Pierre Robinet
Tech / Innovation
Innovfest Unbound: 3 Key Takeaways

Innovfest Unbound, held in Singapore earlier this month in partnership with IMDA and Smart Nation Innovations, is Southeast Asia’s largest and most exciting innovation festival.

Considered as the anchor event of Smart Nation Innovations, the summit connects brands and corporations with disruptive technology to empower innovation and growth. Here are three personal “tech” aways I picked up while walking from conference rooms to start-up booths and connecting with amazing tech players from the region.

1. Health and wellness innovation are leading the way

The fastest growing market in Asia, with 8.1% more spend forecasted by 2018 (vs. 5.2% globally), the healthcare market is driven by new innovative players, including prestigious research institutions. For example, the Temasek Polytechnic supports in-advanced glycemic index testing to provide credible and confidential GI testing laboratory services for the local and international food industry. The National University of Singapore and the NUS 3DP Centre leverage 3D printing in innovative healthcare products to improve patient outcomes and change lives for the better.

Whilst some players focus on identifying and preventing risk, but also provide highly personal diagnosis, others support patients in their treatment with personalized services.  JOYTINGLE, an early stage start-up,  presented a new smart medication helper for kids at Innovfest. Believing that children’s fear of needles can be managed, founder Esther Wang created Rabby Ray, a rabbit who can ally children’s fears by delivering quality content and bringing them a relevant customer experience on the often “scary” subject of medication.

2. Data tracking and modeling are essential, not optional

Of course there are no relevant customer experiences without access to data, the fuel of our new economy. Unsurprisingly, the rise of new tracking systems in every domain was one of the major trends of this exhibition. From retail, to health, the data tracking and monetization race has well and truly started, and competition will be fierce. Most players look beyond simple analytics to capture new human behaviours: eye tracking technologies, emotion recognition and sentiment analysis now constitute the future of this industry, and data interpretation will have to contribute to enrich customer experiences.

Tracking new data and customer behaviours is crucial, but modelling this information will also be of huge importance, to digest data and translate this into actionable information for end-users.

In a very competitive industry, more than ever the user interface will play a huge role in the success of these new players. A personal highlight of the exhibition was PATSNAP , who map in 3D patent researches, combining large volumes of global information to serve R&D teams, intelligence and strategic planners or even research staff at academic institutions. Finally, tracking and modeling seem to be inseparably linked to success in the new data economy, where both the data quality and treatment are crucial.

3. AI is a game changer

When it comes to connecting the dots and capturing the right insights from these vast data-sets, what else could it be than artificial intelligence? The game has changed dramatically, and today is about not just gathering data, but truly understanding it. Are we finally moving from an analytics-driven system to a cognitive and predictive-driven system? Let’s be humble; we haven’t yet attained the artificial grail. All these changes are occurring because of advances in machine learnings and the power of algorithm to recognize, read, compare, merge, and analyze data in real time and provide comprehensive, useful and actionable information to finally transform our industry and the way we do business.

Machine learning appears in every new business, and has become the oil to any industry in providing smart customer experiences. A good example is AMBI; an Air Conditioner smart-enabler, adapting your AC to your needs leveraging machine learning to deliver the perfect temperature you need at home.


Singapore takes this very seriously, and the Minister for Communications and Information Yaacob Ibrahim has announced during INNOVFEST Unbound the launch of AI.SG. The National Research Foundation (NRF) will be investing up to S$150 million into a new national program aimed at boosting Singapore’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities over the next five years. The initiative will see Singapore-based research institutes partner with AI start-ups and companies developing AI products to grow knowledge in the space, create tools and develop talent to power the country’s AI efforts. During Innovfest Unbund, AI was on everybody’s mind, and looks set to be the catalyst of this customer revolution.

This year, Innovfest allocated a huge space to the increasingly disruption of the health & wellness world. Not surprising when we consider that over the next 10 years more than US$100 trillion will be spent on Healthcare globally, and knowing APAC is the fastest growing region in the Wellness space, representing US$42 billion and 22% of the global wellness economy (Source Global Wellness Institute). This is evidence that the future of health and wellness is in data and machine learning. Customer and patient data is the lifeblood of this growing industry and accessing this will become a priority for any start-up.

As Hyperloop co-founder Dirk Ahlborn put it during his inspiring talk at Innovfest: “as an entrepreneur you just need crowd and people, money will come naturally”. I would add, you need people who trust your idea to open their data to your business and support your revolution.

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