim to expand its public safety capabilities, NEC builds a full lineup of safety solutions to improve the lives of people worldwide. NEC realizes this goal through its Global Safety Division (GSD), which harnesses its new communication technology to strengthen collaboration among its employees globally and make cities around the world safer, more productive places to live in. GSD Head Tan Boon Chin talks about how GSD came about, his vision for effective global safety practices, and his leadership formula that contributes in making NEC a leader in innovative technology.

Innovations that pave the way for a greater future

--Could you give us a background on GSD?

Tan: GSD or the Global Safety Division was set up last year in Singapore and its aim is to expand NEC’s global solution offerings.

NEC has never really tapped on its technological expertise to offer comprehensive global solutions. So with GSD, we want to truly offer global solutions that streamline processes and offer customers consistent solutions throughout their organizations across markets.

--Why establish GSD in Singapore instead of the headquarters in Japan?

Establishing GSD outside Japan gives us a broader perspective. With an office in Singapore, we are linked to the various regions as it’s a hub that connects the East to the West. We also get to tap on the rich talent pool as Singapore attracts professionals from across the globe which complements our strength in technology that still comes from our headquarters in Japan.

--In developing these solutions, what were the challenges faced by GSD?

Tan: First was the difficulty of understanding the scope of global solutions, and how to establish these globally. The world is quite fragmented – it’s divided into East, West, and Emerging and Third-World countries. These are all different, and the challenge was how we can fashion our technologies to meet their needs and varying cultures. Our role was to find a middle ground and create global solutions that fit every need.

To date, we have four regions, aside from the Asia Pacific, that avail of our global solutions: North America, Latin America, EMEA, and Greater China. After gathering data from these regions, we try to formulate and develop the fitting solutions that address each of these regions’ unique needs.

For example, in countries like China or India, pricing is always a concern for large MNCs like NEC. With these big markets, the pricing point is always very difficult to establish. It was a challenge for us to find out how our solutions can meet the price point. We at GSD have to ensure that our solution is differentiated for others to avoid price competition.

--You mentioned that GSD solution has seven divisions. Can you tell us more about them?

We have seven domain areas of focus. Based on the information we’ve gathered from the regions, we are starting off with: (1) Citizen Services & Immigration Control, (2)Law Enforcement, (3)Public Administration Services, (4)Critical Infrastructure Management, (5)Information Management, (6)Emergency & Disaster Management, (7)Inter-Agency Collaboration. These are all selected in consensus from all the leaders for PS in the 5 regions. From this list, there is a mixture of what we have been doing and good at, and new areas we want to create for the future.

--Can we talk about your principles in developing solutions?

There are various regions, having different time zones, cultures, and each being at various stage of development. Even the businesses are different - most of them are communication-based subsidiaries, so to move them into a solution-based technology was quite difficult.

To overcome the challenge, we developed a common medium where all the regional staff can access and share information, send updates quickly, and be able to link together. It is something like a search engine, where thousands of answers are available, depending on what you want. It is a kind of platform that we hope all global safety staff can access, communicate in and share information from. This is the nbook.

Enhancing collaborations by making information more accessible

--Were there changes in the workplace atmosphere after nbook was deployed?

Tan: Definitely. Now, we have a common platform where the staff can get most of the information, including very detailed documents and use the cases for their reference. Previously, staff had to rely on various communication means to get hard copies of documents and it took time and more effort to secure those. It is also easier for everyone to participate in discussions and share their opinions on various topics about the projects they’re working on.

--I heard there was a change in the process from the development stage to sales, after implementing nbook. Is that true?

Yes. After nbook, the turnaround time from sales to development was shortened. We have received feedback from the development teams globally, saying that the development process is much better, as we are able to retrieve information quicker. We are now also able to provide information to the customers faster than before.

Boosting efforts in bringing out the NEC advantage

--What were the advantages of availing GSD’s solutions?

Before GSD was set up, individual regions would develop their own solution. We were duplicating development efforts. This is not an efficient way of using resources which can be limited. Now, we can build a common component or block that could be used in various cases many times. It will save us development costs and reduce time to market.

This is the first time we are trying to build a global solution. What probably gives us an edge is that we are very strong in the technology area. We are building stronger solutions than our competitors.

Also, the key is knowing what our customers want, studying their needs and developing our solutions based on the information we gather, as well as adjusting our pricing to reach out to more customers. It is important for us to address our customers’ needs and ensure that they will be satisfied. There’s also a conscious effort on our side to provide global solutions that meet local needs. As they say, ‘Think global, act local.’ We want to be able to relate to their needs and provide them solutions on a larger scale.

--Can you share the achievements you’ve gained after bringing in nbook in your operations?

Our team is only about ten months old, but one thing that we have achieved in that short span of time is launching NeoFace WATCH, a facial recognition package. This product is very promising, and what’s more exciting is that we were able to gain sales in the Asia Pacific, Americas and Europe. Hopefully in the next couple of months, we’ll expand even more in other markets.

--Could you tell us what projects and solutions GSD is currently working on now?

GSD was set up in April 2013, so the Division is only 11 months old. That said, GSD is involved in several major projects. One is the Singapore Safe City Test Bed. This project involves collecting data from sensors and networks operated by multiple government agencies. The Safe City Test Bed uses leading-edge analytical and information sharing technology to compile and utilize the collected data.

An issue the Singaporean Government has had to deal with in the past is the inability to properly transmit and respond to information on-scene. Government agencies were unsure of how they should respond to certain situations. Thus, the first step is to create a new system to amass disparate pieces of information from different agencies, to collectively analyze and interpret that information, and to then optimize the allocation of resources to the scene of a problem. NEC provides support in varied forms as a major partner in a consortium to implement this major project in Singapore.

Another major effort NEC is involved in is collaborating with INTERPOL. INTERPOL is establishing a Digital Crime Centre in Singapore to prevent cybercrime. NEC will provide the Centre with advanced cybersecurity technology and solutions along with personnel. NEC will furnish support in various forms to help the Centre prevent international cybercrime.

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