5 Questions With Franklin Tang, CEO, Philip Tang & Sons
With more and more homes turning into fully integrated Smart Homes, we talk to Franklin Tang, CEO of Philip Tang & Sons about their creation, Habitap, aimed at making smart homes more of a reality than a dream in Asia.
How did you come to the realisation that there was a gap that needed to be filled in terms of having an integrated solution that connects global smart home products and services?
I started out working for Philip Tang & Sons. We were a custom developer of systems for private sector companies in Singapore and beyond. We focused on design and build software for the first 10 years of my career. In 2011, the company had already started to move into developing our own brand of products.
In 2015, we partnered with a global tech giant to build a prototype of a smart home in Singapore. In the process of building that prototype, we realised that despite there being so many Internet-Of-Things (IOT) or smart home products globally, they were either poorly integrated or not integrated at all. Each product either had their own app or intended to create an app just for the product itself. This resulted in us having multiple apps and we had the huge task of integrating all of them. The extent of effort required to do so was something the average non “techie” person would not be able to accomplish. That prototype, being in line with Singapore’s vision for Smart nation registered strong interest from the local private property developers.
We realised that there was a gap that could be filled and that having an integrated solution that would consolidate all these apps and functions would make things very convenient for homeowners. That’s how Habitap was born. The first project to have Habitap as an offering is Corals at Keppel Bay.
Beyond aiming to provide a seamless and hassle-free luxury home experience, do your services help firms and commercial developments increase productivity?
Habitap is a fully integrated platform that seamlessly integrates three core functions: smart controls, smart community and smart lifestyle gateway. And what makes us stand out is the DNA of the product which focuses on the seamless user experience and is software driven, not a hardware driven or focused platform. It does this through consolidating functions conveniently into a single app so users can control and monitor their home or office, manage community facilities and curate their lifestyle.
Habitap allows for the booking of facilities remotely which also has dynamic controls meaning that only those that have booked the facility are able to access it using their smartphone. This means that you no longer need to have manual records or have staff check and open the facilities. Habitap users are able to invite and manage guests with the app doubling up as a smart intercom and replacing the need for access cards. This reduces the need for guest to physically go to guard rooms to sign in and exchange passes. By extension this would mean that driving into a development can be done seamlessly by having a QR code on the Habitap invite that can be used to scan and gain entry. All these provisions contribute to productivity and reduce the need for additional manpower and operations.
Beyond these international collaborations, you have also mentioned that; “the government is pushing technological advancement in the right direction and much of [Habitap’s] success is due to this government objective and its halo effect.” How have you worked with the government to turn Singapore into a smart nation?
There now is a much clearer direction and stronger push to absorb technology into everyday workings, especially after the National Day Rally 2017. We now see a nationwide cashless payment system being developed and a new app that has been launched recently to manage public parking. There is an impetus to use technology to do thing efficiently and productively and many are open to using such technology if the benefit is there.
This builds on previous positions taken to move towards being a Smart Nation. Nowhere else do you see top down requirements to ensure fibre optic internet connections for every household or requirements for telco companies to increase service reach. The removal of 2G phone signals further helps to push the community towards taking up smart devices. This means that everyone knows how to use such devices even the elderly folk in Singapore. This leads to more awareness and comfort in using apps like Habitap where different generations in the same household are able to reap the benefits that Habitap offers.
How do you think the concept of a Smart Nation has been adopted by the Singapore public?
There is a sense of uncertainty associated with technological advances and how this impacts the way we go about our everyday lives. Technology has resulted in certain tasks and jobs becoming redundant as a result of new solutions being able to meet the very same requirements. But this also means that there are new ways to do things, the only drawback is that it will take time to acclimatise to the change. We saw this when SMS was prevalent and apps started eating away at that dominance through using WhatsApp, Skype etc. It took some time before the latter was accepted and normalised to the point even the elderly folk, including my parents, now being able to communicate just like everyone else.
Looking to the future, what other collaborations do you envision your company getting involved in?
We have already started working on enhanced features for our residential offering such as an improved mobile app design, offering online payments for maintenance fees and facility booking deposits and more importantly, improving the overall performance of the smart homes. We are also integrating other community services such as carpark, lift control, and security systems. What’s more is that we are also working with lifestyle partners to create completely new services and business models as an evolution of our lifestyle partnerships. The next step in the evolution is making Habitap seamlessly embedded into daily life. This would mean that one would not have to use a specific mechanism or device for Habitap to function. The goal is that Habitap will end up becoming second nature just like how we switch the lights on or off.
Habitap launched with Corals at Keppel Bay in July 2016 and has since rolled out Habitap and its smart home and community offerings at The Glades, The Clement Canopy, Highline Residences and Kandis Residences. We have another three residential projects to be launched later this year. We have seen a continuous stream of interest from property developers to include Habitap as part of their offering to private homeowners for their upcoming project launches as well to customise the app to the individual needs of each of the developments.
On the commercial front, Habitap is behind MySphere which is the app that covers M+S’ two mixed-used integrated developments. We have been awarded our first commercial building upgrading project. Habitap is going overseas with two confirmed smart office projects lined up. For smart offices, we have also completed the first smart office in Singapore for a service office brand (to be officially announced soon) and have been engaged for similar upcoming projects.