EE Times Asia met with Matej Krajnc, managing director for the ASEAN and ANZ divisions of National Instruments. Krajnc, who is responsible for the growth of NI presence, visibility, sales and application engineering in the region talked to us about regional strengths and trends.

Your sales growth in the Americas is more than double than that in the Asia Pac. Can you compare those markets?
The U.S. does a lot of things in design and research. Asia and Southeast Asia particularly is still partially an emerging market where we see huge potential… it is one of the fastest growing parts of the world.

[But] most of the manufacturing is happening in Asia. Southeast Asia drives a lot of business activity for us. We are heavily involved in testing and test is an important component of all kinds of electronics manufacturing processes.

Products are becoming complex which dictates that companies have to continue to invest and increase the area they cover under test as well as deal with the new complexity that the products present.

On the other hand, we are also looking at how we can focus more on working closely with customers that represent a big potential for us in that they have challenges and we can work closer with them to be successful.

Do you think the ASEAN still has the same potential given the recent push towards domestic manufacturing in the U.S.?
I don't see that this would change anything in relation to Asia… anything related to the ASEAN specifically. If this does happen, it is going to be a slow process because you can't simply move everything. It's all related to the supply chain. Given the skill of labour and scale of manufacturing…

Even if it did [policies favoured domestic manufacturing in the U.S.], I would think that it [the ASEAN] will continue to grow. I don't see any other alternative.

What key markets are you focusing on in the ASEAN and the ANZ?
Most of the countries in the ASEAN have a unique industrial footprint. First, we find the general focus of the industry in each country and then we try to fine tune and micro-adjust the strategy for each country.

In the last 12 years, I have seen the industrial footprint changed dramatically twice in Australia and New Zealand. When I arrived it was very manufacturing focused. They started to outsource manufacturing. If you look today, manufacturing doesn't exist in Australia anymore.

On the other side, we've seen a mining boom—NI delivers systems that optimise the exploration of resources.

Now, we see a lot of research activity. There's a new trend in bio-medical. The Australian government has also started to more aggressively fund research projects. Down the road, I see [a trend in Australia towards] agriculture connected with highly sophisticated technologies that would, rather than reduce the costs, increase efficiency and productivity.

The New Zealand economy is booming as well because of the agriculture industry.

In agriculture, are we talking about applications like sensing and monitoring moisture levels?
That's one part. Labour cost is one of the big challenges. You can bring additional technologies so that farmers can be more efficient and provide better yield at the end so that they can be more competitive in the market.

We are talking about semi- or fully autonomous vehicle technologies that are starting to be introduced in that area.

In New Zealand, the scale of [farm] land is much smaller than that in Australia and they have other challenges [that they want to resolve], for instance, using automated pollination of plants.

In the ASEAN, which industry most excites you?
Semicon industry is in huge expansion. Countries like Singapore used to be very manufacturing focused. Because of the cost [of manufacturing in Singapore], it has become less attractive. But I see initiatives from the government to support ideas that improve efficiency so that they continue to manufacture using smart factories or Industry 4.0.

I see this as a way to preserve manufacturing because having those jobs there is very important but at a higher level. We see this as an opportunity.

Beyond Singapore, do you see the smart factory market beginning to grow in other ASEAN countries? [See Infineon production goes smart in Singapore.]
Yes, everywhere. I see a lot of organised approach from the governments and different agencies. No matter, it's Malaysia, Vietnam or New Zealand. No country will really be excluded [from the move towards Industry 4.0].

It's all about connecting things together at the industrial level and how you can bring and collect enough data so that you can analyse it to make some really good, smart decisions to, let's say, be more efficient and have more resources available for future investment.

Time sensitive networks will be important for Industry 4.0 and 5G will be important too because it will provide enough bandwidth wirelessly to collect from the devices and transmit all the data.

In IoT, we are seeing a lot of companies putting sensors and they are putting more effort into computing the data locally so that they can analyse as much as possible locally—at the edge. I see a huge flow in these technologies to move, expand, evolve.

Can you talk about 5G related developments you see in this region?
The main impact [of 5G], I would say, will be on non-industrial [applications]. But if you look at IoT, it will use mobile phones to connect to all these devices and 5G will be instrumental. And then if we look at vehicles, that will be another big application.

We see a lot of research happening. We are working on many projects with leading universities in the area and even emerging countries [economies] have some good projects and successes around 5G. They are trying, for instance, to maximise the throughput using MIMO. Australia, Singapore, Indonesia, Vietnam are all involved [in research]. It's happening everywhere in bits and pieces. The research is in conjunction with some telco providers. [Kranjc did not name them because of business obligations.]

Any new university tie-ups for you around the region this year?
We have agreements with many universities. We recently opened two LabView academies in Vietnam at RMIT and Ho Chi Minh City University. They will be able to teach LabView and provide certification to students that is globally recognised and have better employment opportunities.

Academics for us is very important. We see that students gain so much if they use LabView for discovery during University but more importantly this is a industry-standard software and that makes them way more employable.