How Bussr and Nekla partnership could be a gamechanger in Digital Payments

Singapore-based transport technology provider Bussr will offer its passengers a digital payment option through payment provider Nekla.

This partnership millions of underbanked users to pay for Bussr services easily. Nekla is founded by Silicon Valley and Wall Street pioneers.

Nekla is creating a global payment ecosystem which can be accessed by anyone with a $30 smartphone and data access. Download the app, deposit local currency to your account from a third-party financial service provider, or deposit cash in a retail store. You then have digital currency that can be used almost anywhere on earth.

Bussr was founded two years ago by entrepreneurs Hussein Abdelkarim and IM Shousha. The app is a platform that caters to all segments of South-East Asia’s US$30 billion mobility market including ride-sharing, public buses, private buses, scooter rentals, and car pooling.

This partnership will allow Bussr to rapidly expand the scope of their operations to the 5.7 billion people in emerging markets in Asia, Africa, and beyond. It’s numbers like that which make Bussr believe they will earn a large share of the global transit and ground passenger transportation market that is predicted to reach US$908.8 billion by 2027.

Bussr currently operates across more than 500 cities, with over 830 transport operators, 60-plus payment partners, and more than 100,000 retail stores. While Bussr has already seen more than 12 million passengers use their platform in less than two years, they believe it is Nekla’s digital-based payment platform that will lead to ubiquity on a global scale.

The under-banked conundrum

A challenge Bussr has been facing, which Nekla addresses, is meeting the demand from emerging markets, where 1.7 billion adults are still locked out of the conventional banking system, even though half a billion of that population have access to the internet. This means over a third of the planet’s adult population is unbanked.

Take the example of Vietnam. According to a study in 2018 by Euromonitor, World Bank and Bain and Temasek, 69 per cent of the Vietnamese adult population do not have a bank account, the highest rate in Southeast Asia. https://w.media/vietnams-underbanked-are-fintech-startups-ready-to-take-on-telco-giants/

For Bussr, this means millions of customers who want to use their platform, but have no reliable way of paying.

Nekla’s technology can certainly address the issues of providing service to the unbanked with access to money, all the while benefiting from its inherent strengths of trustworthiness and transparency. But what really captured Bussr’s attention was how Nekla could make digital payments beginner-friendly and accessible to millions of people, according to company executives.

Front-line financial technologies, despite the headlines, are far from reaching mass adoption worldwide. After all, most people don’t have time to study complex algorithms to make a simple payment.

Bridge between real world and digital finance

Nekla believes that they can bridge the divide between the real world and the digital finance space, and trigger a global, mass uptake of digital finance with a beginner-friendly, easy-to-use payment and lending platform. Bussr’s Mobility-as-a-Service (MaaS) technology serves both as a mobile app for private travelers and a full journey ticketing, payment, and fleet management solution for cities and enterprises.

Its AI platform continuously monitors millions of data points to help large-scale transport operations perform at optimal efficiency for both passengers and operators.

Bussr is backed by high-profile investors, such as Bridford Group, Peng Ong of Monk’s Hill, Le Mercier Group, Jack Selby of Thiel Capital, Altitude Partners, Angela Huang, Duncan Clark, Founder of China BDA, Alibaba early investor and author of the book ‘The House That Jack Ma Built, Andrew Huang of Fountainvest, and Alfa Intelligence Capital. There are also strategic angel investors from Facebook, PayPal, Lyft, Spotify, Zoom, Didi, and Impossible Foods. The Bussr app operates in 2,500 destinations in South-East Asia.

On its part Nekla’s management team has managed the world’s largest internet ventures, led major digital transformation projects for governments and global consulting firms like PwC and Deloitte, and guided industry leaders, acting as Microsoft’s Chief Architect and Google’s Enterprise Architect in billion-customer markets.

With this experience and knowledge behind it, and with the backing of such influential partners, Nekla believes it can make Digital Finance the new norm for mass-adopted payments and lending around the world.

Honda to introduce First Energy service in Europe

Honda will introduce its first energy service in Europe and launch its domestic intelligent charging solution ‘e:PROGRESS’ in the UK.

e:PROGRESS is a home charging solution which includes a connected charger, an advanced intelligent software developed by smart charging and aggregation specialist, Moixa. The software sets a charging schedule to ensure the car is always adequately charged when it’s needed based on the requirements of the owner, while optimising the use of low-priced clean energy.

Europe’s EV push

e:PROGRESS is the first service to be introduced by Honda’s new Energy Solutions division, a business unit recently established to offer a comprehensive portfolio of charging and energy management products and services to EV owners in Europe. Other projects in development include Honda Power Manager – a bi-directional vehicle-to-grid system which enables the collection and distribution of electricity between EVs and the grid to intelligently balance demand and supply of energy, and to make better use of renewables.

Jorgen Pluym, General Manager of Honda’s Energy Solutions division said: “Introducing e:PROGRESS to the market is a significant statement of Honda’s ambition in the provision of energy solutions as part of the continued move towards electrification and the widespread adoption of electric vehicles. This unique and innovative service, our first energy solution for Europe, gives Honda e customers a highly-advanced intelligent charging solution offering considerable cost savings, while our partner Octopus Energy guarantees that 100 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources.”

Electricity will be provided by Octopus Energy, with its UK-first dynamic tariff, Agile Octopus, a combined tariff for both the EV and home which allows customers access to lower prices during renewable-heavy, off-peak periods. Moixa’s software selects the most cost-effective times to charge the Honda e based on the tariff, which changes price as often as every 30 minutes in response to fluctuations in wholesale energy prices.

This gives customers an estimated annual saving in charging costs of up to EUR475 per year compared to a standard flat tariff, while Octopus Energy guarantees that 100 per cent of its electricity comes from renewable sources, the company said.

e:PROGRESS offers a seamless experience in setting up the service, guiding the customer through checking their eligibility online, switching to the dynamic tariff and subscribing to intelligent charging.

The preferred connected charger for the service is the Honda Power Charger S+ (4G), which connects remotely to e:PROGRESS to schedule access to low-cost electricity. With a simple yet sophisticated design inspired by that of the Honda e, Honda Power Charger has been designed to create more value in the future with further intelligent charging services which interact with the grid.

As well as offering a unique set of benefits to customers, e:PROGRESS will support active grid management to help stabilise demand and to optimise the use of renewables. It also aligns with Honda’s 2030 Vision, part of which outlines the company’s ambition to create ‘new value’ by moving into areas other than mobility, including energy services.

Offered exclusively to Honda e customers, e:PROGRESS will be available in the UK now. Further services under the e:PROGRESS brand will follow in Germany, with other European countries under consideration.

According to BlueWeave Consulting, the global market for electric vehicle market is estimated to grow from USD 121.8 billion in 2020 to USD 236.3 billion by 2027, with a CAGR of 10.6 per cent. In 2020, Europe witnessed the strongest growth compared to other markets. In the present scenario, electric vehicle charging stations in private residences are very common, however, in order to meet the consumer demand, on-site commercial charging is expected to become a standard building feature in this decade.

The electric vehicle market in 2030 is expected to require more than 50 million chargers in buildings, consuming at least 520 TWh per year, as per BlueWeave Consulting’s estimates.

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Mitsubishi Power bags 1500 MW natural gas-fired power plant in Uzbekistan

Mitsubishi Power, a subsidiary of Mitsubishi Heavy Industries (MHI) Group, has bagged an order for two M701JAC gas turbines for a 1,500-megawatt (MW) class natural-gas-fired GTCC (gas turbine combined cycle) power plant which is under construction in Sirdarya, in the Republic of Uzbekistan.

The Sirdarya project is the Government of Uzbekistan’s effort to provide cleaner, more efficient and cost-competitive gas power that can be utilised across industries in Uzbekistan. This new plant will have capacity equivalent to 8 per cent of Uzbekistan’s total generation capability and will be able to meet 15 per cent of the country’s overall power demand when complete. Construction of the new power plant will also lead to the partial closure of existing Sirdarya thermal power plant with improved efficiency, which is expected to result in a reduction of CO2 emissions by 2.2 million tons per year, the company said.

In addition to providing two high-efficiency next-generation gas turbines as the plant’s core equipment, Mitsubishi Power will also provide technical advisers to support construction and commissioning and 25-year long term service agreement (LTSA) to support reliable operation.

The JAC-Series are gas turbines featuring a forced-air-cooled combustor system and an optimized cooling structure. They also have an extra-thick-film thermal barrier coating that enables more advanced cooling of turbine blades, and they adopt a compressor with a high pressure ratio.

The order follows the conclusion of an equipment supply agreement for the Sirdarya project between ACWA Power, a leading Saudi developer, investor and operator of power and water desalination assets in 13 countries worldwide and China Gezhouba Group Co., Ltd. (CGGC) as the appointed project EPC contractor.

Since inception in 2004, ACWA Power has grown rapidly both domestically and internationally in line with its mission to make available electricity and desalinated water in a reliable and responsible manner to support the social development and economic growth of nations where they operate. CGGC is headquartered in Beijing and undertakes business in more than 140 countries worldwide, mainly in the fields of hydropower, environmental protection, equipment manufacture and infrastructure development.

Further, Mitsubishi Power will focus its resources into promoting adoption of high-efficiency, environmentally friendly GTCC power generation equipment in a quest to contribute to stable supplies of electric power indispensable to worldwide economic development, and to help achieve a sustainable decarbonised society.

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How Walmart China has embarked on its Omni Channel digitalisation journey

Twenty five years after it entered the China market, Walmart China has embarked on its Omni-Channel customer digitalisation journey.

The retail giant has partnered with Nasdaq-listed Dada Group, China’s leading local on-demand delivery and retail platform which involves collaboration and a focus on omni-channel consumer digitalisation. The two of them have jointly launched the exclusive VIP program for customers of Walmart stores on JD Daojia (JDDJ), the on-demand retail platform of Dada Group.

In July 2019, Walmart China and Dada Group jointly launched the exclusive VIP service for customers of Walmart stores on JDDJ’s platform. As of September 2020, Walmart China made the VIP program available in over 400 stores across China. This is a pioneering effort for Walmart stores to promote its customer digitalization, and for JDDJ to improve targeted digital operations of users, company officials said.

Walmart China’s digital transformation

Customer digitalisation is a key part of Walmart China’s digital transformation strategy and Walmart China stores aim to provide diversified product offerings and superior shopping experiences for its tens of millions of digital customers, based on optimizing technology innovation and close collaborations with O2O platform. Meanwhile, as China’s largest local on-demand retail platform in the supermarket segment, JDDJ focuses on supporting retail partners in digital transformation, promoting digital innovation practices, and further strengthening empowering capabilities and its leading position.

“We hope to explore refined operation of hypermarket’s digital customers through close collaboration with JDDJ,” said Jingyang Xu, Chief Technology Officer of Walmart China. “It improves customer engagement and accumulates our digital assets. On the other hand, we could accurately identify high-value omni-channel customers and provide them with more considerate services, so that they can enjoy more convenient shopping experience at Walmart stores.”

“Leveraging cutting-edge proprietary technologies, Big Data and previous experience in user operations, Dada Group has collaborated with Walmart China to develop the refinement operation plan for Walmart stores’ VIP consumers on JDDJ and achieved the functional support including user portrait, hierarchical operations, targeted coverage, and VIP benefit operations,” said Huijian He, Vice President of Dada Group.

To celebrate 8.8 Omni-channel Shopping Festival in 2020, Walmart China launched the VIP Week Campaign on JDDJ’s platform. During the promotional week, the number of Walmart stores’ exclusive VIP customers soared to hundreds of thousands.

According to JDDJ’s data, the orders placed by Walmart stores’ VIP customers were 2.7 times of ordinary customers. As for expenditure growth rate during 8.8 shopping festival, Walmart stores’ VIP customers were 3 times than ordinary customers on JDDJ.

“It has proved that the value of VIP customer operation was recognised by valuable omni-channel customers, increasing overall sales to drive healthy growth,” added He.

“In terms of digital operations of omni-channel customers, Walmart China and JDDJ are at the forefront of the industry. The differentiated VIP program of Walmart stores contributes to identifying and managing high-value customers, and developing exclusive customer groups,” said Jianzhen Peng, Secretary General of China Chain Store & Franchise Association, China’s national representative for the retail and franchise industry.

Going forward, Walmart China and Dada Group will further develop omni-channel customers on JDDJ, expand the scale of VIP customers, and increase VIP benefits to provide better shopping experience.

Retail landscape

The Chinese retail sales market is highly competitive and diversified, with the 100 leading retail companies taking up a market share of relatively low 6.3 percent in 2019, according to Statista. With a sales volume of about 379 billion yuan in 2019, Suning Commerce Group ranked first among the leading retail chain operators in China, followed by Gome Electrical Appliances and Red Star Maccalline.

In terms of convenience store sector, Sinopec Group dominated the market as of 2019. Convenient stores are among the fastest growing retail channels for consumer goods, especially grocery shopping in China.

In 2019, the Chinese retail revenue amounted to around 13 trillion yuan while the contribution of merchandise trade to the country’s GDP was around 32 per cent. Slowing exports and an increase in volume of domestic markets indicate a strategy shift of the Chinese economy towards satisfying domestic demand.

As rural and urban households have witnessed a steady growth of disposable incomes, the spending power of the Chinese population has also increased dramatically and the Chinese market has matured into one of the largest and still growing consumer markets worldwide. Foreign and domestic retailers both vie strongly for the attention of the Chinese consumer.

Retail sales of consumer goods in China grew by more than eight percent annually in the past five years. Though in-store retail still held the largest market share among all retail channels, coronavirus outbreak has boosted online retail in China.

Around 23 per cent of the retail sales of fast moving consumer goods in the country were attributed to the online shopping segment as of 2020, noted Statista.

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Tencent Cloud launches first Internet Data Centre in Indonesia

Tencent Cloud, the cloud business of Tencent, has launched its first Internet Data Centre (IDC) in Indonesia.

With this launch, the Chinese tech giant has further emphasised its commitment to addressing the ever-growing business needs in Indonesia and Asia. Tencent Cloud is Tencent’s cloud services brand, providing industry-leading cloud products and services to organizations and enterprises across the world. With this addition, Tencent Cloud has extended its growing infrastructure network spanning 27 regions and 61 availability zones, the company said.

Located in the CBD of Jakarta, Tencent Cloud’s latest IDC is now in full operation, completing the backbone access and networking of all major Indonesian and global internet services providers, and combining Tencent Cloud’s own high-quality border gateway protocol to cover the entire country. The launch of the IDC in Indonesia enables Tencent Cloud to be closer to its customers and users, reducing access delays to data and applications and helping businesses and organizations in the country accelerate their digital transformation.

It also helps customers meet regulatory and compliance requirements, providing more disaster recovery options in the whole APAC region.

Poshu Yeung, Senior Vice President, Tencent Cloud International, said, “With a population of 270 million, Indonesia is the fourth most populous country in the world and the largest economy in Southeast Asia. Given that its population structure is younger, it has a huge internet demographic dividend and its mobile internet market is quickly developing. We are excited to launch our first Tencent Cloud IDC in Indonesia, aiming to help fully reach the peak of the country’s promising cloud computing potential. We are also proud of how the new IDC epitomizes our commitment to addressing current and future business needs in Indonesia and Asia, while strengthening our global network which now connects 27 regions and 61 availability zones.”

Read: Indonesia requests non-bank financial institutions to place data centres inside country

Indonesia is one of the fastest growing public cloud markets in Asia Pacific with a CAGR of 25 per cent. It is expected to increase its market size to US$0.8 billion by 2023 and the new IDC is rightly positioned to fulfil the growing need for cloud services in Indonesia and in the region.

These developments come in the backdrop of Tencent reporting strong 2020 annual results. Revenue from cloud computing and other business services showed a similar 29 per cent year-on-year increase to $5.9 billion (38.5 billion Yuan) thanks to Tencent’s penetration into the industrial internet with its flagship Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) products and upgraded cloud infrastructure.

The establishment of the new IDC in Indonesia will support the growing needs of a wide range of industries, from financial services, internet and e-commerce to entertainment, gaming and education. Some of its clients incude digital banks such as Bank Neo Commerce (BNC). BNC, one of the progressive digital banks in Indonesia, has a core system with a fully operational Tencent Distributed Database (TDSQL), the first time for Tencent Cloud to have brought TDSQL overseas, boosting Indonesia’s internet architecture for its financial services industry.

Tjandra Gunawan, President Director of BNC, said, “The launch of the new Tencent Cloud IDC in Indonesia is a much-welcomed boost in the already fully operational TDSQL in BNC’s core system, which continues to enhance our business through financial technology. Through this collaboration with Tencent Cloud, BNC emphasizes its commitment to provide the best technology product services as we understand that data security and privacy are very crucial in the digital technology industry.”

Another company using Tencent cloud is JOOX, Asia’s most dedicated music and entertainment streaming platform.

JOOX was supported by Tencent Cloud on a range of entertainment offerings, including music streaming and karaoke singing with its massive processing capability for lyrics and audio timeline smart matching, as well as concert livestreaming and video on demand. In particular, Tencent Cloud supported the live broadcasting of many global music events on JOOX, including the annual Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA), which benefited from Tencent Cloud’s advanced and reliable technology, such as its low latency, real-time translation and high scalability.

Peter May, Head of JOOX Indonesia, said, “Through the launch of Tencent Cloud’s first IDC in Indonesia, JOOX looks forward to bringing more and enhanced entertainment experiencess to music fans in the country. We are glad to have the support of Tencent Cloud through its reliable and high-performances services to make sure that Indonesian music lovers can enjoy songs and music programs online in the safety of their homes.”

Another entertainment platform in Asia WeTV, has leveraged Tencent Cloud in Indonesia. Lesley Simpson, Country Manager, WeTV Indonesia, said, “WeTV’s commitment to consistently bring only the best to fans of Asian entertainment makes us inseparable from the support provided by Tencent Cloud. We are excited to reap the benefits of the new IDC in Indonesia, which will further enhance and improve the already reliable and high-quality service of Tencent Cloud, allowing us to create an even more unrivalled viewing experience for our users.”

Similarly, Aestron, offers an enterprise platform as a service for real-time communication (RTC) solutions, has formed a strategic collaboration with Tencent Cloud leveraging Aestron’s global market layout and Tencent Cloud’s capabilities and ecological advantages. Utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) technology, Aestron’s platform infrastructure helps companies reach more than 400 million monthly active users in more than 150 countries.

Aestron powers some of the world’s most popular live-streaming, short-form video, and instant messaging apps. Tencent Cloud will join hands with Aestron, to launch new audio and video solutions, and provide quality services for the global market including Indonesia. In March, Tencent announced its first entry into the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) market with the construction of a data centre in Bahrain.

The company’s cloud computing arm, Tencent Cloud, has signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the Bahrain Economic Development Board (EDB) to build an internet data center and a public cloud infrastructure in the region.

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L&T bags contract for constructing largest Solar Plant in Saudi Arabia

Larsen & Toubro (L&T) has bagged a contract to construct the largest solar plant in Saudi Arabia.

The India-headquartered multinational company, which is into EPC projects, hi-tech manufacturing and services won this contract which is estimated to be in the range of US $600–900 million, the company said. Further, this contract was bagged from the consortium of ACWA Power and the Water and Electricity Holding Company, a subsidiary of the Public Investments Fund of Saudi Arabia (PIF), for Sudair Solar PV Project of 1.5 GW capacity.

This project is considered the largest Solar Plant in Saudi Arabia with PPA signed. It is also one of the largest such plants in the world.

The project that is coming up in Riyadh Province has a 30.8 square kilometre land parcel available to install a total capacity of 1.5GW PV Solar modules with associated single axial tracker and inverters.

The ambitions of Saudi Arabia’s National Renewable Energy Program (NREP) are on track. As part of the NREP, Sudair Solar PV Project is awarded to PIF and its partner, ACWA Power. This project is part of the 70 per cent of the target capacity of 58.7 GW of the Kingdom assigned to Public Investment Fund (PIF), while Renewable Energy Project Development Office (REPDO) would undertake competitive tendering for the remaining 30 per cent, as announced by the Ministry of Energy in 2019.

“With several GWs of solar EPC experience, L&T has emerged as a global technology player for solar plants, said S N Subrahmanyan, CEO & Managing Director, L&T.

The company has been a provider of EPC services for several green projects in recent years.

“We are India’s largest EPC company to build hydel power plants, the largest market player to build nuclear power plants with a total capability of 9360 MWe, including some ongoing projects, on an EPC turnkey basis with the capacity to make important critical components like steam turbines, generators, end shields and other critical equipment,” noted Subrahmanyan.

Additionally, L&T has the largest market share of the Flue Gas Desulfurization (FGD) units for fossil fuel power plants.

It has over 2.1 GW of Utility Scale Solar projects commissioned and are also operating and maintaining many of them. “We have a diversified renewable portfolio of 32MW Floating Solar Power Plants, 135 MWH of Battery Energy Storage projects, 500 Micro Grids and 14,000 Solar Water Pumps,” added Subrahmanyan.

L&T is also working on potential solutions related to Green Hydrogen and Carbon Capture & Storage technologies. “Securing this project is a major milestone in our clean and green energy path to fight the climate crisis that the world faces,” pointed out Subrahmanyan.

T. Madhava Das, Whole-Time Director & Senior Executive Vice President (Utilities), L&T said “KSA aims to become a pioneer in Renewable Energy and we are happy to be a part of this journey. We have been building efficient power transmission and distribution networks with modern substations and transmission lines in this region for more than two decades. This is yet another recognition of our capabilities to construct mega projects to speed and scale”.

Lear more about sustainability during W.Media’s Digital Week South Asia from April 28-30.

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Deep Tech VC Speciale Invest closes second seed fund

Speciale Invest, a seed stage VC investing in deep technologies has closed its second seed fund.

The second fund exceeded its target and was oversubscribed with the backing of an experienced group of domestic investors, the company said.

The fund expects to invest in about 18-20 start-ups building enterprise software products including SaaS, Developers tools and frontier technologies including Space Tech, Robotics, Photonics, Alternative Energy to name a few. The VC firm said that the fund size was Rs 140 crore or US$ 2 million.

Speciale had raised its first fund in 2018 and invested in 14 startups so far, with an average deal size of sub US$0.5 million. The investment strategy and portfolio construct continues to remain the same across funds, and a larger corpus allows for more follow-on allocation to the portfolio. Portfolio companies of Speciale Invest include enterprise software companies Wingman, True Lark, TotalCloud, Scapic, iAuro, Pocket52 and; and hardware startups The ePlane Company, Agnikul, Astrogate Labs, CynLr, and Kawa Space.

Vishesh Rajaram, Managing Partner at Speciale Invest said, “We are excited to announce the launch of our second fund to support and boost the deep-tech startup ecosystem in India amid the ongoing pandemic. The oversubscribed round of funding and interest in our subsequent round demonstrate the support of our investors in our team in creating a long standing venture institution. It also reaffirms our commitment towards looking out for entrepreneurs who have unconventional ideas in building futuristic companies that will challenge the status quo and revolutionize the world.”

Arjun Rao, General Partner at Speciale Invest, said “We’re thrilled that our 2nd fund enables us to continue this journey of partnering with early stage founders building companies at the bleeding edge of innovation from India. We take the learnings and progress from the 1st Fund portfolio as motivation to double down on our core deep tech thesis and strive harder to explore newer areas of tech & science led disruption.”

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Extreme IX partners with CtrlS to establish an Internet eXchange Point in Mumbai

Extreme IX, an Internet Exchange Point has entered into a collaboration with CtrlS Datacenters to start its Point of Presence (PoP) in CtrlS facility in Mahape, Navi Mumbai in India.

With this POP, it aims to provide consumers access to superior interconnection services. The launch of this PoP in Navi Mumbai is a part of the recently announced expansion plans to address the growing internet consumption while ensuring buffer and lag-free experience. With this, Extreme IX in Mumbai has a total of 12 PoPs, the company said.

Also, the strategic partnership with CtrlS will extend cutting-edge technology to the members of the network, thus making the interconnection seamless. Through these points of access, the company in collaboration with CtrlS is consistently working towards extending its mission to help the internet service provider ecosystem by boosting local traffic exchange.

Sridhar Pinnapureddy, Founder and CEO, CtrlS said, ”Data centres and Internet Exchange Points are the perfect combination that can lead to the speedy adoption of Digital India. We are excited to be partnering with Extreme IX, our partnership will enable consumers to opt for reliable and efficient interconnection solutions.” He further added, “Our customers will benefit from reduced latency, lowered cost backed by robust internet connectivity, besides improved user experience.”

Raunak Maheshwari, Executive Director, Extreme group said, “Extreme IX since the beginning of its operations in India is working towards establishing a well-organised data transfer ecosystem. Our strategic and long-lasting collaboration to extend services across the country will help bring internet-enabled content closer to the end-consumers while encouraging more companies to adopt our services.”

Currently servicing out of 24 points of access across the country, Extreme IX with its steady expansion is attempting to enable a more neutral and faster interconnection platform in the country.

India is one of the biggest internet consumers in the world and thus the demand for an efficient interconnection service is increasing. Extreme IX currently has a network of over 350 Internet Service Providers (ISPs) directly connecting content providers like Google, Facebook, Netflix, Amazon, and Akamai. Participants in Extreme IX increased by 40 per cent in the year 2020 and is currently operational in Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Hyderabad and Kolkata, according to the company.

Hong Kong Digital Asset Exchange to launch a Non-Fungible Token trading platform

Hong Kong Digital Asset Exchange (HKD.com), the first digital asset exchange to combine both an online platform and a sizable physical store in Hong Kong, plans to launch a one-stop NFT (Non-Fungible Token) trading platform.

This platform is slated for a third quarter launch in this year, the company said. It will be the first digital asset exchange in Hong Kong to introduce the blockchain technology and provide the NFT trading platform.

As the wave of globalisation of digital crypto asset activities is sweeping through the entire world, NFT is starting to assume increasing significance. HKD.com plans to launch the NFT trading platform in Hong Kong, name as HKD.com NFT Trading Platform (tentatively), the company said.

NFT is a new form of digital assets, issued digital creations content of digital design digital music, digital video etc. on the blockchain. NFT is unique and can own the specific token authenticating ownership of the content. NFT can be widely used, and currently, is applied and growing fast in the art market.

It provides artists with an online platform for the artworks publishing, promotion, trading and payment, with diversified product categories, including digital art, encrypted collections of animation, music and movies. On the trading platform, users can trade through public offer or bidding, and carry out token trading and exchange; while artists can also publish their own digital artworks through the trading platform.

Further, HKD.com supports multi-national legal tender, major cryptocurrencies, and over-the-counter legal tender trading services. In addition, serving as a one-stop service platform, HKD.com also provides physical store exhibition services for artists, the company said.

Kelvin Yeung, founder and CEO of HKD.com, said, “Considering the lack of a credible trading platform for digital creation in Hong Kong’s current market, HKD.com is determined to introduce the business of NFT and launch the trading platform. This not only can help the local artists to add value to their talents, but also can drive the development of the art market.”

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Strong demand adds powerful voltage to Shanghai Electric’s revenues

On the back of a strong performance in 2020, Shanghai Electric said that it will continue to implement its ‘three steps forward’ development philosophy, which is oriented towards strategy, problem-solving and results.

The world’s leading manufacturer and supplier of electric power generation, industrial equipment and integration services will continue to develop its smart energy services, in a bid to accelerate the industry towards a digitalised, connected and future.

Despite the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Shanghai Electric achieved strong results by reducing the impact across various business segments, the company said.

For the fiscal year ended 31 December 2020, the company achieved total revenue of RMB 137.285 billion, a year-on-year increase of 7.67 per cent, and the net profit attributable to owners of the company increased 7.34 per cent year-on-year to RMB 3.758 billion. New orders grew to RMB 185.55 billion and orders on hand rose to RMB 276.09 billion, a year-on-year increase of 8.7 per cent and 14.7 per cent respectively.

The Board of Shanghai Electric has proposed to pay a final dividends of RMB 0.7178 for every ten shares.

Significant strides

In 2020, Shanghai Electric made significant strides in the reform of institutional mechanisms, integrated development of technologies, investment in scientific research and innovation, the development of smart solutions, and the construction of its Industrial Internet SEunicloud Platform — making steady progress on the road to become a force to reckon with.

The Energy Equipment Business Segment has maintained steady performance and achieved revenue of RMB 55.96 billion — a 21.8 per cent increase year-on-year that was mainly attributed to the rapid growth of wind turbines and components business.

Shanghai Electric also grew revenue from its Integrated Services Business Segment, which encompasses Energy Engineering and Services, Environmental Engineering and Services, Automation Engineering and Services, the Industrial Internet service, Financial Services, International Trade Services and more. This segment rose 17.9 per cent year-on-year to RMB 52.232 billion, with the uptick driven by accelerated growth in Energy Engineering and Services.

In 2020, the Company successfully obtained approval from the Listing Committee of Shanghai Stock Exchange for listing its subsidiary, Shanghai Electric Wind Power Group Co (SEWP), on the Science and Technology Innovation Board and completed the mixed-ownership reform of Shanghai Renmin Electrical Apparatus Works (SREAW) and Shanghai Centrifuge Institute Co., Ltd.

Furthermore, in order to drive the consumption of new energies and achieve green and sustainable development, Shanghai Electric proactively promoted energy transformation and its comprehensive energy services comprising wind, solar, hydro, thermal and storage integration and ‘source, grid, load and energy storage integration’.

Increased R&D push

The company also increased investment in R&D and successfully launched the world’s first black start wind turbine project with a capacity of over 5MW — establishing the complete technological capabilities for a smart energy solution.

Committed to cultivating renewable energy and energy storage, Shanghai Electric officially launched multiple smart solutions throughout 2020. Last year, the Company put its Shanghai Electric Guoxuan Nantong lithium battery industrial base into operation, as well as its integrated wind-solar Smart Energy project in Shanghai’s Minhang Industrial Zone, and Shanghai Electric Golmud Meiman Minhang energy storage power station in Golmud City, Qinghai Province.

Shanghai Electric added nearly 30,000 new devices to its ‘SEunicloud’ industrial internet platform in the 2020 fiscal year, with assets value totalling RMB 24.7 billion. It also developed and integrated 15 industry applications, ranging from equipment networking and fault diagnosis to energy planning. Simultaneously, Shanghai Electric developed eight preliminary industry solutions, which include wind power smart operation and maintenance, thermal power remote operation and maintenance, machine tool operation and maintenance, energy storage battery and distributed energy.

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Sakra World Hospital leverages Nutanix for IT infra upgrade

Multispeciality hospital Sakra World Hospital has upgraded its technology infrastructure and is leveraging Nutanix to enhance medical services for patients and deliver multiple telehealth applications.

“Time is of the essence in healthcare. With our previous legacy infrastructure, we faced challenges like slow billing, extended wait times, and delays in retrieving health records and processing X-rays. These issues affected both our staff and patients,” said Bhoopendra Solanki, head of IT at Sakra World Hospital.

“With Nutanix HCI, IT has become an enabler for business. Clinicians can now access data in seconds not minutes, and we were even able to quickly respond to customer needs during the pandemic by rolling out new applications for virtual consultations, online registration and payments without any delay.”

Sakra’s initial three-tier legacy infrastructure involved high maintenance time and costs and became a barrier to further development. By switching to Nutanix, the hospital was able to cut their total cost of ownership by about 35 per cent, and the one-click simplicity has allowed Sakra to refocus resources away from routine infrastructure management and cut administration time by about 57 per cent.

Sakra World Hospital has migrated 41 applications from the three-tier infrastructure to Nutanix Enterprise Cloud OS, which includes Nutanix AOS, Nutanix Prism management software and Nutanix AHV. The hospital has 350-bed capacity and 200-plus doctors.

“IT plays an important role in healthcare today. With Nutanix, the lead time for implementing new services at Sakra World Hospital has been drastically reduced, and downtime has been cut by about 90 percent. We can now use IT to react faster to the needs of patients and staff, rather than simply keeping the lights on,” said Lovekesh Phasu, chief operating officer, Sakra World Hospital.

“The ability to shift focus from internal resource management to customers is a big advantage for any organization today, and more so on the critical frontlines of the healthcare industry. With Nutanix, Sakra World Hospital has been able to adapt quickly to changing patient needs and continuously meet their goal of delivering a customer-centric experience,” said Faiz Shakir, Director, Sales, India and SAARC, Nutanix.

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Disney+ Hotstar signs multi-year deal for CLEAR Production Cloud

Prime Focus Technologies (PFT), the technology arm of Prime Focus said that Disney-owned video streaming service Disney+ Hotstar has signed a multi-year deal for CLEAR Production Cloud.

This deal is to enable secure and collaborative production workflows for their ‘Originals’ content, the company said. Disney+ Hotstar is an OTT service provider in India.

CLEAR gives users the flexibility to log-in from anywhere, anytime to upload, review, approve, edit, and share content. It allows for user-friendly features like mobile (iOS and Android) and Apple TV support, virtual playlist editor, elastic search engine, customizable projects homepage, and next-gen HTML5 Player, that will change the way the production teams work and collaborate at Disney+ Hotstar. CLEAR is bolstered with industry-leading security including powerful administration control, 256-bit encryption, JIT watermarking, Okta SSO, enterprise-scale managed security operations and, threat protection.

“COVID-19 has reinforced the importance of cloud-based workflows for Media & Entertainment industry in production. And virtualised collaboration is a heightened requirement now more than ever for our Originals. We evaluated multiple products in the market place and found CLEAR to be more promising to cater to our production supply chain needs. We will now be using CLEAR to handle our supply chain for all of our Originals” said Akash Saxena – Head of Technology, Disney+ Hotstar.

“We are extremely delighted to be supporting Disney+ Hotstar on yet another transformation initiative. We’ve been managing production workflows in Hollywood for over 10 years and are excited to have a major studio in India sign up for CLEAR to help manage their production workflows — from pre-production prep files, schedules, scripts to production dailies and post-production cuts all on ONE software,” said Ramki Sankaranarayanan, Founder and Global CEO, Prime Focus Technologies.

NeoSOFT partners with Tonik for Neo Bank in Southeast Asia

NeoSOFT Technologies, one of India’s leading IT consulting and software solutions provider, said that it is the exclusive technology partner of Tonik.

Tonik is Southeast Asia’s first digital bank and have launched their first innovative Neo Bank in the Philippines.

A Neo bank is a digital direct bank that only reaches customers on mobile apps and personal computer platforms. It gets an edge over the traditional or legacy banking systems by virtue of it being ‘only digital’ presence.

This Neo bank is built on cloud-native, open API, multi-cloud strategy and delivered over true Agile or DevSecOps mode, is fully digital with no branch and will revolutionise the way money works in Southeast Asia. Tonik entrusted NeoSOFT for its talent pool across diverse technology areas to develop its Neo Bank mobile and web application.

Working on the philosophy of trust, transparency, and accountability, NeoSOFT has driven value and innovation throughout the entire product development cycle. Certified engineers, top-notch skills, and adeptness on the latest tools and frameworks have been the pillars behind Tonik’s Neo Bank’s successful launch, the company said.

“NeoSOFT is happy to see Tonik drive transformation in the spectrum of Neo Banks and be passionate about improving people’s financial lives through the use of technology in an era of absolute disruption triggered by new-age technologies like AI, ML, Edge Computing, Automation, etc.,” said Nishant Rathi, CEO and Founder of NeoSOFT Technologies.

In the consumer banking sector, Neo banking gets more optimistic today and is here to drive a significant disruption in the fintech arena. Neo banks are increasingly finding increased acceptance globally. Recently, in March, Rewire, a fintech start-up that develops cross-border online banking services tailored for the needs of expatriate workers worldwide, announced a Series B funding round of $20 million and a significant line of credit from a leading bank. Similarly, InstantPay, India’s largest Neo bank, is eyeing a revenue of around US$50 million (Rs 350 crore) in FY21, an impressive three-and-a-half times growth in the last three years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Tiger Brokers sees huge potential in Singapore for online trading

Xiaomi-backed online trading platform Tiger Brokers Singapore, has said that its business has continued to see exponential growth and momentum in Singapore.

The online and mobile-focused brokerage saw 100 per cent growth in customer accounts for three consecutive quarters in 2020.

This performance comes is a part of strong performance by Tiger Brokers’ Singapore’s parent company. For the fourth quarter and the year ended December 31, 2020 total revenues were US$47.2 million, a 136.5 per cent increase from the fourth quarter of 2019.

The total number of customers globally with deposits increased by 128.4 per cent year-on-year to 258,700 in 2020. The global platform also added 44,000 funded accounts in the fourth quarter, 3.9 times the number of new funded accounts in the same quarter of last year; the total number of funded accounts doubled in 2020 to reach 258,700.

Tiger Brokers’ account balance increased by US$5.0 billion in the fourth quarter and reached US$16.0 billion, an increase of 215.9 per cent since the end of 2019.

Wu Tianhua, Chief Executive Officer of UP Fintech Holding Limited said, “The total addressable market in Singapore is huge. The country has one of the highest rates of digitalisation in the world, and a nation-wide preference for digital banking which is supported by high tech infrastructure and key fintech initiatives led by the government, making it a very attractive and relevant market for Tiger Broker’s services. This is a market that has huge potential for us, and we are working hard for incremental market growth, especially focused on younger Singaporeans who are getting more savvy with their investment needs.”

Eng Thiam Choon, Chief Executive Officer of Tiger Brokers Singapore, added that compared to a decade ago, trading seems to be out of reach for many people.

“However today, we are seeing an increasing number of individuals, as young as Generation Z, beginning to explore online investing as a viable financial lifestyle choice. People are more aware of the trends and developments in global economies and changes in business landscapes today,” he said.

Tiger Brokers Singapore saw an overall shift in user digital experience driven by the pandemic and recognised the need to keep pace with its investors’ demands by differentiating and expanding its services. In 2020, the platform has onboarded two exchange platforms – Singapore Exchange and Australian Securities Exchange, bringing the total number of exchanges available to Singapore investors to six across five countries.

This access, especially to US markets, has been a huge value-add to its investors.

Growing strong and steady

Tiger Brokers has also focused on creating convenience for its users; working with bank partners to help create a seamless payment system; working with technology partners such as Iress, one of the largest and most active online trading communities; TradingView, strengthening Tiger Brokers’ community engagement; and lastly, the launch of Tiger Brokers latest Fund Mall product that allows everyday-investors access to popular public funds.

Tiger Brokers recently partnered with OTC Markets Group Inc. to provide customers with detailed insights and make more informed trading decisions on the OTC markets.

“At Tiger Brokers, our objective is to provide an array of financial and educational tools to support the new generation of investors in their investment journey. Our fantastic Q4 result would not be made possible without the support and faith of our Singapore and regional investors. As we remind investors to diversify their investment, we hope to continue bringing value-added investment opportunities to our current investors, while attracting the new ones,” stated Thiam Choon.

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Microsoft resolves issues that led to productivity apps outage

Microsoft has said that it has successfully resolved the issues that led to an outage which affected cloud services on April 1.

The affected services included Azure, Teams and Dynamics 365, according to reports. “We’ve successfully resolved the issue that was causing residual impact for SharePoint Online and we’ve confirmed that all Microsoft 365 services have returned to a healthy state.” Microsoft said in a Tweet.

Spike in DNS traffic

During the outage, some users experienced “intermittent issues” with accessing Azure, Dynamics, Xbox Live and other cloud services, the Redmond-based giant said. In order to mitigate the impact of the issues, Microsoft “engaged resilient DNS capabilities to absorb the spike in DNS traffic,” the company said.

The issues on Thursday followed Microsoft’s March 15 outage that had impacted “any service” that uses Azure Active Directory, Microsoft’s widely used identity authentication solution.

During that outage, Microsoft indicated that the biggest impact was on Teams, which is used by businesses and is part of Microsoft’s Office 365 suite of productivity apps. While Asia Pacific seems to be largely excluded from this outage, Microsoft said that it has identified that a portion of infrastructure within Central United States, Western United Kingdom and France encountered errors.

Also, reports of some users in Canada, unable to send and receive Microsoft Teams chat messages were doing the rounds in the last week of March.

The outage on April 1 is the fourth such instance on Microsoft Teams since February. Teams has around 115 million daily active users worldwide as of late October, Microsoft had said in the past.

That was a more than 5 times increase from a year before, when Teams had 20 million daily active users, Microsoft said.

 

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NXP India ties up with govt to set up fabless chip design incubator

NXP India has tied up with the Union Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY) and Fabless Chip Design Incubator (FabCI) at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT-Hyderabad) to set up an accelerator.

The programme will identify, facilitate and mentor the start-ups in the niche area of start-ups will be incubated for two years in each cohort every year. NXP India is a part of the Nasdaq-listed NXP Semiconductors.

Startups working in semiconductor chip design, IP design, design services and chip design tools are eligible to seek space in the incubator, the company said.

The accelerator would pick five start-ups for the incubation programme. They will be incubated for two years.

Each start-up will get benefits up to Rs 1 crore a year.

“The incubation and accelerator programme can bring the core impetus to the strengthening of fabless semiconductor design in India,” Lars Reger, Executive Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer of NXP Semiconductors, has said.

“The Union Government has been working towards promoting the electronics system design and manufacturing sector to bring electronic manufacturing to the country. There is also a need to build a fabless design ecosystem,” Ajay Sawhney, Secretary (MeitY), said.

“This collaborative effort will give an impetus to the semiconductor ecosystem in the country,” according to B S Murty, Director of IIT Hyderabad.

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Indian women-led startup develops deep-tech for low-cost internet services

Astrome, a women-led startup, has developed an innovative wireless product that gives fibre-like bandwidth at fraction of cost.

This would help telecom operators deliver reliable low-cost internet services to suburban and rural areas. Providing internet access to remote places in countries like India is difficult because laying fibre is too expensive.

This has resulted in a need for wireless backhaul products that can deliver low cost, high data capacity, and wide reach. However, currently available wireless backhaul products either do not provide sufficient data speeds or the required range and are very expensive to deploy, industry watchers opine.

It is here that Astrome has sensed an opportunity. Their wireless product called Giga Mesh could enable telecom operators deploy quality, high-speed rural telecom infrastructure at 5 times lower cost. Rural connectivity customers and defence customers who have already signed up for pilots will soon witness the demonstration of this product by Astrome.

The deep tech startup, incubated at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc) Bangalore and supported by DST-ABI Woman Startup Program of the Department of Science and Technology (DST), Government of India proved their millimeter-wave multi-beam technology in the lab in 2018, for which the company has been granted a patent in India and US.

Since then, the technology has been converted to a powerful and scalable product called Giga Mesh, which can solve much of the last mile connectivity telecom needs of our country. The product has been proven on the field and also integrated with partner products for its upcoming commercialisation.

The Multi-beam E-band product, Giga Mesh, packs 6 Point-to-Point E-band radios in one, thereby distributing the cost of the device over multiple links and hence reduces capital expenditure. The radio provides long-range and multi-Gbps data throughput at each link.

Features like automatic link alignment, dynamic power allocation between links, and remote link formation help operators achieve significant operating expenditure cost reduction.

Astrome is currently conducting a field trial at Indian Institute of Science university campus. In this field trial, the company has already achieved data streaming at multi-Gbps speeds across the campus.

“Indian Institute of Science played a very critical role by helping us connect with investors, providing business mentorship, and giving us space to conduct our product field trials,” said Dr. Neha Satak, Co-founder & CEO at Astrome, while recalling a weeklong trip organized under the DST-ABI woman startup initiative which provided her with valuable inputs from the US Venture Capital ecosystem, to prepare for the launch in that market.

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CMKL University and TCC Technology to launch national AI supercomputing research infra

CMKL University and TCC Technology (TCCtech) will launch national AI research infrastructure and dataset exchange to provide the high-performance computing solutions to The National Data Platform for AI.

CMKL University was established as a collaboration between Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) and King Mongkut’s Institute of Technology Ladkrabang (KMITL). CMKL has leveraged the best practices from CMU, the US- based University, known as the top Grad School in AI field and KMITL, Thailand Based University, also known as the top University in Engineering fields.

With the core value – Beyond Limit, Make it happen, CMKL was initiated to create a new collaboration between the industries and academia. “As many companies moved to Pittsburgh to be near CMU, now we are bringing CMU to Thailand to create the new way of work with business in Thailand and this region. We are pleased to work with TCC Technology, Thailand’s leading infrastructure and solutions providers, in handling the world class infrastructure to support research for our National AI platform” said Dr Supan Tungjitkusolmon, President of CMKL University.

Unleashing AI power in Thailand

AI initiatives will become increasingly important in the near future. This collaboration, with the readiness of high performing infrastructure, is regarded as a significant milestone to create substantial impacts by making technology accessible and accelerating AI work in collaborative R&D fields to benefit for Bio-Circular-Green (BCG) economy & society in Thailand and its neighboring countries.

“We encourage universities and businesses to open up and work together in order to combine our strengths so that we can leverage AI power to the fullest extent and be ready to compete in the global stage. Thanks to PMU-C’s support, we can build the new, powerful AI-enabled infrastructure called “APEX,” located here at CMKL University (Carnegie Mellon – CMKL | Thailand). APEX can help unleash high performance for AI workloads without limiting your imagination, as well as accelerate turn-around time for analysis, thus shortening time to market.

For sustainability in providing such AI-infrastructure services in the future, we are collaborating with global partners as well as domestic service providers, like TCC Technology, to build national capability to maximize APEX’s capability and understand how to provide AI-infrastructure services.” pointed out Dr. Orathai Sangpetch, Vice President of Research and Strategy at CMKL University.

APEX Goliath, a key initiative under framework of Thailand’s BCG economy

As part of BCG (Bio-Circular-Green Economic Model) infrastructure development, APEX Goliath is a key initiative, sponsored by PMU-C (Program Management Unit for Thailand’s Competitiveness), Office of National Higher Education Science Research and Innovation Policy Council (NXPO), an autonomous public agency affiliated to the Ministry of Higher Education, Science, Research and Innovation.

APEX Goliath is the data exchange & AI analytics platform across integrated systems for BCG. It will help accelerate to maximize the value of data and AI economy for industries such as medical & wellness, food & agricultural, tourism & creative economy and bio-energy in Thailand.

“TCC Technology is honoured to be part of CMKL’s success in implementing the infrastructure solutions to be the national data exchange & AI analytics Platform under Thailand’s BCG development. This could be regarded as the big step to leap frog our country in AI field and transform Thailand to be a value-based and innovation-driven economy.” noted Teerapan Luengnaruemitchai, Managing Director of TCC Technology

“TCC Technology –as the Technology Trusted Solutions Partner is ready to support CMKL’s central computing node in spearheading the AI initiatives to be beneficial to research and university nodes and businesses across Thailand and Southeast Asia”, said Pipit Jariyavattanavijit, Deputy MD – Commercial and Operation of TCC Technology

CMKL adopts the integrated infrastructure solutions, powered by TCC Technology. The solutions range from data center & containment, network & management appliance, high performance GPU & storage and AI/ HPC appliances. In addition, the end-to-end solutions include the management & monitoring of high speed connectivity linkage to our country’s neutral internet exchange making the performance optimisation and effectiveness possible.

Powerful computing in Southeast Asia

“With 30-petaflop AI computing power, the ‘Apex’ cluster deployed at CMKL is one of the most powerful AI-focused infrastructure in Thailand and this region. The infrastructure will be a part of federated AI computing facilities deployed across universities in Thailand.

It also serves as the central repository for AI corpuses & research datasets supported by MHESI and PMU-C. Its aim is to push AI to solve real-world use cases.

We collaborate with TCC Technology and leading technology companies to make the system available to the much needed areas of research that will enhance the country’s competitiveness. With training speed as the key to success for AI project, high performance computing means more work can be done and more opportunity for researchers to turn AI research ideas to business opportunities,” said Dr. Akkarit Sangpetch, CMKM (Thailand) program director at CMKL University.

Petaflops indicates a unit of computing speed equal to one thousand million million (1015) floating-point operations per second.

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Are Bank Boardrooms in need of more Air Jordans instead of Pinstripes?

The world’s largest banks continue to lack technology expertise and digital approaches, even as adoption has increased.

According to a new report from Accenture, based on an analysis of the professional backgrounds of nearly 2,000 directors of more than 100 of the world’s largest banks by assets, found that while banks are ramping up their technology investments to keep pace with changing consumer demands ― such as the growing need for digital interaction and remote working as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Boards of these banks lack the technology expertise to minimise the risks and maximise the benefits of their technology investments.

Rapid tech adoption

“Much of the disruption brought about by the pandemic has led to a rapid shift within banking to more digital touchpoints, requiring speedy technology investments,” said Mauro Macchi, who leads Accenture Strategy & Consulting in Europe. “Banks that are accelerating their cloud adoption to better manage change would benefit from a board with technology experience that can help ensure that technology investments are compatible across various business units.”

The report does not give particular pain points but has chosen to generalise a bank’s approach towards tech adoption. This gives rise to the debate again on whether banks need to leverage tech or become technology companies themselves. One cannot expect the latter as they are not in the business of tech.

According to the report, Accenture recommends that 25 per cent of banks’ Board should have technology experience. While the world’s largest banks have made progress on adding technology experience in the boardroom ― which Accenture defines as executives holding or having held senior technology positions at a company or senior responsibilities at a technology firm ― that progress has been slow.

For instance, only 10 per cent of all board directors, as well as 10 per cent of the CEOs on the boards, evaluated for the report have professional technology experience, up just 4 and 6 percentage points, respectively, from five years ago.

In addition, the number of banks whose board has at least one member with professional technology experience has increased only 10 percentage points in the past five years, from 57- 67 per cecnt ― meaning that one-third of banks still have no board members with professional technology experience.

Tech’s tango with Banker’s trust

So, does this mean that ‘technology experienced’ professionals can better navigate any disruptions around the corner? The answer is nuanced. “Banks are traditionally regulated and resistant to change. Parachuting a few tech-savvy Board members can add some acumen,” says Nitin Kumar, Executive Chaiman at Ligl and author of a new of the book CEO 3.io -Driving Exponential Change.

However, Kumar added that they need to ensure that disruptive and new technology is used to develop new markets or new value propositions and not make the old operations, products and services better.

The report, on a positive note, while only 19 per cent of the directors with technology experience five years ago were women, that figure is currently 33 per cent.

From a geographic perspective, the report found that the boards of banks in the UK, Finland, Ireland and the US have higher percentages of directors with professional technology experience than those in other countries, with sizeable increases compared with the 2015 findings.

However, the percentage of banks’ Board of Directors with technology experience is still very low in Brazil, China, Russia and various countries across Europe, including Austria and Italy.

“While it’s not practical for banks to make a rash number of tech-savvy board appointments to fill the gap in technology credentials, they should consider technology expertise as a factor for new appointments, alongside their other evaluation criteria,” Macchi said.

There are also other, more immediate ways to increase technology expertise among board members — for example, coach members on the latest developments on key technologies such as cloud, artificial intelligence and IoT to better understand how the combination of technology and human ingenuity unlocks value.

Boards can also tap into the expertise of third-party suppliers and make time to specifically discuss the technology strategy during board meetings to get the most out of their investments, adds Macchi.

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Industry body FICCI partners with ThinkThrough Consulting Bangladesh for promoting grassroot technologies

FICCI and ThinkThrough Consulting Bangladesh have announced partnership to jointly promote and commercialize grassroot technologies developed in India and Bangladesh.

The announcement was made on the side-lines of the visit of Prime Minister, Mr Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh, as as part of the RuTAG Technology Commercialisation Programme which is led by the Office of the Principal Scientific Advisor to the Government of India and implemented by FICCI.

A bouquet of 49 technologies under the RuTAG (Rural Technology Action Group) programme will be offered to industry, social start-ups and NGOs in Bangladesh. These technologies have been developed at RuTAG centres housed across seven Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) in India and focus on problems associated with marginal communities in rural areas. RuTAG innovations such as floating fish cages for inland aquaculture, powerless solar dryer for food processing, cold storage powered by pico hydro among others respond to real life problems faced by rural populations.

Tech spectrum

The technologies cover a spectrum of areas including environment, agriculture and farming, textiles, manufacturing, food processing and aquaculture among others. Besides technology transfer, capacity building support and virtual training sessions will also be provided to Bangladesh entrepreneurs to seamlessly absorb the Indian technologies.

Prof K Vijay Raghavan, Principal Scientific Adviser to the Government of India stated, “Science and Technology collaboration between India and Bangladesh is towards social and economic development in the region. Both nations can gain immensely through knowledge exchange and technology partnerships. The RuTAG program provides a wide range of grass root innovations that have the ability to create rural livelihood opportunities in Bangladesh.”

Dr Ketaki Bapat, Senior Scientist and Co-ordinator RuTAG program, at the Office of the PSA said, “The RuTAG technologies have been developed at the finest institutions in India. We wish to share these technologies with social entrepreneurs in Bangladesh assuring complete handholding support and leveraging digital technologies for successfully adopting these technologies.”

Mr Sanjay Nayak, Chair, FICCI S&T Committee and MD, Tejas Networks reiterated, “Through the RuTAG Program, FICCI remains committed to scale Indian innovations in BIMSTEC countries with a special focus on Bangladesh. Bangladesh has been a long-standing development partner of India and there is tremendous potential for our nations on collaborating on the technology front.”

Speaking on the partnership, Mr Parul Soni, Global Managing Partner, Think through Consulting stated, “We are delighted to partner with the RuTAG Technology Commercialisation Programme. Technological innovations can help rural communities in the world by increasing their income and their yields. While these reduce their risks arising on account of climate change and other natural disasters, these increase their opportunities too.”

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Adani Green to acquire 2 Solar Plants with 75 MW capacity

Adani Green Energy Limited (AGEL), one of the largest renewables energy companies in India, has acquired a 100 per cent stake in two Special Purpose Vehicles (SPVs) holding 74.94 MW solar projects.

These are operating plants of Sterling & Wilson- a Shapoorji Pallonji group company, which is one of India’s largest real estate companies. The projects, commissioned in 2017, are located in Medak District of Telangana and have long-term Power Purchase Agreements(PPA) with the Southern Power Distribution Company of Telangana Limited, the company said.

The enterprise valuation of the target SPV is Rs.446 crore. AdaniGreen Energy Limited (AGEL), a part of India-based Adani Group, has one of the largest global renewable portfolios with 15.2GW of operating, under-construction and awarded projects catering to investment-grade counterparties. The company develops, builds, owns, operates and maintains utility-scale grid-connected solar and wind farm projects. Key customers of AGEL include the National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC), Solar Energy Corporation of India (SECI) and various state distribution companies or discoms.

With this acquisition, AGEL will increase its operating renewable capacity to 3,470MW with a total renewable portfolio of 15,240 MW.

Vneet S. Jaain, MD & CEO, Adani Green Energy Ltd, said: “Strengthening our portfolio through organic and inorganic growth opportunities is an integral part of our vision to build a capacity of 25 GW by 2025 and become the largest renewables company in the world. We will leverage the strength of our platform and capital management philosophy to achieve operational improvements and value-accretive returns from the project.”

The closing of the transaction is subject to customary approvals and conditions. Adani Green is listed in the Indian bourses.

Adani Group’s renewable energy portfolio has exceeded the total capacity installed by the entire United States solar industry in 2019.

According to a report by research firm Mercom, Adani’s solar portfolio is 12.32 Gwac. At the end of 2019, the United States had about 1,100,546 MW—or 1.1 billion kilowatts (kW)—of total utility-scale electricity generating capacity, according to data from US Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Further, Adani’s solar energy generation will displace 1.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide, Mercom said. Gautam Adani, Group Chairman has set target of 25 GWac of renewable power in installed generation capacity by 2025. India has set a renewable energy target of 175 GW by 2022.

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How India is using tech to monitor Covid-19 vaccine distribution

A former Indian Prime Minister had an interesting take on social welfare schemes.

For every dollar spent on welfare schemes, only 15 cents reach the beneficiary. So, when COVID-19 vaccination rollouts were announced, many people in the county had similar doubts.

Would there be cases of vacciantion for some and not for others?

As COVID-19 cases surge in India, technology is being used to monitor effective vaccine delivery in India. The second largest country, with 1.3 billion people, India over the past 3 months have vaccinated around 35 million people.

India’s vaccination drive has so far been done in two phases. In Phase I, healthcare and other essential workers were administered the vaacine. In Phase II- people aged 60 and above, as well as those who are above 45 (with co-morbidities) are undergoing vaccination.

India has a federal structure of governance, similar to the UK and US. It is here that Central and State governments have to work in conjunction with each other, to ensure that the vaccination drive is efficient.

Distribution efficiencies

Take the case of Bengaluru-based Intugine Technologies. The startup has partnered with the Government of Andra Pradesh to ensure safe and efficient distribution of Covid-19 vaccine across the state.

Intugine is a logistics technology company and provides real time tracking and supply chain optimization solutions to the likes of Walmart-owned Flipkart, Philips, Mahindra Logistics and Arvind Fashion.

Government’s jab with tech

The Government of Andhra Pradesh has taken a proactive step towards minimising transit times through real-time visibility and exception response. Intugine will use portable GPS devices to facilitate real time tracking of vaccines in transit.

Intugine’s CEO Harshit Shrivastava pointed out that vaccine distribution is a temperature critical process and therefore transit times have to be controlled.

Vaccine supply chain, across the globe, is expected to face theft and counterfeiting risks. The Government of Andhra Pradesh aims to build protective safeguards against such risks.

Mission Director, NHM, Government of Andhra Pradesh, Bhaskar Katamneni, IAS said: “We wanted to establish control over long distance movement of vaccines from the state storage centre to different district storage centers. We wanted to monitor this movement in real time and ensure a timely response in case of any unforeseen exceptions.”

Intugine’s end to end visibility platform facilitates route planning & vehicle allocation, digital indenting, in-warehouse tracking, in-transit tracking, digital invoicing and data driven planning.

The company is in talks with several other Indian states to implement a similar real time visibility solution for vaccine distribution.

Intugine Technologies had previously played an important role in containing the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April 2020, Intugine had repurposed their real time visibility solution to help the Indian states of Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh, Nagaland, Goa, Meghalaya and Madhya Pradesh among other states are using this to monitor home quarantined individuals and ensure social distancing.

“Last year we facilitated the monitoring of over 600,000 home quarantined individuals without flouting any privacy considerations. This year we aim to facilitate efficient distribution of vaccines across the country.” said Ayush Agrawal, Cofounder, Intugine Technologies.

Blockchain connect

Similar to Intiguine, is Pluss Advanced Technologies, a Tata Capital-backed energy storage company has developed a Phase Change Materials (PCMs) solution, called Celsure. PCM technology has the ability to absorb, store and release large amounts of latent heat over a defined temperature range and can act as a thermal barrier which keeps the vaccine stable. “PCMs are ideal for thermal energy storage as they are highly cost effective, stable, environment friendly and maintain desired temperature without the need for external source of energy,” said Vineet Chadha, Partner, Tata Capital Innovations Fund, which is a part of Tata Capital. Tata Capital is a part of the the $100 billion Tata Group.

Typically, vaccines are stored in low temperature freezers and doses are better planned in cases such as polio. In the case of Covid-19, the numbers are daunting. According to WHO estimates, more than 50 per cent of vaccines may be wasted globally every year because of temperature control, logistics and shipment-related issues.

StaTwig, a Hyderabad-based company has come up with a COVID-19 vaccine distribution platform through blockchain. In the case of pharma companies, there is visibility in extended supply chain, the location, distribution of products and how long they stay in the warehouses. This information is useful to generate actionable insights, to ensure quality and safety and helps in building a blockchain solution.

More enhancements needed

So far, the Indian government has done a commendable job, by not allowing black marketers from taking over vaccine distribution.

However, industry watchers feel, more can be done, especially in wider monitoring and a co-ordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic. “The government can use this opportunity to pilot new technologies at scale and open up vaccine distribution to other stakeholders,” said Ankit Jhanwar, Vice President- Strategy, Pluss Advanced Technologies. Having said that, it is a commendable job by the government, which has to oversee a country with a billion people, added Jhanwar.

Well begun is half done. As cases of COVID-19 has risen in the past two weeks, governments across the Asian continent which represents almost of the earth’s population, must be hoping that the same technology, which has been labelled as ‘evil’, can also do some ‘good’.

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Software Technology Parks of India launches Blockchain CoE

Software Technology Parks of India (STPI) has launched Apiary, a Centre of Excellence (CoE) in Blockchain at STPI incubation centre in Gurugram, along with the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), Government of Haryana, Government Blockchain Association, companies and top-tier academic institutions.

STPI Apiary would revolutionise the Blockchain incubation ecosystem by fostering R&D innovation and entrepreneurship while nurturing start-ups to build indigenous products. Blockchain dramatically reduces the possibilities of a data breach.

With all the fraud-resistant features, blockchain technology holds the potential to revolutionise various business sectors and make processes more intelligent, secure, transparent, and more efficient compared to traditional business processes.

At the launch of the CoE, Ajay Prakash Sawhney, Secretary, Secretary, Ministry of Electronics & IT, Govt. of India said, “Apiary is taking shape by bringing together all stakeholders. We can put India Stack in blockchain. Let’s seek those use cases where we can provide the solutions. 2020 is the time to become ambitious; it’s time for us to change.”

Jyoti Arora, Special Secretary & Financial Adviser, MeitY, Govt. of India, underscored, “We have a lot of expectations from this CoE. We have to bring the young people to the fore and empower them to create path-breaking solutions in blockchain.”

Dr Omkar Rai, Director General, STPI, said, “The kind of leadership we have for Apiary can help us to achieve the mandate of this CoE and succeed by translating the ideas of start-ups into world-class blockchain products. Our programmes will disperse the tech start-up ecosystem to Tier- II/III cities, and we are trying to reach the unreached and facilitating support for democratising product innovation.”

The 7,000 sq. ft. Apiary -CoE, at STPI-Gurugram, targets 100 start-ups in the coming five years. The centre aims to provide blockchain as a service and allow all stakeholders to benefit from shared learning, experiences, and resources.

The start-ups will be mentored by a group of accomplished industry and academic pioneers, led by the Chief Mentor Pankaj Thakar, CoE & Founder Padup and aided by a Governing Council (GC) & Project Management Group (PMG) consisting of top technology industrialists, investors, and academicians.

Several corporate and academic partners have already come on board, including IBM, Intel, Padup Venture, Indian Angel Network, Vintners Angel Group, Padup Syndicate and Venture Catalyst. Foundation for Innovation and Technology Transfer, FITT- IIT Delhi/Sonepat Campus, will participate as an academic partner.

The first Cohort of Apiary

STPI APIARY invited applications from start-ups and entrepreneurs for ‘Idea Challenge Program in Blockchain Technology’ in domains like Supply Chain, Agriculture, Finance and e-governance use cases about Land Records, Public Health, Labour, Service Record, Pension Delivery and Law Enforcement & Evidence Management. Ten best start-ups are onboarded, selected from 100+ applications received, in the first Cohort of Apiary.

The selected start-ups represent multiple industries, including Financial Services, Healthcare, Government, Travel and Hospitality & Retail. TraceFood, Jal Jaivik Bazzar & SATV Emerging Technology Private Limited are from the food supply chain domain, Swapnet Pvt Ltd & Trustless Capital are from the fintech domain, Calculus & Sofocle Innovation Labs Pvt are into eGovernance & Digital Records, Sofexsto Technologies and Procure+ are working in Healthcare sector and CredibleMe Pvt Ltd (A subsidiary of Snapper Future Tech) is from Education & Banking domain.

These start-ups are mentored by technocrats and domain experts. India will soon realise the massive potential of this technology and drive a new wave of decentralised applications, officials said.

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Around 50% exporters have gone online post COVID-19: Hong Kong Trade Development Council survey

In the aftermath of COVID-19, around 50 per cent of exporters have gone digital.

Nearly half of the exporters surveyed planned to develop other product categories (45.7%) or build up online sales channels (45.4%) in 2021, according to the survey conducted by Hong Kong Trade Development Council (HKTDC).

The HKTDC conducts the Export Index survey every quarter, interviewing 500 local exporters from six major industries including machinery, electronics, jewellery, watches and clocks, toys and clothing, to gauge business confidence in near-term export prospects. The Index indicates an optimistic or pessimistic outlook, with 50 as the dividing line.

Industries embracing digital

The most popular channels for those going online included proprietary websites/applications/social commerce (77.3%) and third-party e-commerce platforms (64.9%). Some respondents also indicated they used online sourcing platforms (36.1%) or online exhibitions (19.1%), the survey said.

However, many exporters encountered difficulties when developing online sales, including intense competition in the e-commerce market (56.7%) and ineffective digital market strategies (52.6%), while some were not ready to take small orders (37.6%) or establish long-term relationships with buyers on a virtual basis (32.0%). Other commonly identified issues included potential cybersecurity risks (26.3%) and the need to train e-commerce staff (25.3%).

HKTDC Director of Research Nicholas Kwan said that many companies now offer a basket of value-added services as a way to stay competitive in the market. The most common free service offered is product design and development (67.9%), followed by preparing trade documentation (56.6%), logistics arrangement (56.6%), facilitating the attainment of quality-certification or product-testing reports (56.6%), and managing production including outward processing and quality control (52.8%).

Biz rebound in major industries

HKTDC Economist Samantha Yim said export confidence improved across all major industries. The strongest rebound was in jewellery (42.2) and toys (44.7), which jumped 9.2 and 8.8 points respectively.

Among major markets, Hong Kong exporters were relatively more confident in the United States (46.1, up 1.7 points), while Mainland China (48.0) and Japan (47.3) were on par with the last quarter. The outlook for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (45.2) and the European Union (42.9) was less promising, falling 2 and 1.1 points respectively.

“The improving export sentiment is further evident in an upward trend in the subsidiary indexes including the Trade Value Index [46.3, up 9.8 points] and Employment Index [43.2, up 1.7 points], yet the Procurement Index [33.6, down 1 point] remained subdued, suggesting exporters are worrying orders might drop in the near future,” Ms Yim said.

The HKTDC’s Research Department also conducted a series of company interviews to explore how technologies have promoted smart-city development and helped local enterprises ride out the COVID-19 challenges.

Evolving retail

HKTDC Economist Melissa Ho said the pandemic has accelerated the transformation of the retail industry. Technological solutions such as data analytics, the Internet of Things and sensors have played a pivotal role in enabling more effective retail management and providing better shopping experiences for consumers. Self-services/self-checkout kiosks, “try-before-you-buy” experiences powered by augmented reality (AR) technology, and the use of sensors for consumption-pattern analysis have become the “new normal” in the retail industry.

“Technology improves operational efficiency and enhances shopping experiences. It is important for retailers to keep up with the fast-paced change in customer needs and expectations by enhancing their capabilities and competitiveness through digital enablers,” she said.

Local companies need to upgrade and transform in four key areas amid the pandemic: developing new products, expanding sales channels, innovating marketing solutions and optimising work processes. HKTDC Assistant Principal Economist (Global Research) Louis Chan said that medical and healthcare products as well as tech-related (including 5G, artificial intelligence, and AR) products emerged with the rise of “stay-at-home” economy, while the online-to-offline business model continued to grow with cross-border e-commerce becoming a new focus.

“Content marketing on social media as well as more precise and personalised marketing backed by data analysis will become the new normal. Mobile technology-aided game marketing can help companies win support from the new generation of consumers,” said Chan.

He noted work optimisation can be achieved by applying various technologies, citing the example that automated systems supported by robots can enhance warehouse efficiency and delivery accuracy. Cloud database, remote and machine learning technology can also help optimise logistics efficiency, improve production management and reduce risks, added Chan.

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In India energy storage, need of the hour

India needs to have an energy storage in place, which would help in cutting down electricity costs and reduce carbon emissions.

Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala, was speaking at Indian Institute of Information Technology (IIIT) Hyderabad’s annual R&D event.

It gives researchers a platform where they can share their work and interact with other scholars.

This year due to the COVID-19 pandemic the event was held online.

In the event Professor Ashok Jhunjhunwala, an Indian academic and also the recipient of the prestigious Padma Shri award, spoke about how India needs a proper plan to bring renewable energy to help cut down the electricity costs. Ashok Jhunjhunwala is currently the institute professor at the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Madras.

In his talk Professor Jhunjhunwala focused on how the renewable energy can be used for electricity in commercial spaces such as office and colleges.

Solar or wind electricity is not available on a 24/7 basis, as it is intermittent in nature. India needs a flexible energy storage. The electricity which is produced has to be used immediately,” said Jhunjhunwala.

Establishing Solar and Wind energy farms along with some coal based grid carriers will be able to provide electricity using a state owned DISCOM as a grid carrier will guarantee electricity for about 24/7 at approximately Rs 6 per unit.

Electric battery storage is one way of storing the energy in order to use it later and setting up of a solar and wind energy generation and wheeling it to buildings is another way of doing it. Jhunjhunwala is of the view that it is possible to use 24/7 renewable energy in India today for office complexes via storage.

In the near future the commercial spaces could also be capable of creating its own electricity. Around 5 to 20 MWh Li-Ion storage along with a bi-directional converter which could be connected to the internal grid of the complex, pointed out Jhunjhunwala.

In addition to electric battery storage one can also use chilled water storage to use the energy for air conditioning in commercial spaces.

One of the constraints in energy storage has to do with the cost involved in it. Currently, the world over, there are efforts to bring the economics in favour of using battery storage, which is subsidised by governments.

In the near future when the battery price falls the total price would also reduce, stated Jhunjhunwala.

According to a report in The Hindu, the energy markets are shifting towards renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydro power. Being a part of the Paris Climate agreement, the share of renewable energy is going to increase in the near future. Andra Pradesh and Telangana have immense potential for solar energy farms, even Rajasthan for instance solar farms can be set in the deserts. Wind farms could be set in the coastal areas, said Jhunjhunwala.

By shifting towards the renewable source of energy India could save over $90 billion in imports from 2021-2030. The installed renewable capacity of India is fifth in the world. Indian Prime Minister, Narendra Modi has set a target of 450 GW by the year 2030.

 

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AI can help in fraud detection and prevention in the world of Finance

In the post-COVID era, financial institutions across the world are figuring out ways in which they can leverage Artificial Intelligence. The sector has been fortunate thanks to the regulatory onslaught post the 2008 economic crisis, as a result of which banks are well equipped to weather the COVID-19 storm as well as aid economic recovery. Care Ratings is one of the leading credit rating agencies in India.

In a conversation with W.Media, A Shiju Rawther, Chief Information Officer, Care Ratings outlined his views on usage of AI in the BFSI sector.

Shiju has had a steady career growth in reputed organization like IIFL Finance Limited and others. Shiju has been recognized as one of the Most Innovative CIO’s in India.

How is Artificial Intelligence being used in the BFSI sector ?

The BFSI industry has always seemed to be one of the most developed and willing to invest in new technologies. It’s no wonder that AI has quickly become one of the technical pillars on which the entire modern financial market is built.

Not everyone is aware that AI is not only leading analytical solution, but also a way to change the way customers interact with services provided by the financial industry. Let’s take a closer look at this extraordinary relationship, its impact on the way we use banks, and on issues such as fraud detection and compliance regulations.

Artificial Intelligence is used in many Fintech solutions. It’s a cure for the daily challenges faced by many businesses like customer experience personalization and loyalty building, to strictly technical financial features such as anomaly detection or fraud prevention.

AI has been talked about for some time now. Will there be more meaningful adoption now?

The beginnings of AI in the industry, however, were not so simple. The first attempts to improve the operation of banks using computers were made in the 1950s. The story started with the simplest and most obvious solutions: accountants wanted to use computers to make calculations much faster and more accurately than real people could.

However, it turned out that their use might not be so easy since the machines themselves were not as powerful as they are now. Despite this fact, Bayesian statistics, which is used in machine learning even today, was implemented to expand algorithms enabling processing actions such as stock market predictions, loan repayments or calculation of probabilities regarding auditing.

In the early 90s, AI and machine learning appeared on Wall Street along with the first hedge funds – but there was still no significant breakthrough. It appeared only with the increased availability of data, generally with the spread of the internet. Since then, there has been an extremely rapid evolution of operating systems, taking advantage of the increasing capabilities of machines.

Nowadays AI basically affects every area of a bank’s or financial services institution operations as well as the work of departments that we often forget about in the context of using technology in the financial sector, such as corporate core aspects, including even human resource team work.

What kind of work is going on in the same?

With plenty of post-recession anti-banking sentiment still lingering, it’s common to see fintech and traditional banks framed in oppositional terms. There’s some truth to that, especially with disruption-minded digital-only banks, but technological innovations have transformed banking of all stripes — and nowhere is that clearer than with AI.

AI has impacted every process of banking — front, middle and back. That means even if you know nothing about the way your financial institution uses, say, complex machine learning to fend off money launderers or sift through mountains of data for fraud-related anomalies, you’ve probably at least interacted with its customer service chatbot, which runs on AI.

 Within AI, are there any particular areas of focus?

My sense is that innovation towards customer experience will be one of the key areas. Customers increasingly expect tailored products and services delivered to them in real time, in tune with their moods and behaviors. To do this, banks will need to fuse artificial intelligence (AI) and human judgement to turn the troves of customer data they possess into actionable insights that help customers improve their financial well-being.

As we enter a new decade, the banking sector faces a pivotal moment, with digitisation transforming business models and processes in new and greater ways. In coming days, BFSI segments must innovate and invest in advanced technologies to remain in the market. It is no longer a question of achieving a competitive advantage. Its table stakes.

In the future, the banks that survive and thrive will use these advanced technologies to make the transition from delivering financial services to enabling financial betterment. To this end, we see several priority areas on which banks should focus their efforts, to succeed in the next decade.

Banks will need to become more like partners to their clients, using AI and analytics to make helpful nudges and interventions to encourage healthy spending habits and make recommendations on how to reach life goals sooner. Adopting this approach will require banks to restructure services and products around the short and long-term impact of financial decisions, helping customers to make more purposeful investments and purchases.

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How DCs should plan in a pandemic

With the Covid-19 pandemic, disaster preparedness has become the ‘New Normal’.

Lockdown efforts, which have been seen as essential in many countries, to safeguard citizen’s lives, seems to be the way forward. In line with this, the first and an essential step for management in a data centre, is to develop a specific pandemic preparedness and response plan.

“Share the pandemic plan with all employees, stakeholders, vendors, suppliers and key customers. Establish a system whereby elements of the plan are tested, updated and changes disseminated on a regular basis,” pointed out Hideaki Fujimaki, CEO, Spiralgroup.biz Ltd.

Efforts need to be ongoing

The pandemic has also forced organisations to address gaps in the preparedness and recovery plan on an ongoing basis, rather than a one-time effort. “The pandemic plan should incorporate a tiered response, clearly identifying the actions to be taken at each level and the circumstances that would trigger implementation of the next level,” stated Fujimaki.

Most organizations have a three to five-level contingency plan, ranging from pre-pandemic) operations, to taking reasonable precautions, through lights-out operation and, in worst cases, a complete site shutdown with transfer of critical applications and operations to backup sites.

“The plan should be practised or role-played if possible. At every level, the plan should clearly identify the trigger(s) to implement that level, the decision-makers authorized to direct escalation to that level and the appropriate actions for operations,” said Fujimaki.

This should include policies for facility access, on-site activities, staffing and sanitization.

Also, in such a scenario, with IT assets being critical, maximum acceptable downtime, reduction in redundancy and/or recovery time for all equipment, disruption or failure response procedures, minimum acceptable staffing levels, should be factored in. Additionally, staff protection by using temperature checks, contact tracing, reporting of symptoms, site access, minimum acceptable levels of critical on-site activities, such as equipment maintenance have to be in place, noted Fujimaki.

A tiered-response plan should include plans to meet the challenges of operating with reduced staff, including situations in which staff may be unable to access the site or may need to leave the site on short notice. It should include a staffing threat matrix for various scenarios of employee absenteeism, according to Fujimaki.

There is also a need to look at potential alternatives. Where practical, organisations should include provisions for the use of third-party staff, as a contingency measure.

“Recognise that any change from normal processes can increase the risk of human error or extend response times in case of emergency,” said Fujimaki. The plan should make provisions for a multi-peak/wave pandemic, taking into account a second wave, possibly only weeks after the first and possibly worse, when supplies and finances are depleted, staff is fatigued, and maintenance has been deferred. “Multiple waves/seasonal re-occurrences may also be likely. Long-term contingencies, which could include vaccine unavailability, critical supplier going out of business, should be considered and planned for as well.

Protecting the Business

Management should confer with insurance companies and legal advisors on relevant items, such as cleaning requirements, service level agreements (SLAs), notifications, etc. For data centers in areas where there is no clear regulatory mandate, management should decide — in consultation with insurance companies, legal advisors, Human Resources (HR) departments and other business unit(s) — at which response level to institute certain response measures, noted Fujimaki.

Some data centres are officially considered to be part of the critical national infrastructure. While this may confer some advantages, such as priority access to fuel, it may also mean that plans need to be shared with and agreed to by overseeing authorities. As part of the strategic plan development, clarify the status of key data center workers (whether they are classed as essential workers) and of the data center (whether it is deemed part of the nation’s critical infrastructure). Determine precisely what these terms means, as it could differ in every country and what documentation is needed for situations involving staff travel, shortage of fuel, amongst others, said Fujimaki.

Even with the best planning and communication, a pandemic is likely to have an impact on a data centre’s operations’ budget. The Executive management will need to assess the situation and prepare accordingly.

Government support is available in many countries. Beyond that, as with the case with other abnormal events (e.g., equipment failure or severe weather event), management typically takes the reasonable approach of instructing operations team to spend what is necessary to protect staff and the data center infrastructure, keeping track of the costs. Justifications of expenditures should be examined as a part of an ongoing review process, points out Fujimaki.

Construction impact

A pandemic presents challenges for data center construction, major upgrades or extensions of capacity. Construction speed has a big impact on cost and delays in one area is bound to impact other areas and a range of suppliers. The impact of all potential disruptions, from the availability of staff to a shortage of construction material, must be assessed and weighed.

Managing supply chains

Confer with suppliers to understand the risks — current and potential — for disruptions, including possible long-term disruptions, beginning with critical spares and consumables. Understand the geographic regions where key components are sourced or manufactured, and what the available alternatives are if supply chains are disrupted, opined Fujimaki.

Also, one of the key factors which nobody is paying attention to has to do with regard to certain countries with aging population. In some geographies means that despite best efforts, the data centre industry may be more vulnerable than other industries to a pandemic. “This presents a challenge, given the existing and well-documented staffing shortages the industry faces. A more age-diverse workforce may prove more resilient,” stated Fujimaki.

What the pandemic has taught organisations is that disaster preparedness should be no longer thought of as a contingency plan but a proactive one.

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Equinix and partners drive $3 billion in DC projects globally

Nasdaq-listed Equinix today provided detailed roadmap of its $3 billion xScale data centre programme, including projects currently under development in Brazil, France, Japan and other markets.

This planned global expansion, financed with the support of joint venture partners, will serve the growing demands of hyperscale companies that are deploying infrastructure at Equinix, while providing Equinix’s ecosystem of 10,000 customers with access to these strategic providers, the company said.

Equinix xScale data centers serve the unique core workload deployment needs of a targeted group of hyperscale companies, including the world’s largest cloud service providers. With xScale data centers, hyperscale companies can add core deployments to their existing access point footprints at Equinix.

This can enable their growth on a single platform which can immediately span 63 global metros and offer direct interconnection—within a vibrant set of ecosystems—to their customers and strategic business partners, the company said.

Rapid growth of the digital economy has driven increasing demand for global connectivity and hybrid multicloud solutions. For years, the world’s largest cloud service providers, including Alibaba Cloud, Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud, IBM Cloud, Microsoft Azure and Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, have partnered with Equinix to leverage its global platform of more than 220 data centers to directly connect to their strategic business partners and customers.

As these companies continue to expand, they require capacity at scale to match their internal compute, storage and edge cache requirements.

“Equinix xScale facilities offer hyperscale companies the unique value of Platform Equinix, including access to business ecosystems, interconnection services and local market knowledge around the world,” said Krupal Raval, Managing Director, xScale, Equinix.

“Our xScale data centers are engineered to meet the technical, operational, and pricing requirements of hyperscale companies that require large amounts of space and power to support massive scaling across thousands of servers for cloud, big data analytics or storage tasks, with 10, 20, or even 50 megawatts of power, all while meeting Equinix’s sustainability commitments.”

The Asia-Pacific push

On March 1, last year, Equinix opened its first xScale data center in Tokyo, TY12x. Equinix has had early success with TY12x, securing an anchor tenant committed to the full phase one capacity and a significant portion of phase two capacity.

The TY12x is Equinix’s first xScale data center in Asia. It will provide more than 186,000 square feet (about 17,300 square meters) of colocation space and will support 54 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers all phases are complete.

Further, the TY12x operates in close proximity to 11 International Business Exchange IBX data centres in Tokyo.

The Tokyo metro is a strategic hub for financial services companies, internet providers, and cloud, content and mobility service providers. Equinix data centers server as strategic network hubs in Tokyo, where international and major local carriers meet.

In addition, Equinix in Tokyo provides proximity to leading regional internet exchanges including access to JPIX, JPNAP and BBIX.

In addition to TY12x, the OS2x xScale data center in Osaka is currently under development and is expected to open in Q4 2021. Equinix also anticipates developing one additional xScale data center in Japan in the future. The three xScale data centers in Japan are expected to collectively deliver approximately 138 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers in Japan. Last month Equnix appointed Guy Danskine, a nine-year veteran of the company, to the position of managing director for Australian operations.

A JV with GIC in Asia-Pacific and Europe

In Q4 2020, Equinix completed the formation of the greater than $1 billion initial joint venture in the form of a limited liability partnership with GIC, Singapore’s sovereign wealth fund, to develop and operate xScale data centers in Japan as well as Europe.

TY12x, OS2x and a planned future xScale data center in Japan are included in this initial joint venture.

Aiming at EMEA

In February 2021, Equinix opened its second xScale data center in Paris named PA9x, which is currently fully leased by a single hyperscale tenant.

PA9x is Equinix’s second xScale data center in Paris and will provide more than 29,600 square feet (about 2,750 square meters) of colocation space and support 10 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers when complete.

PA9x operates as part of a campus with PA2 and PA3 in Saint-Denis, France.

This metropolitan area is a strategic hub for the exchange of traffic between the U.S. and Europe, and a termination point for many submarine cable systems in the Mediterranean, bringing suppliers from Africa, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific to Europe.

The strategic location of Equinix’s facilities in Paris provides a high level of carrier connectivity, making them ideal locations to procure bandwidth and optimize network performance.

Additional xScale DCs in Europe

Six xScale facilities are currently operating or are under development in Europe. Collectively, these sites will have the capacity to deliver approximately 106 megawatts of power to hyperscale customers in Europe once all are operational. These sites include:

Paris: PA8x which opened in Q1 2019 and PA9x which opened in February 2021

London: LD11x which opened in February 2021, and LD13x which opened in Q4 2019

Frankfurt: FR9x which is expected to open in Q4 2021, and FR11x which is expected to open in Q2 2022

 

Growth in Latin America

In the third quarter of 2021, Equinix plans to open its first xScale data center in Latin America. SP5x is located in São Paulo, Brazil, and is in close proximity to the Equinix SP4 IBX data center. It will be connected by optical fiber to the existing four Equinix São Paulo IBX data centers and will support five megawatts of power to hyperscale customers in its first phase.

According to Jabez Tan, Head of Research, Structure Research, the adoption of hybrid and multicloud architectures is only picking up steam and hyperscalers are looking for digital infrastructure partners that not only provide large amounts of space and power in strategic locations, but also a platform that enables them to interconnect with partners and customers.

“With the continued innovation around Platform Equinix and investments in purpose-built sites in Europe, Asia-Pacific and now Latin America as well, Equinix is well-positioned to meet hyperscalers’ needs for operational reliability, global reach, and interconnectivity to rich ecosystems that are critical to serving their customers worldwide,” said Tan.

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Infoxchange Group to build a new hub for digital transformation

The Infoxchange Group, a not-for-profit social enterprise, is developing a new Digital Transformation Hub to help Australian not-for-profits build digital capability and resilience for a post-COVID-19 world.

In response to COVID-related technology challenge, the Infoxchange Group is leading a cross-sector partnership to assist organisations on their digital transformation journey.

The Hub will combine capacity building programs, access to technology solutions, web-based resources and tailored advice to help organisations have an even greater impact.

Infoxchange Group’s Digital Technology in the Not-for-Profit Sector 2020 report illustrates that nearly two-thirds of not-for-profit organisations are less than satisfied with the way they use technology. Only 30 percent had the technology in place to easily adapt to staff working from home during COVID-19.

“COVID-19 caused enormous disruption to the way we work. It emphasised how important it is for not-for-profits to have efficient, reliable technology in place to keep supporting communities and making the biggest impact possible,” says Infoxchange CEO David Spriggs.

“The Digital Transformation Hub will address these challenges in a one-stop-shop that will empower not-for-profits to deliver services more effectively, improve staff productivity, and better serve communities in need.”

Top technology challenges identified by not-for-profits that are set to be addressed in the Digital Transformation Hub include access to affordable and fit for-for-purpose technology solutions; lack of skilled technical resources to advise on digital technology; resources and funding to assist with the implementation of digital transformation initiatives; staff and volunteer digital skills and capability.

The Community Council of Australia (CCA) and the Charities Crisis Cabinet have recognised the urgency to build digital capacity in the sector and the need for the Digital Transformation Hub, particularly for smaller less well-resourced organisations.

“As COVID-19 has so clearly highlighted, digital capacity is the key to significantly improving the productivity and effectiveness of charities.  It is the communities we serve that miss out if we do not address the digital divide between charities,” says David Crosbie, CEO of Community Council of Australia.

Cerebral Palsy Support Network recently underwent a digital transformation journey and CEO Scott Sheppard says he understands the challenges not-for-profits face.

“Moving to the Cloud has transformed our ability to work remotely and share information securely, allowing us to communicate to and provide better support for individuals and families living with cerebral palsy,’’ Scott says.

“The new Digital Transformation Hub will empower and assist not-for-profits across Australia to undertake their own digital journey and provide even better support for their clients.’’

Digitalization has emerged as the priority for many non-profits. What follows from the transformation is the need to ramp up the digital fortress as well, as data breaches targeting charities rose recently.

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How edge computing will exponentially grow the China market

Over the past decades, there have been paradigm shifts from centralised to decentralised IT environments: from mainframe server to on-premise server and from mobile to cloud environments. In many ways, it seems like an electronic dance music loop.

Nowadays, the industry is continuing to see growth of Cloud computing, which experts believe will continue to lead the ICT infrastructure market. In that space, Edge Computing will become an exponentially growing market in itself, with the increasing penetration of network-related technologies and initiatives, such as 5G and IoT.

According to Reply’s new research ‘From Cloud to Edge’, edge computing will be an exponentially growing market in all “Europe-5” (Italy, Germany, France, Netherlands, Belgium), and “Big-5” (USA, United Kingdom, Brazil, China, India) clusters’ countries due to the growing usage of 5G and IoT solutions. It is expected that Edge computing marketing would reach a value of $8294.5 million by 2025, according to Reportlinker.com.

All the industries that require the computing tasks as close to where data is originated as possible will benefit from Edge Computing. It’s time for global enterprises to design and implement architectures that leverage the best of Edge and Cloud Computing, “while ensuring privacy and cybersecurity” commented Filippo Rizzante, CTO reply.

China: 100+ Edge Projects Deployed in China Leveraging 5G and IoT Infrastructure

According to a new GSMA intelligence report ‘Edge Computing in the 5G Era: Technology and Market Developments in China’, noted that China’s leadership in edge computing is being driven by government support for new technologies and operator investments in new 5G and IoT networks. According to the ECC, there are currently more than 100 edge computing projects up and running in 40 cities in China across various sectors.

However, even as “China’s 5G numbers might look overwhelming, the quantity is well ahead of the quality.” Explained Robert Clark, a news analyst. “The real challenge in China will be in the industrial Internet.”

Though it’s still early, as networks become virtual or software-based, 5G will be the impulse for the next wave of multibillion-dollar infrastructure spending to spur innovation across many industries along with edge computing.

Take Chinese Grids’ Transformation as an example, China’s State Grid Corp (SGCC), government-backed biggest electricity distributor, has adopted a new focus for its smart grid development to build an electricity network plus IoT (E-IoT, essentially, is to deploy blockchain, AI, cloud computing, 5G, edge computing, and other digital/tech solutions upon the physical grid operation) by 2026.

Start from 2019, SGCC has already took steps to run its digital transformation. In 2020, Kou Wei, the current chairman of SGCC set off a landmark “white paper” for the e-IoT development, which set a grand vision to “establish an initial construction of the E-IoT network by 2021 and complete the E-IoT network development by 2026.” At the same year, working with Huawei and China Telecom, a largest-scale 5G-based smart power grid project in Qingdao of Shandong province was completed. Innovations in 5G telecommunication technology applications are applied e.g. DP facility suitable for 5G distribution power lines is equipped which can automatically eliminate faults of the lines within dozens of milliseconds (the one-way latency of the DP device is lowered to 8 milliseconds and the protection can last for 50 milliseconds).

SGCC has already taken further initiatives to build edge infrastructure nationwide in the next few years to advance its E-IoT network, a source who did not wish to be named told W.media.

“Creating a favourable ecosystem environment that supports technology developments and fosters innovation will ultimately determine the pace and magnitude of edge deployments in China and beyond.” explained Sihan Bo Chen, Head of Greater China, GSMA.

In the next few years, we will see more breakthroughs brought about by edge computing in BFSI, medicine, transport, industry, agriculture and the home. Edge computing gains an ‘edge’ in performance with data processing in an intelligent way as near as possible to its source that will bring practical benefits to help with the digitization of various industries.

The year of the Ox has dawned in China, named after a zodiac animal noted for its slow-but-steady approach. The description of China’s emerging 5G private network market could not be more accurate.

Curious about the cloud computing industry in China?

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