Archive | Tech

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 Amazon.com 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.

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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).

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

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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.

YES.

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:

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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.

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‘Top Gun’ 2: Fighter Pilots vs. Drone Operators?

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The Guardian:

The long-mooted sequel to 80s blockbuster Top Gun will explore the culture clash between old school aviation and the new generation of unmanned drones, according to the film’s producer.

David Ellison of production company Skydance also confirmed the follow-up will feature Tom Cruise reprising his role as star fighter pilot Maverick during a junket to promote Terminator: Genisys in Berlin.

Here’s more at Collider:

During a group interview at the press day for Terminator Genisys in Berlin, Skydance CEO David Ellison and CCO Dana Goldberg were asked about the status of Top Gun 2, and what we can expect from the film, which is currently being written by Justin Marks (Street Fighter: The Legend of Chun-Li).

Question: You’re also a thrill seeker; you’re a pilot. And you have Top Gun 2 on your list, which is also with Tom Cruise. Can you talk a little bit about that?

DAVID ELLISON: Absolutely. I started flying aerobatics when I was thirteen years old, actually me and my dad took my first lesson on my thirteenth birthday. By the time I was seventeen, I was flying air shows and have thousands of hours flying surface level aerobatics. I absolutely love it. I’ve got three hundred skydives, used to sky surf until that put me in the hospital really badly so I thought maybe let’s not do that anymore, but love aviation, and Top Gun definitely fits into the seminal movie of my childhood, and as a pilot, that is really the movie. Justin Marks is writing the screenplay right now. He has a phenomenal take to really update that world for what fighter pilots in the Navy has turned into today. There is an amazing role for Maverick in the movie and there is no Top Gun without Maverick, and it is going to be Maverick playing Maverick. It is I don’t think what people are going to expect, and we are very, very hopeful that we get to make the movie very soon. But like all things, it all comes down to the script, and Justin is writing as we speak.

You’re gonna do what a lot of sequels have been doing now which is incorporate real use of time from the first one to now.
ELLISON and DANA GOLDBERG: Absolutely.

And:

In addition to confirming that the movie will be in 3D and IMAX (there will also be practical effects because that’s how Cruise rolls), Ellison went into more detail about what he meant when he talked about what the Navy has become and how it relates to Maverick:

ELLISON: Absolutely, I think this is a movie that should be in 3-D and in IMAX, and again something that you can shoot practically. As everyone knows with Tom, he is 100% going to want to be in those airplanes shooting it practically. When you look at the world of dogfighting, what’s interesting about it is that it’s not a world that exists to the same degree when the original movie came out. This world has not been explored. It is very much a world we live in today where it’s drone technology and fifth generation fighters are really what the United States Navy is calling the last man-made fighter that we’re actually going to produce so it’s really exploring the end of an era of dogfighting and fighter pilots and what that culture is today are all fun things that we’re gonna get to dive into in this movie.

I’m a sucker for anything UAV-related. But can this classic 1980s flick really be updated for the drone age? We shall see.

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By Me Yesterday: Q&A with Symantec CEO

The story begins:

The new Symantec isn’t the old Symantec.

That’s according to Chief Executive Michael Brown, who says the company, which developed computer security with its antivirus software in the late 1980s, is now concentrating on producing newer products and services amid a rise in high profile attacks in the U.S. and abroad.

Some see the well-established Mountain View, Calif.-based Symantec — which says some 99% of Fortune 500 companies are its clients — as struggling to compete with security upstarts like Palo Alto Networks and FireEye.

But Brown stresses that Symantec is moving to introduce new offerings like a service that prioritizes security alerts so that workers can determine which are most pressing.

Symantec in October 2014 said it was planning to divide its cybersecurity and Veritas information-management business into two publicly traded companies. The Wall Street Journal in April reported the company was exploring a sale of Veritas in lieu of splitting it off.

Symantec in the quarter ended April 3 reported revenue of $1.52 billion, down from $1.63 billion a year earlier. Net income fell to $176 million from $217 million a year earlier.

In an interview earlier this week in Singapore, Brown talked about what he says are misconceptions about the company, and what lies ahead.

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By Me Yesterday: The Taj Mahal Just Got Free Wi-Fi

The post, at our Digits blog, begins:

The Taj Mahal: India’s most famous monument, where visitors can take in a striking example of Mughal architecture, gaze at the edifice’s gleaming white marble, and…surf the Internet via free Wi-Fi.

Wait, free Wi-Fi? You better believe it.

India’s federal information technology minister, Ravi Shankar Prasad, on Tuesday took to Twitter to kick off a new service in which state-run telecom Bharat Sanchar Nigam is providing the service at the famed 17th century mausoleum.

Click through to read more.

Do we not live in an amazing world?

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By Me Last Week: Twitter to Beef up Singapore Office

The story, which ran on Thursday, began:

Twitter Inc. plans to double its staff in Singapore over the next two years as it seeks to lure new users and advertisers in Asia, an executive said.

Shailesh Rao, Twitter’s vice president for Asia Pacific, the Americas and emerging markets, told The Wall Street Journal in an interview Wednesday that the company will hire more than 100 new staff in Singapore, doubling its current workforce of about 80 employees. Twitter opened a small office in Singapore in 2013 and in recent weeks has moved to a larger space, which has now become the company’s Asia-Pacific headquarters.

“We need more capabilities and more people doing what they’re doing already,” in jobs such as sales, marketing, finance and more, Mr. Rao said.

Twitter is focusing on fast-growing Asian countries like India and Indonesia as it seeks to attract new users and advertising dollars, analysts say. The company, which derives most of its revenue from advertising, is looking for a boost from such emerging markets as user growth levels off in developed markets like the U.S. and the U.K.

Meanwhile, the big story on Friday was that Chief Executive Dick Costolo is stepping down. Here are the first few grafs of my colleague Yoree Koh’s story:

Dick Costolo is stepping down as Twitter Inc.’s chief executive after five years, as Wall Street began losing faith in him and the social-media company’s future growth.

The move puts a spotlight back on co-founder and Chairman Jack Dorsey, who will serve as interim CEO while he remains chief executive of payments startup Square Inc. Mr. Dorsey was Twitter’s first CEO from May 2007 to October 2008.

Twitter said it would be looking both inside and outside the company for a new chief.

Stay tuned for more.

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Mental Health Break, #RobotFails Edition

Embedded above and on YouTube here: “DARPA Robots Can’t Stay Standing.”

I intend to laugh at these things while I can.

Before they ultimately conquer the world, that is.

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By Me and a Colleague: A Look at Some Interesting Hong Kong Startups

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Think Hong Kong, and startups might not spring to mind.

But, as my colleague Lorraine Luk and I recently wrote, the city is home to an increasing number of tech companies working in fields like robotics, finance, bio-engineering and more.

Our intro story begins:

Casey Lau, a veteran Hong Kong Internet entrepreneur, in 2009 co-founded a networking group to promote the city’s burgeoning startup community. By 2013, the group, StartupsHK, had attracted 5,000 individual members. Today, just two years later, it has doubled in size to 10,000 people.

Among Hong Kong’s diverse startups are outfits working on artificial intelligence, Internet finance, robotics and more, as a new Wall Street Journal interactive illustrates.

One local company has developed what it says is the world’s most lifelike robots. Another is using biologically engineered fish embryos to detect toxins. And yet another has developed its own artificial intelligence software to buy and sell stocks.

Indeed, a website started by Lau’s group that provides a listing of local tech firms says Hong Kong is now home to more than 300 startups. The number of co-working spaces in the city, where tech workers share office space, has increased from just one in 2009 to 22 last year, one study found. The number of incubators and accelerators, meanwhile, has grown from six to 16 during that time. Hong Kong is also now home to at least one “hackerspace,” Dim Sum Labs, where people gather to tinker with contraptions like 3D printers and microcontrollers.

To be sure, Hong Kong — like most cities striving to become global technology hubs — is not quite Silicon Valley, and young technology firms here face some very real challenges.

Separately, we profiled six interesting startups.

There’s also a slideshow.

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