Archive | Tech

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

2015 05 31 hkstartups

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.


By My Colleagues and Me Yesterday: How Air Workers are Using Drones and Crowdsourcing Following the Nepal Earthquake

The story begins:

Relief workers in quake-stricken Nepal say they are using drones and crowdsourced maps offered by volunteer groups as they seek to get emergency supplies to stranded survivors.

Indian and Nepalese authorities are using drones to search areas inaccessible by land, while the American Red Cross is among the agencies providing aid workers with maps that have been updated by thousands of Internet users who examine online satellite imagery and other sources.

S.S. Guleria, deputy inspector general of India’s National Disaster Response Force, which has deployed hundreds of search-and-rescue personnel to Nepal, said two unmanned aerial vehicles are being used in operations in Katmandu and its outskirts. Purchased from Mumbai-based drone company ideaForge, they are operated by pilots in a Katmandu control room.


By Me Today: How Tech Companies Like Google, Facebook, Twitter and Viber are Helping Connect People Following the Nepal Earthquake

UPDATE: Embedded above and online here: a video I recorded with WSJ Live about the story.

The story begins:

Global technology firms are pitching in on earthquake rescue efforts in Nepal with services such as free calls to and from the country to functions that track survivors and relay the news to worried relatives and friends overseas.

Search giant Google Inc. on Saturday launched its Person Finder service, which allows users to post and search for information about missing friends and loved ones. The feature, which Google created in response to the destructive 2010 earthquake in Haiti, showed it was tracking 5,100 records as of early Monday afternoon Asia time.

Facebook Inc. activated Safety Check, which allows users in areas affected by the earthquake to select a notification alerting friends on the social network that they are OK.

“When disasters happen, people need to know their loved ones are safe,” Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg wrote Saturday in a post on his Facebook page, referring to the feature developed last year. “It’s moments like this that being able to connect really matters.” The post was shared more than 41,000 times and received more than 263,000 likes.


By Me Yesterday: Google Access Disrupted in Malaysia

The story begins:

Access to Google Inc.’s Malaysia website was disrupted Tuesday, the company said, with some users redirected to a website saying “Google Malaysia Hacked.”

“We’re aware that some users are having trouble connecting to, or are being directed to a different website,” a Google spokesman said. “We’ve reached out to the organization responsible for managing this domain name and hope to have the issue resolved shortly.” Google services like Gmail haven’t been compromised, he added.

A tweet from Google Malaysia’s official Twitter account said the disruption was due to a domain name system, or DNS, redirection. DNS servers act as virtual address books and help direct Internet traffic.

Some users who tried to visit Google’s Malaysia site were sent to a website with a black background and white, red and yellow text saying “Google Malaysia Hacked by Tiger-Mate. #Bangladeshi Hacker.”


By Me Yesterday: FireEye Report Says China Likely Beghind Decadelong Cyberespionage Campaign

The story begins:

SINGAPORE—State-sponsored hackers in China are likely behind a sophisticated, decadelong cyberespionage campaign targeting governments, companies and journalists in Southeast Asia, India and other countries, a U.S. cybersecurity company said in a report released Monday.

FireEye Inc. says the attacks have been designed to glean intelligence, likely from classified government networks and other sources, pertaining to political and military issues such as disputes over the South China Sea.

Beijing’s claims in the contested South China Sea overlap with those of Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei, Taiwan and the Philippines—a U.S. treaty ally. Recently released satellite images show a dramatic expansion in China’s construction of artificial islands on disputed reefs, intensifying concerns about Beijing’s territorial ambitions.

The Milpitas, Calif.-based FireEye said the hacking efforts are remarkable because of their duration—noting some elements have been in place since 2005—and stand out because of their geographic focus.

Some of the cyberattacks have taken the form of specially crafted emails, written in recipients’ native languages, with documents that appear legitimate but contain malware, the report said.

Other attacks are intended to penetrate isolated networks, cut off from the Internet for security purposes, by tricking their administrators into downloading malware on their home computers. The malware is then implanted on the administrators’ portable drives, such as USB sticks, that are later plugged into the secure networks, infecting them, it said.


By Me Today: GrabTaxi’s Splashing the Cash New R&D Center, More Staff

The story begins:

Southeast Asia-focused Taxi booking app GrabTaxi says it’s about to splash the cash, mostly on new hires.

The Singapore-based company said Wednesday it will spend $100 million over the next five years on a new research and development center in the city-state, with a “significant portion” of that sum going to lure talent.

GrabTaxi, which launched in 2012 and operates in 20 cities across six countries, said in December it secured a $250 million investment from Japanese telecommunications and Internet giant SoftBank.

That brought its total funding nearly $340 million, with its valuation as of December reaching $1 billion, according to data from The Wall Street Journal and Dow Jones VentureSource.

Among the new hires GrabTaxi says it has recently made are Kevin Lee, who was head of Asia for U.S. data mining software company Palantir Technologies. Another is Arul Kumaravel, who previously held a senior engineering role


By Me Yesterday: Cyberdefense Spending is On the Rise in Asia

The story begins:

Spending to defend against cyberattacks is picking up speed in Asia, and the growth rate could outpace the global average this year.

The latest development underscoring the trend: the US$810 million acquisition of U.S.-based cybersecurity provider Trustwave Holdings Inc. by Singapore Telecommunications Ltd., Southeast Asia’s biggest telecom company by revenue.

The deal, announced Wednesday, follows recent high-profile breaches of companies such as Home Depot Inc., health insurer Anthem Inc. and Sony Corp.’s Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc. Hackers also targeted Malaysia Airlines’ website in January. In March, South Korean investigators said state-owned Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co. and its business partners were targeted in cyberattacks aimed at stealing internal data that included plant blueprints and employees’ personal information. Korea Hydro operates South Korea’s 23 nuclear reactors.

Executives and analysts in Asia say they are increasingly contemplating their digital defenses in light of more-frequent attacks.


My Favorite April Fools’ Day Gag of 2015: The ‘Motorola Selfie Stick’

I wish every tech firm didn’t feel the need to create an April Fools’ Day gag. But this one, from Motorola, made me smile.

Embedded above and on YouTube here: “Introducing #MotoSelfieStick.”


Recent Stories Round-Up: Telcos in Myanmar; InMobi, Snapdeal, Facebook in India

It’s been a busy week or so.

Here are links to some recent stories I’ve worked on with colleagues, both here in Singapore and in India.

Myanmar Tests Foreign Telecom Entrants (March 10):

YANGON, Myanmar—When Myanmar’s first foreign telecommunications companies, Qatar’s Ooredoo QSC and Norway’s Telenor ASA, arrived last year, customers lined up for blocks to buy their inexpensive services, exhausting the supply of SIM cards within weeks and cheering their executives.

Six months later, state-owned Myanmar Posts & Telecommunications, which had for decades monopolized the market despite its generally outdated services, has added more new customers than its challengers combined.

The scenario underscores state-owned companies’ dominance here and the conflicting forces that foreign companies face as the military government tries to modernize Myanmar’s long-isolated economy and lure fresh investment while also moving to protect its interests. As Myanmar prepares to open up other sectors, including energy, real estate, tourism and manufacturing, the telecom industry is being watched as a test case.

Google in Early Talks to Buy Indian Mobile Ad Firm InMobi (March 11):

BANGALORE, India—Google Inc. is in early stages of negotiations to buy Indian mobile ad firm InMobi, a person familiar with the matter said, as the U.S. company looks to strengthen its presence in the mobile advertising space.

“Google has expressed interest and has reached out” but there is no certainty on whether the Indian company would sell itself, this person said.

Google declined to comment.

The Economic Times first reported the news.

InMobi, one of the biggest ad networks in India, offers advertising services on mobile websites based on the profiles and behaviors of users of those sites. The company has offices across 17 countries with more than 900 employees.

Snapdeal Considers Acquisitions in India, CEO Says (March 17):

NEW DELHI—Online marketplace is considering acquiring firms in India as it seeks to expand its presence in the country’s fast-growing e-commerce market, the company’s chief executive said.

Kunal Bahl said in an interview Monday that possible acquisitions would be focused on allowing Snapdeal to expand from its current mass-retail model into more specialized niches such as luxury goods.

“We’ve got to make sure that we are giving consumers very specialized experiences” in terms of the types of products they buy online, Mr. Bahl said. He cited as an example Snapdeal’s acquisition last month of, an Indian luxury fashion website. The terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

India Is Requesting More Data About Facebook Users (March 17):

Indian authorities are increasingly asking for data on Facebook users, and Facebook is increasingly blocking content in the country.

That’s according to the U.S. social media company’s most recent report on government requests, which showed that from July to December 2014, authorities made 5,473 requests for data on users’ accounts, up from 4559 requests in the first six months of that year. Facebook provided “some data” in response to nearly 45% of those requests, the company said.

Facebook also blocked 5,832 pieces of content in the second half of 2014. That’s up from 4,960 pieces blocked from January to June last year.

I’ll continue to post links to my stories here on, as always. But just a reminder that you can also sign up for my weekly newsletter in case you’d like my clips — and other fun stuff — delivered to your inbox, as well.


There’s Finally an Ebook Version Available of Nicholas Negroponte’s ‘Being Digital”

2015 03 07 being digital

Back in Dec. 2012, I blogged about the irony that there seemed to be no ebook version available of Nicholas Negroponte’s popular book about the future of technology, “Being Digital.”

A major theme of the book, which was published in 1995: We’re moving “from atoms to bits,” and everything that can be digitized eventually will be.

Yet 17 years after the hardcover came out, the very book itself apparently hadn’t been digitized into an ebook format.

No more.


2015 03 07 ebook bd2

Thanks to reader Pierluigi Montinaro, who recently left a comment on my earlier post pointing out that an ebook version of the book is finally available, as of Jan.

Atoms do indeed turn into bits. Sometimes it just takes time, it seems.


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