M1 launches showcase for enterprise apps

Even as SingTel and StarHub slug it out over consumer apps, M1 is tunnelling further into the app market for businesses with a lab that it launched on Wednesday.

The Future Lab, housed at the telco's regional operating centre in Aljunied, will let executives kick the tyres of various enterprise apps that M1 is showcasing in partnership with app developers.

One of the services at the lab uses wireless sensor technology that lets a company remotely control lighting, window blinds, air-conditioner temperatures through smartphones and tablets. Another, a fleet management app, allows firms to coordinate their vehicle fleets, from tracking the location of each vehicle to automatically calculating the related invoices and allowances.

On Wednesday, M1 also signalled what might be its own move towards the consumer end of the pool with an app development competition for Ngee Ann Polytechnic students.

M1 will sponsor the prizes for the competition - dubbed the M1 Future Lab School Challenge - and will help to market the winning teams' apps to its own base of corporate customers. The competition will focus on hospitality, transportation, gaming and healthcare.

At the same time, the polytechnic's electronic & computer engineering students will gain access to the Future Lab's tools and services. These include the lab's app-hosting services, as well as devices such as the iPad and Samsung Galaxy Note, which can be used to test apps under development.

"The Future Lab gives our students an off-campus opportunity to keep abreast of the latest technological developments in mobile devices and applications," said Ng Kee Wan, director of Ngee Ann Polytechnic's Electronic & Computer Engineering division. "I look forward to the development of more innovative apps for the benefit of individual and corporate users."

M1 is the latest operator to publicly telegraph its ambitions for the digital segment as the search for new revenue streams continues in the telco sector. SingTel led the charge early last year with the formation of its group digital business, while StarHub formed a division called I³ which has been tasked with developing digital offerings for the telco.

Since then, the industry has tried a combination of building and buying, from StarHub's e-bookstore, Booktique, to SingTel's US$321 million acquisition of mobile ad firm Amobee.

Of late, collaborations with existing apps have also come to the fore, with an exclusive SingTel-Whats-App partnership for the telco's prepaid customers and StarHub's tie-up with the Evernote app for postpaid subscribers.

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