The Chip Race

Chips are red hot: high demand, acute shortages and a race for new foundries. While a laptop utilise a handful of chips (processor, memory, graphics, storage), an EV may use thousands (sensors, cams, battery, motor, display, charging, drive-by-wire, communications etc). The demand for chips and computing power have drawn capital and startups, a sample:
  • SiFive - RISC-V processor that is an alternative to ARM, Intel, AMD
  • Ascenium - Software-defined chip (circuitry compiled vs hardwired)
  • Groq - Tensor boffin's inference chip is 10x faster than competitors'
  • SambaNova - 50K computer vision processor (eg satellite images)
  • Ampere - ARM-based servers
  • Blaize - AI edge computing (example of an edge: sensors)
  • Cerebas - Largest CPU ever (to compete against Nvidia in AI)
  • UntetherAI - Install a petaflop AI processor like a graphics card
  • Wiliot - Next-gen, lower-cost, subscription-based RFID IoT

Guitar Showcase


Three guitar performances from three genres: cinematic, classical and musical. A short rendition of Your Love by Patrizio Mingarelli, Bach Cello Suite 1 by Julia Lange and I Dreamed a Dream by David van Ooijen.

Best Exercise

The Best Exercise

  • What is the best general purpose exercise? According to science, it is walking. That makes sense as even animals stroll, prowl, strut, amble, trot, saunter etc. It is the 'original' exercise. Other good exercises are doing housework (yes, really) and dancing. 1 2 3
  • Walking engages the whole body including the eyes and mind (to scan the surroundings) and allows one to partake in sunlight and fresh air if done outdoors. Naturally, less benefits will accrue when carried out on a pavement next to a busy road or on a thread mill indoors.
  • When walking, one also avails oneself to its most advanced version which is simply to walk naturally. No esoteric techniques needed.
  • Dancing on the other hand is an exclusive human activity (though some animals can ritual dance) and has multiple levels of engagement. It starts from just moving, then moving smoothly, then moving harmoniously (with the music and with other dancers).
  • Dancing has movement, rhythm, music and social elements. It is also highly accessible: just put on the earphones and music, stand up and away one goes. (If dancing is not one's cup of tea, one can jog on the spot or do aerobic exercises.)

Watching The Games
  • Thanks to the organisers and broadcasters, the Olympics this year is viewable in part through the internet [MY] which we find both convenient and compelling.
  • After scrolling through a few random events, we stumbled on two sports that were eminently watchable: women's weight lifting and women's volleyball.
  • Women's weight lifting because in the snatch section (snatch the weight in a squat, lift it above the head and stand up), the cameras zoom in on the contestant's face at the point the contestant stands up from the squat. In that split second, we can see the contestant's face when she uses her mind and will to lift the heavy bar up. Many top athletes use the mind, but in women's weight lifting, it is up close and visible.
  • We like volleyball because it is fast paced compared to other court games where services takes a long time and where there many long pauses. Women's volleyball has finesse and emo whilst the men's game is power packed.

Digital Bank Trends

Preamble
The first widely accepted digital bank was probably PayPal though it never marketed itself as such. It was 'a bank without the oversight that comes with a banking license'. Accounts could be used to send, receive and store money.

Starling
Digital bank Starling's revenue rose by 600% in 2021, in part due to being a channel for UK's pandemic recovery loans. Starling offers a rich set of account types: personal, sole trader, business, kids, joint accounts and multi-currency. Plus debit cards and post office cash deposits. (With digital banks not having branches, the post office may make a comeback as the human UI and as an alternative or supplement to high-tech banking).

Square
Square launched its small business digital bank last week. Being a point-of-sale (PoS) supplier, it must have figured rather than bank in proceeds, why not deposit them with Square itself. But it's not just another small business bank, it offers features such as:
  • Automatic repayment of loans by deducting a percentage of sales
  • Repayments linked to sales: sell more, pay more; sell less, pay less
  • If locked down, repay only the minimal amount every 60 days
  • Automatic saving of a percentage of sales for capex, taxes etc

Startups
  • C6 - JP Morgan Chase buys 40% stake in Brazilian digital bank
  • HMBradley - Bank that laser focuses on savings, not spending
  • Juni - Bank that speaks ecommerce: ad spend, card reject etc
  • Nomo - First Islamic international digital bank
  • Fair - First halal-certified neobank in the US
  • Zopa - P2P lender turned digital bank
  • Kroo - Social bank with a transparent roadmap

Dancexercise


Olympics
  • Despite reports that Tokyo may cancel them last minute, the games commenced today with women's football (AU v NZ 2-0, NL v ZM 6-0, JP v CA 1-1) and softball (CA v MX 4-0, US v IT, 2-0, JP v AU 8-1), so it looks like the 2020 Olympics is finally under way.
  • Though there were lots of doubts and obstacles, here's hoping the athletes, host, organiser, officials, broadcasters and press will make it a memorable tour of duty, producing a spectacle for viewers.
  • If the games spur people to exercise more it will be a bonus. Being cloistered at home long term probably isn't too good for physical and mental health. The consequences can creep up without notice, so remember to workout and to get plenty of sun and fresh air.

Town Square
  • A unique part of CN culture is group exercises in parks and town squares. Parks are for older folks doing exercises, taiji and kungfu in the morning. Town squares are for working class young people to participate in activities like social dancing after work.
  • Young and old are are welcomed, just step up and follow the movements of the other dancers. Natural dancing is a great exercise especially if one is able to harmonise movement and music.

Videos
  • The first vid shows group dancing by an eclectic ensemble. Note the three girls on the right holding their smartphones while dancing and see why a wearable phone could potentially be a hit.
  • The second vid was recorded during the Spring Festival holidays, hence the daytime dancing and crowd-free town square.
  • Keep dancing, keep exercising!

Julia @ July

Julia is an up-and-coming, award-winning programming language for data analysis and machine learning, and a  Python challenger. Learn more at JuliaCon 2021 happening July 28th-30th. Examples of Julia usage:
  • Solvency compliance - Aviva
  • Aladdin analytics - BlackRock
  • Predicting toxicity - AstraZeneca
  • Simulations of new therapies - Pfizer
  • Web-based financial planning - Timeline
  • Next generation global climate model - CliMA
  • Model nature using electrical circuit theory - NASA
  • Next generation airborne collision avoidance - LincolnLab
  • Dynamic stochastic general equilibrium modelling - NY Fed

Green Zen

Green Challenge
  • In the East, Zen is associated with meditation; in the West, it invokes imagery of calmness and tranquility.
  • Another meaning of Zen is virtuous direct action and Elon is going Zen on carbon.
  • There two main ways to address CO2 buildup in the atmosphere: Reduce CO2 emissions or increase CO2 sequestrations.
  • While emission reduction gets a lot of attention (EV, cycling, carbon tax etc), it is slow and laborious (but necessary nonetheless).
  • Musk is instead pushing for massive, breakthrough sequestrations via an Xprize challenge. The bounties total $100 million (the biggest challenge prizes in the world), apply here (faq).

CBDC Challenge
  • Countries can develop a their own CBDC, which would be technically challenging, or they can build upon or adopt a third party digital currency.
  • For example, after flirting with BTC, El Salvador is now mulling its own Tether-like CBDC. Makes sense, El Sal can't print USD, but if its CBDC is like Tether, it can...
  • On a similar note, SG - working with IMF, World Bank, UN, Mastercard, HyperLedger etc - is calling for proposals for a CBDC.
  • Candidates will have to reconcile opposing considerations such as centralisation versus privacy. Sounds irreconcilable? This can be solved by having banks keep accounts (rather than the central bank). The feds don't have access to transaction data (unless by regulation or court order), no different from current arrangements.
  • Bounties are up to $180,000, apply here (closing July 23rd, 2021).

Ventilation Examples


  • DIY PC builders of yore may remember the fun of installing all sorts of chassis fans to keep the CPU, boards and other electronics cool.
  • Same thought processes can be applied to premises to keep air fresh and healthy.
  • One may be even able to do away with aircons because shade temperatures (depending on location) are actually quite OK (think dining al-fresco at the local, tree-shaded street eatery during noon lunch, it wasn't too bad, was it?).
  • The above vids showcase premise owners with nifty ventilation builds. The first is a multi-fan setup reminiscent of crypto-mining rigs (home versions cost $30+, draw 15+ watts per fan, a tenth of an aircon; industrial ones $100+, 100+ watts). The second demos a wind tunnel like setup (note the bicycle on the left for scale).
  • To actually proceed, best check with HVAC engineers to formalise parameters such as ACH (air changes per hour) or l/s (litres of air moved per person per second). For documentation and in case regulations later mandate these in formal terms.
  • The exhaust fans could be located at the back of the premise to ventilate stale air to the back lane. There should be sufficient inlets at the front so the space won't go negative pressure (a big no, no), individual rooms may need their own ventilators. Wind-powered, whirly ventilators often seen on factories roofs may not be sufficient for battling bugzilla.
  • [Not advice, for your further research only.]

Delta Dawn

Some random notes on a resurgent bugzilla and its delta division:
  • If the frontline is overwhelmed, the fall back is the militia.
  • This is ordinary folks self-organising to take up the battle.
  • This is being planned by a few countries including UK. 1 2
  • The basic defensive unit is the individual and their primary weapons are masking up, vaccination and social circumspection.
  • Aggregated units (like in regiments and platoons) could be businesses, organisations and neighbourhoods.
  • Businesses are tasked to take care of themselves or risk being closed down. Employees and employers do their utmost to ensure their business or factory is not shut down by keeping to procedures, and by extra measures and ingenuity (eg. free vaccination, masks and hygiene training for employees, constant testing, CCTV).
  • Premises measure their ventilation via ACH (air changes per hour) and install ventilation inlets and exhausts to meet or exceed recommended standards. 3 4 5 6 7
  • Authorities can deploy extra inspectors to check on adherence to mandatory standards - perhaps by a general call-up of volunteer civil servants.
  • Individuals are required to mask up correctly in public. Half-masking is considered non-masking. The penalty for non-masking and related infringements is to be sent to the frontline to work as auxiliaries (joking).
  • If infection clusters are found at takeaway food stalls, transition to delivery only. Moderate delivery commissions or accelerate the many food delivery startups (that we see). Shops can go counter-only (shoppers do not enter the store but can buy items at a counter at the front of the shop).
  • Gather more data and have boffins pore over it for actionable items. For example, run analysis over the vast amount of data collected by contact apps and cross-reference them to cases to see if there are any new insights.
  • Do not rely on vaccination as the sole defence. Vaccines have thus far held their ground against delta but it is not impossible bugzilla might call up its reserve epsilon, kappa, sigma divisions later. 8 9
  • [Not advice, for your further research only.]

The March of AI

CNBC reports Sundar Pichai (Google CEO) opines AI is 'more profound than electricity and fire'. Elon Musk shares AI is a 'fundamental risk to the existence of human civilization'. Stephen Hawking said AI is the 'worst event in history of our civilisation' and Sam Altman (OpenAI CEO) likens AI to nuclear fission.

Hyperbole or dire warnings, Musk and Hawking could be on to something. AI could end up to be like plastics, so useful and ubiquitous, it can't be stopped even when found to be harmful. Or, it confers such an immense advantage, its weaponization becomes irresistible. Heady days for AI. There's an AI meet this Friday (16 July 2021) within the tech conference ATxSG. Sample topics:
  • Delivering AI Projects - Volkswagen
  • Managing the Risks of AI - Munich Re
  • Next Gen AI Infrastructure - NetApp
  • Product Mindset for Machine Learning - Walmart
  • Next Gen Marketing Platform - Pepsi
  • From Principles to Practice - Facebook

Argentina Brasilia Inglaterra Italia


The Copa América and UEFA Euro football finals happen this Saturday and Sunday (10 & 11 June 2021), with Argentina meeting Brazil, and England squaring up with Italy. [The post title is made upof the Spanish names of the respective countries, save for Brasilia, which is Brazil's capital.] As a prelude, here is a selection of songs we associate with each country:
  • No Llores Por Mi Argentina - Argentinian version of Don't Cry for Me Argentina, performed by Elena Roger.
  • Bum Bum Tam Tam - Hit Brazilian rap by MC Fioti, with dancing from FitDance. The vocalisation of rhythm is reminiscent of Konnakul.
  • Greensleeves - Classic English folk song, updated to a modern beat and abridged by OffKeyArts.
  • Nella Fantasia - By renowned Italian composer, Ennio Morricone, performed by rocker-soprano Park Ki Young.

Smart Gadgets

Smartphones
  • Interest in smartphones looks to have peaked. New versions are heralded by more lenses and smartphones aren't a topic of conversations anymore. Moving from desirability to utility.
  • Useful features could include better mics to go along with the sophisticated lenses, cameras that can record horizontal and vertical videos simultaneously, returning to being compact and lightweight. And solving distracted driving.
  • Smartwatches could be an answer. One that is twice as wide as standard watches (rather than making them taller - can't be taller than the width of a wrist). Can be easily rotated to be worn on the inside or outside of the wrist. Control via voice or gestures.
  • A smartwatch pairs nicely with an ewallet and electronic keys. So when you step out of your home, if you have your smartwatch with you, you know your id, phone, wallet and keys are also with you.
  • Gadgets could potentially head in two directions: miniaturization in smartwatches, and maximisation in new mobility (the car as an electronic device).

Smart Gadgets
  • FB - Smartwatches first, smart glasses next
  • Apple - Mopping up the smartwatch market using fitness
  • Venu - Apple's fitness smartwatch competitor (along with Fitibit)
  • OneUI - Samsung's phone and watch UI to be made similar
  • Google - Merging WearOS with Samsung's Tizen (making an exit?)
  • WatchOut - India's smartwatch (toehold into consumer electronics?)

BuildTech

Manufactured Buildings
  • Along with new mobility, new building is getting some attention.
  • First, Broad Group's 10 storey high-rise assembled in a day. Then, Elon Musk's new $50,000 adobe (costs less than a Tesla car, tour).
  • These are manufactured buildings: built whole in a factory and shipped onsite for installation. In contrast with industrialsed building systems (IBS) where sections (eg a concrete wall or bathroom stall) are built offsite and assembled onsite.
  • Manufactured buildings can resemble car manufacturing in industrial efficiency, quality control and the use of new tech and materials. Versus the highly variable quality of traditional manual construction (uneven walls, off-plumb, ponding etc).
  • Manufactured buildings can be disassembled and recycled (if this is built into the design). Whereas traditional buildings need to be demolished and the debris sent to landfills (or fly-tipped).
  • They are also greener by using less or no sand (world is running out of sand) and CO2 spewing concrete.
  • A further advantage: If, say, there is an issue with the foundation, the units can be unstacked, the foundation remedied and the units restacked.

Modular Startups

The Eyes Have It


On the topic of eyes, some retro vids. First, Claudia Cardinale and Charles Bronson in the movie Once Upon a Time in the West accompanied by the song Your Love. The scenes are carried entirely by the eyes. Next, a montage of actress Tuesday Weld to the tune of You Got It, highlighting her sparkling, expressive eyes.

Funky Tokens

Ownership
  • There was some NFT (non-fungible token) buzz a few weeks back.
  • An NFT can simply be thought of as a certificate of ownership.
  • Like the registration papers of a car that legally identifies the car and the owner.
  • The driver is the person behind the wheel, the owner can be someone else, somewhere else.
  • Similarly, NFT (a digital certificate of ownership) can be used to assign ownership of a piece of art.
  • Or patron-ship, in the sense the artist may retain some rights (eg copyright) but give away the single claim of being the art's patron.
  • Normally, ownership is established via sales or auction records, on a semi-formal basis, or the art piece is the token itself (if you have it in hand, you own it).
  • The key here is not tokenisation but whether the NFT has a market.
  • This requires a widely accepted platform, a plurality of market players and validation protocols (is that really a Van Gogh?)

Responsibility
  • We can extend the concept of token of ownership to token of responsibility.
  • Say, there is a pothole in your favourite road.
  • Who is responsible for patching the pothole? Ditto, the pavement, streetlights, drainage, trees etc.
  • A municipal officer can be assigned a token of responsibility for the road.
  • The token stores who came before (or after) the officer. when he or she started on the job, plus in a sub-ledger (aka sidechain), transactions, such as reports, photos, upgrades, repairs, budgets etc.
  • The municipal officer 'owns' the maintenance of the road.

Pasta ChowMein

  • For this post, we are putting on our amateur foodie hats to check out pan-seared carbos in the East and the West.
  • In the West, popular examples are Fettuccine Carbonara and Aglio Olio. These dishes are defined by light frying, rich sauces, fresh ingredients, herbs and al dente pasta.
  • In the East, fried carbo can be roughly divided into two types: northern and southern. Northern Biang Biang is noted for its freshly made hand-pulled noodles, a smorgasbord of ingredients including tomatoes, veggies and protein and heavy frying.
  • Southern fried noodles have a wide variety. Variously named Char Kway Teow or Chow Fun, the original was a minimalist dish consisting of noodles, veggies, soya sauce and a supporting cast of an egg and a dash of shellfish.
  • Though seemingly a simple dish, it required some skill to transform the simple ingredients into an irresistibly tasty and aromatic dish. Easily copied because the dish is normally cooked in the open, what we see on the street today are copies of copies.
  • A notable cousin of Chow Mein is the Mamak Mee Goreng. This dish gloriously adds a thick, spicy sauce, an assortment of fritters, potatoes, fresh lettuce and chillies to the mix, resulting in a new dish that stands by itself. Ditto, the renowned Pad Thai.
  • Other variations to Chow Mein are braised versions including Hokkien Mee (light coloured in SG, dark coloured in MY due to the exclusion or inclusion of dark soya sauce) and Kuay Teow Goreng Basah. Though braised, it is usually considered as fried, the fry-to-braise ratio may vary from 10:90 to 60:40.
  • A humble street version of Chow Mein is sometimes known as Budget Noodle, which has noodles quick fried with one veggie. Not particularly nutritious but nevertheless tasty if done right, it is meant to be a quick, morning pick-me-up that is wallet friendly.

Starting A Digital Bank

Digital Bank
MY is offering 5 inaugural digital banking licenses, closing date for application is next Wed (Jun 30th, 2021). [Application: framework, faq, procedure (appendix 1)]. A new digital bank should ideally have a clear USP (unique selling point). For example, it could be e-commerce focused with the following consumer friendly features:
  • Offers debit and credit cards (and digital currencies when available)
  • Does not expose card numbers, online or offline
  • User definable geo-fencing (payable in countries A, B and C only)
  • Transaction limits easily set & cards easily enabled and disabled
  • Instant app, SMS, email notification of transaction (user definable)
  • Double account: one for safe keeping, one for transaction
  • User adjustable security: low, medium, high (high: OTP, many rules eg no more than 1 transaction per day, 2 per week, 5 per month).
  • Independent or semi-independent adjudicator or ombudsman for disputes, account closings

Startups
Another sector with present needs which new digital banks can meet is small business banking. Some latest startups in this arena (the last 2 banks in the list are consumer banks) [1 2]
  • Brex - Financial software that comes with a bank
  • Novo - Cheque (checking) account in 10 minutes
  • Mercury - Startup bank (API, virtual cards, teams)
  • Lili - Banking for freelancers (expense management, reports)
  • Rho - Boost your credit limit by 300%
  • Hiver - Bonus if you make fewer withdrawals
  • Holvi - Comes with business account, invoicing, bookkeeping
  • Bunq - Lifestyle bank (yoga, coding, cuisine etc)
  • Lunar - Denmark's top banking app

Formula Future


As mobility transits to electric, autonomous and flight modes, here are some up and coming championships that may one day take over the mantle of apex racing from Formula One:

Carbon Tariff

Carbon Credits
  • EU is doing up a border carbon tax to be applied initially to cement, fertilisers, iron, steel, aluminium and electricity, products which are deemed the most carbon intensive.
  • The rationale is if EU is going green (solar, wind power, bicycles, trams, EVs etc), its imports should be green too.
  • Each tonne of CO2 emmitted in making a product must be offset by one carbon certificate or carbon credit.
  • Eg, the production of one tonne of steel emits 1.85 tonnes of CO2. So to import one tonne of steel into EU requires 1.85 carbon credits (raw steel only or all steel products eg. cars?).
  • In 2020, the price of a carbon credit is ~USD 20 but it go up 10x.

Green Conferences
  • Exports from countries that are as green as or greener than EU will not be subjected to the tariff.
  • Thus, green is no longer a distant, nice-to-have initiative. It is a present imperative if one does global trade.
  • To find out more, check out these forthcoming ASEAN-based green conferences: Joint Committee on Climate Change (JC3) Conference 2021 (June 23-25, 2021), The Art of Balance (June 24) and Partnership for Sustainability (June 29).
  • The conferences centre around finance and corporate strategy rather than operations. Finance is important because through it, major go-green projects can be sustained.

Latin Themes


Further to our post on El Salvador, a showcase of two Latam songs: Lambada ('wave-like motion of a whip') by Eleonora Mustafovska and La Bamba ('the sway') by Beatrice Florea and Andrei Cerbu. The chorus of La Bamba:

Para bailar la Bamba (To dance the Bamba)
Para bailar la Bamba (To dance the Bamba)
Se necesita una poca de gracia (One needs a bit of grace)
Una poca de gracia para mí, para tí (A bit of grace for me, for you)
Ya arriba, ya arriba! (Come on, come on!)

Btw, as Euro 2021 is happening across Europe, Copa América 2021 is currently running in Brazil. The two continents will meet at the Olympics next month and at the Qatar World Cup in Nov, 2022.