Archive | Tech

Exclusive: DJI’s Releasing an Agriculture Drone

A colleague and reported today that DJI, the world’s biggest drone maker, is releasing a crop-spraying drone.

The story begins:

China’s SZ DJI Technology Co., the world’s top consumer-drone maker, is setting its sights on the agriculture industry with the launch of a crop sprayer that will test whether farming is fertile ground for drone technology.

DJI, which helped kick-start the global craze for drones with its $1,000 easy-to-fly devices, will on Friday unveil an eight-rotor drone priced at roughly $15,000 that is designed to spray pesticides on crops, a spokesman said. DJI said the drone, which has a 2.6-gallon spray tank and a typical takeoff weight of 49 pounds, can fly for about 12 minutes.

It can spray pesticides on seven to 10 acres of farmland per hour, depending on how much it needs to climb, descend or turn to follow the terrain.

The battery-powered DJI Agras MG-1 will be available first in China and South Korea, though the company didn’t specify exactly when it would go on sale. In China, DJI is taking preorders starting on Friday. The drone is expected to be available in other markets later, the company said.



Scoop: Facebook Eyeing Asia for Instant Articles Ad Platform

A colleague and I reported earlier this week that Facebook’s looking at Asia to launch its Instant Articles advertising platform.

The story begins:

Facebook Inc. is laying the groundwork to expand its Instant Articles service in Asia, underscoring the extent to which it considers populous emerging markets as it implements new features.

The world’s largest social network has in recent weeks advertised job openings via its Asia-Pacific headquarters in Singapore for contractors who will work with “new publishers to begin developing Instant Articles” and “provide direct support to publishers” who use the service. The jobs call for candidates who can speak Thai or Vietnamese.

Instant Articles allow media companies to publish material directly on Facebook, rather than as links to their sites. Facebook says these articles load ten times faster than standard articles on mobile phones. The company launched Instant Articles in the U.S. in May and in India last week.


By Me Yesterday: ‘What the New H-1B Visa Reform Bill Could Mean for Indian Outsourcers’

The story begins:

Life could get tougher for Indian outsourcing firms that do business in the U.S. and for Indians who want to get visas to work there.

A key part of India’s outsourcing industry has long been to send thousands of its information-technology engineers and programmers to the U.S. on skilled-worker permits known as H-1B visas.

But two U.S. senators are renewing their efforts to force employers to try to hire Americans first before foreign workers.

Chuck Grassley, an Iowa Republican and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, and Illinois Democrat Dick Durbin last week introduced a bill that would require all companies that want to hire workers under H-1Bs to first try to hire U.S. citizens.


By Me Yesterday: ‘Flush Indian Startups Face Shortage of Skilled Workers’

The story begins:

BANGALORE, India—Software engineer Anshul Goel graduated from college in 2013. In the 2½ years since then, the 24-year-old has switched jobs three times, jumping from one Indian tech company to another, and doubled his salary.

Mr. Goel, who specializes in writing code that e-commerce startups and others use to predict customer behavior, says he is deluged with emails from headhunters. “My mailbox is full of them,” he said. “And it’s not only me.”

Indian startups, flush with cash from foreign venture capitalists, have been on a hiring spree as they race to scale up and beat rivals in an increasingly competitive market. Venture capitalists have poured some $4.54 billion into India’s startups so far this year, surpassing the $4 billion invested last year, says Indian data tracker Venture Intelligence. But a shortage of skilled workers is driving up wages and turning into a serious hurdle to companies’ expansion plans.

The country is home to millions of information-technology workers, veterans of India’s huge outsourcing industry. But, tech executives say, few of them have the cutting-edge abilities that startups in businesses from e-commerce to ride-booking apps crave.

I also wrote a post at our Digits blog about perks some workers are securing:

Free rides to work, cool offices with tasty food, new smartphones — it’s a good time to be a talented software engineer in India.


By Me This Week: Zuckerberg Visits India

The story begins:

Shut out of China, Mark Zuckerberg is training his sights on India as a source for future growth.

The Facebook Inc. founder arrived in India on Tuesday as he continues working to expand the company’s reach in a billion-person economy becoming increasingly important in the social networking giant’s quest to add new users.

It is Mr. Zuckerberg’s second visit to India in the last 12 months. During the last one he met with Prime Minister Narendra Modi and launched a free Internet initiative.

Connecting more people in the developing world has become an important goal for Mr. Zuckerberg and his firm. India’s population of more than 1.2 billion people, millions of whom speak English, will be one of the biggest targets for the company’s global growth plans, analysts say, as China doesn’t allow its citizens access to the website.

I also helped some colleagues out with a liveblog for the town hall Q&A Zuckerberg held in Delhi.

Click through for a re-cap of the event, in which Zuckerberg defended Facebook’s controversial free Internet project,, which I mentioned writing about few weeks back.


Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Taking Selfies But Were Afraid to Ask

2015 09 16 selfies

Aanand Prasad, pictured above, has written an amusing — and exhaustive — guide to taking selfies:

Do you ever hate how you look in photos taken by other people? That’s because other people have no clue how to make you look good. But you can very easily learn how.

Selfies have been a positive force in my life ever since I came across the wonderful #dudetime and its gently radical flipping of the default male gaze. If you think selfies are bad for any reason, I don’t want to know. I suggest getting in a bin and sharing your bad opinions with the other trash.

The target audience is straight dudes, but there are tips in here for everyone. He covers topics like lighting, camera angles, facial expressions, backgrounds, composition, and more.

Fun stuff.


By Me Yesterday: Singapore Online Grocery Startup RedMart Hires Amazon Exec

The story begins:

Singapore-based online grocery-delivery service RedMart has scored some valuable new talent in its quest to conquer Southeast Asia.

The startup said Thursday it has hired a longtime senior executive at Inc. who once spent two years as a technical adviser to Chief Executive Jeff Bezos.

Colin Bryar, a former Amazon vice president, has joined Redmart as the company’s chief operating officer, and will oversee issues such as engineering, marketing and operations, according to RedMarket Chief Executive Roger Egan.

Mr. Bryar has “such tremendous experience shadowing one of the top leaders in tech for two plus years,” Mr. Egan told The Wall Street Journal.


By Me: Commercial Drone Startups Are Taking Off Here in Asia

The story begins:

Half a dozen men gathered around a workbench in a government building one morning as Tack Wai Wong, an engineering expert clad in a crisp white shirt and gray trousers, took his place at the front of the table.

“Once upon a time all of this was military technology,” said Mr. Wong, 50 years old, as he ran his fingers along the rotors of one of several small unmanned aerial vehicles spread out before him. “Now you can make drones yourself.”

The workshop was aimed at teaching people in this tightly controlled city-state how to fly drones safely—and maybe even hatch ideas for commercial applications.

The U.S. is a hotbed for commercial drone startups, and the Federal Aviation Administration in February proposed long-awaited rules for drones that will likely make their use even more widespread in the country.

But drone startups are increasingly taking flight across Asia. They are using the crafts to locate faulty solar panels in Singapore, prospect land in the Philippines, map plantations in Thailand and more. While companies also use such applications in other parts of the world, entrepreneurs here are working with cooperative governments in some places, taking advantage of lax regulations in others, and providing services that appeal to local markets in new ways.

There’s also a slideshow and, embedded above, a video (narrated by yours truly).


Apple Music’s Beats 1 isn’t Just Radio on the Web

2015 07 06beats1 2

2015 07 06 beats1

Dawn Chmielewski, writing over at ReCode:

Zane Lowe’s debut on Apple’s Beats 1 radio reminded me of what has been missing from my iTunes music collection: Personality.

The former BBC Radio 1 DJ played to my anticipation, spending a long radio minute talking about how he selected the first song to be played on Beats 1 — a release from the rock band Spring King from Manchester, England, that’s little known beyond its fan base but whose track “City” has gradually built momentum. The sort of thing, Lowe said, that’s needed to kick this whole thing off.

“Just like that! To 100 countries right now, broadcasting on Apple Music,” said Lowe, his voice bristling with a kinetic energy. “To the early adopters. To those hungry for music. From town to town, city to city, into the unknown we go.”

I felt swept up into a global music party, as Lowe ticked off the location of listeners tuning in from London, Antwerp, Seattle, Munich, Helsinki, Barcelona, Denmark, Miami. The music selections were as diverse as the geography, as Lowe played tracks from Gallant, a soul singer from Los Angeles, followed by Slaves, a punk band from Kent, Jack Garratt, a British pop singer, and an exclusive first broadcast of Pharrell Williams’ new single, “Freedom.”

Listening to the inaugural broadcast of Apple’s livestreamed radio, I felt part of some larger, shared music experience. Judging from the conversation on Twitter, I wasn’t alone, as the music cognoscenti remarked on the song selection and delivery, and picked up on the subtext of Lowe’s “We Salute You” tribute to AC/DC, whose catalog has not been available on streaming services until now.


I’ve been Tweeting about this. I agree.

Of course, broadcasting radio over the Internet isn’t new — just ask Russ Hanneman of “Silicon Valley” — but a few components make Apple’s endeavor unique.

Namely: the size of the audience, Apple’s “ecosystem,” and round-the-clock DJs.

The sheer number of people listening to Beats 1 on their iOS devices means, as Chmielewski writes, that you’re part of a wider audience, which means you can interact with DJs and fellow listeners on Twitter, for example.

And having the tunes play on your iPhone means if a song you’ve never heard comes on, you can easily click through (even if the screen is locked) and favorite it, add it to a playlist, view the album (and, of course, buy it).

But for me, the most compelling component is the DJs themselves. I’ve come across more new artists I’m interested in during the first week or so of Apple Music than I typically would in several months listening to Rdio, a music streaming service I’ve used for a couple of years now.

The difference: On Rdio, which lacks human DJs, I’d usually explore various artists but gravitated to those I knew, typically playing the same music over and over.

But I’m drawn to the Beats 1 station on Apple Music, often hear songs I wouldn’t normally listen to repeated a few times — just like in the old days of radio — and they grow on me, for instance.

Here are a few links for more reading:


Exclusive by Me and a Colleague Yesterday: GrabTaxi Raises New Funds

The story begins:

More cash is pouring into the increasingly competitive ride-hailing business in Asia, fueling local competitors to global market leader Uber Technologies Inc.

Southeast Asia-focused ride-hailing app GrabTaxi is getting an infusion of over $200 million in fresh capital in its latest fundraising round led by U.S. hedge fund Coatue Management LLC, according to a person familiar with the situation. The investment values the company at over $1.5 billion including the fresh capital from the latest fundraising, according to the person.

Existing investors in the company, including Japan’s SoftBank Group Corp. and Tiger Global Management LLC, are also participating in the round, the person said. It is possible that GrabTaxi could increase the size of the round with the inclusion of additional investment in coming weeks, the person said.

GrabTaxi is among a crop of local competitors in Asia that have sprung up to battle with global ride-hailing market leader Uber across the region. Local competitors in Asia include China’s Didi Kuaidi, which is raising $2 billion in funding, India’s Ola and Easy Taxi. Uber itself is raising funds specifically for its China unit.


Powered by WordPress. Designed by Woo Themes

%d bloggers like this: