Retro Smart Hat

Smart Phones
  • Smartphones sales are reported to be declining.
  • One can sense the gadget is stretching its style and utility when new releases spot more bug eye lenses (when what folks may need is a camera system that can do both horizontal and vertical recording simultaneously), and wrap-around, bezel-less screens.
  • But big tech is not idling by, they are thinking up the next big gadget beyond phones. It could be eyewear, watches, clothing or something else.
  • One unexplored area is smart hats, harking back to the days when hats were fashionable (see the next section for some examples).
  • A smart hat can be paired with smart glasses to take some processing load and hardware off the latter, or both can be integrated, sort of like a smart helmet.

Types of Hats

Postal Electric

Mobility Snippets
  • Link Only 1% of EV owners miss their old ICE cars
  • Link Lyft brings back humans: call to book a ride
  • Link Biggest US electric school bus order goes to eBaaS firm
  • Link DE to require all petrol stations to provide charging
  • Link McD entices diners with EV charging facilities

  • USPS has picked defence contractor Oshkosh to supply its new generation postal delivery vehicle (NGDV, $ 6 billion, up to 160K vehicles). The contract is a mix of ICE and EV, the proportion is unspecified [update].
  • The current USPS fleet, supplied by Grumman, is some 30 years old.
  • The new gen vehicle is expected to be highly upgradable as tech transitions from ICE to EV, and to accommodate rapidly changing electric technology.
  • This suggests a modular architecture and could be a reason why early favourite Lordstown didn't make the cut. Consumer brands tend to be associated with closed architecture, expensive repairs and planned obsolescence.
  • Modular like in armoured vehicles which, if damaged, need to be readily patched and sent back to battle.
  • Or like a DIY PC (vs sealed appliances like the iPhone). Swap the CPU, disk, RAM, motherboard, cards, fans, enclosure, display, input devices, speakers, mic and even the OS (Linux, Windows, ChromeOS).

Move EV
Move EV brings together SEA’s electric vehicle, charging infra and public policy officials to discuss upcoming projects happening in the region. Mar 10th, 2021 @ online. Sample toipics:

Spring Water

Spring nominally starts next week with the beginning of March. As the earth warms, snow accumulated over winter (plus some portions of glaciers which are essentially compacted snow) will slowly melt to feed some of the mightiest rivers.

Including the Alps, Rhine; Andes, Amazon;  Rockies, Colorado; Himalayas and vicinity: Ganges, Indus, Yangtze Huanghe, Mekong and Irrawaddy.

In winter, the snow transforms the harsh landscape into a soft, pristine wonderland. The first video shows a Google Earth animated journey through Gilgit-Baltistan (western portion of the Himalayas, towards Pakistan). The second vid is at the Dolomites (southern portion of Alps in Italy) featuring Benedetta Caretta with a brief rendition of Your Love.

UMDT HS2 YC Demo Days

UMDT is the spin-off unit of UMCIC, the commercialisation arm of UM. UMCIC encompasses the spin-off venture, an accelerator and incubator, space and equipment pods and commercialisation training. It will be holding its demo day for its inaugural cohort this Sat, Feb 27th, 2021 (regn). Sample startups:
  • SB^3 - Low carbon & cost bricks, compatible with existing manufg
  • Nanogard - Nano glass coating for cleaner office and vehicle glass
  • Feed2Fish - Use palm oil effluent to produce fish feed
  • EssentiNutrien - Asthma relieving mushrooms
  • AeGIS - Distributed acoustic sensing using optic fibre cables
  • eProfiler - Accurate drug dosage using portable pathogen tester

HS2 is UK's planned second high speed rail to connect Leeds-Manchester-Birmingham-London (target 2035) after the London-Ashford-Chunnel HS1 (started 2003). HS2 together with connectivity accelerator Catapult and tech campus Innovation Birmingham will be holding a demo day of its second cohort on Mar 25, 2021 (regn). Startups from the first cohort:
  • BuildDots - Site tracking using hardhat camera + computer vision
  • Sensat - Site tracking using drone mapping, 400x faster
  • CloudCycle - Digital concrete (precise concrete mixing & delivery)
  • Dendra - Use drone surveys to rehabilitate land
  • NatureMetrics - Biodiversity surveys using eDNA & metabarcoding

Y Combinator
Y Combinator's Winter 2021 (YC W21) batch is set to demo Mar 23, 2021 (regn) 'Winter' because in the North the start of the year occurs in winter while the summer batch happens mid-year (apply here). A sample of YC W21 startups:
  • H3X - Ultra-high power density motor for electric aircraft
  • Corrily - Use Bayesian stats to individually price subs by country
  • Noya - Sell carbon credits by capturing CO2
  • Oxio - ISP that has no promotions, only transparent pricing
  • Unfurl - Virtual food hall

E-Wallet Rising

E-Wallet Rising
Lots of activity with digital wallets (e-wallets) lately, eclipsing digital banks (which seem to have gone rather quiet). This is to be expected as e-wallets are close to the action and can gain millions of users and transactions very quickly. From a transactional base, e-wallets can scale upwards towards digital banks and beyond, in sequential order:
  1. Limited Balance: An initial balance (usually less than 10K)
  2. P2P: Peer-to-peer money transfer (person A to person B)
  3. C2B: Payments (pay for goods, services eg coffee)
  4. Big Balance: >10K, with the possibility of deposit insurance
  5. Platform: Used by third parties eg e-commerce sites
  6. Financial Tools: Budgeting, expenditure analysis, deals etc
  7. Social Tools: Stimulus payments,, food vouchers etc
  8. Savings & Investments: FDs, stocks, bonds, insurance etc
  9. Bigger Domains: Global money, business banking

E-wallet News

Natural Quiver

We have a twin showcase of naturally quivering vocals, distinct from the more deliberate vibrato of pro singers and musicians. Like someone speaking under great emotion. Amanda Seyfried with Thank You For The Music and Chen Yifaer with Ten Year Love Story. [In the second vid, there's probably a tabby just off screen at the bottom right]

Food Startups

Nanka offers two types of burger patties: (100% veggie) and (70% veggie, 30% meat). Different from Impossible and Beyond which are faithfully 100% veg. Possibly, Nanka is targeting meat eaters rather than veggie connoisseurs. Is 70% veggie, 30% meat palatable? Reports have it a sandwich chain's tuna has 'no tuna' [1] and its chicken is 'only 50% chicken' [2]. We chow down these sandwiches occasionally and find them entirely palatable.

While Impossible and Beyond have been focusing on bovine subs, OmniPork jumped into the porcine niche and has been advertising heavily at FB for its veggie pork. Is veggie pork halal? Likely not because of its connotation (though the manufacturer claims halal certification). Will veggie pork take off? Spam and sausages are a start, better to have wholesome veggies in them than odd ingredients like gristle.

Fido & Tinkerbell
We don't cover cultured meats (meat made in the lab from animal cells) because, by our reckoning, veggie eaters won't eat them and meat eaters might find them too edgy. But Fido and Tinkerbell might woof them down happily in the huge pet food market. Plus the industrial market eg gelatin. Players in the cultured space: BecauseAnimals, EatJust, FutureMeat etc.

SPAC: Special Purpose Acquisition

Special Purpose Acquisition Company

  • A SPAC is a public company formed to acquire a promising business.
  • The acquired company goes public faster and cheaper vs an IPO.
  • SPAC is money looking for companies, IPO is companies looking for money. source
  • Companies going SPAC: 23andMe, PayoneerHyzon etc.
  • Companies that have SPACed: QuantumScape (lithium batteries, up 162%), EVBox (EV charging, up 154%), RushStreet (social gaming, up 97%) etc.

Search Fund
Search Funds are the private version of SPACs. Chicago-Booth and Kellogg are hosting a Search Fund conference Entrepreneurship Through Acquisition (ETA) Feb 16-19, 2021 online. Topics include:

Fleeting Moment

A chance meeting, a fleeting moment. First vid Love of My Life by Scorpions, featuring Brad Pitt and Claire Forlani from the movie Meet Joe Black. Second vid: Reina del Cid's soft take on evergreen Can't Help Falling in Love.

Notes: Electric Mobility

Some additional notes to our previous post Electric Economy:
  • By our observations, autonomous driving can make the big jump in conjunction with smart roads, tandem regulations, at welcoming locations, and in jurisdictions that will set the standards for the rest of the world. And, EVs still use lots of grease and lubes.
  • Lofty Apple getting into greasy business? Autonomous driving by 2024?. Doesn't sound likely at first blush. If Apple is to go into mobility, it might be an Apple branded vehicle with co-branded partners doing the nuts and bolts, and, given Apple's tight control of UIUX, only at Apple certified settings. [update]
  • The Citroen Ami is symmetrical front and back, left and right. Body panels need only to be made for two sides versus four sides for normal cars. Instead of a centre display, it uses the driver's phone as the display unit. Examples of innovative cost saving measures.
  • Sales of bikes, both pedalled and motorized, are trending up. This could be an impetus for Ola to enter e-scooter manufacturing, with input from Etergo. Top annual motorbike unit sales: IN (21m), CN (17m), ASEAN (15m).
  • We've added 5 startups to our previous post: Eli Zero (Neighourhood Electric Vehicle, NEV), RadPower (best cargo bike 2021), Silence (light electric for delivery and patrol officers), BKM (articulated electric trolley bus), E-Clearing (European borderless charging network).

Transatlantic Battle

GM's Salvo
Norway is the world's leading EV adopter with EVs commanding a 80% market share. GM uses this to come up with a hilarious Super Bowl ad that has comedian Will Ferrell riled up that Norway is ahead of US. He summons some friends together to 'invade' Norway but ends up in Sweden instead while his friends land in Finland. [Getting the Nordic countries mixed up is not uncommon, here's a refresher map.]

Adger's Counter
Three days after GM's ad, Norway's University of Agder came back with a witty rejoinder starring no less than its own president. In it, Norway tries to hide areas where it sees as being ahead so as not to trigger the US further. For instance, mention was made of 'battery recycling', likely referring to Hydrovolt. Battery recycling is a nascent field that is set to take off once the first gen of EVs (Prius, Leaf etc) retire, along with possible incoming circular economy regulations.

Electric Economy

A selection of new players in the electric economy:

Electric Vehicles
EVs that are similar to legacy vehicles but with electric propulsion.
  • Lightyear - Solar augmented EV (1 hour of sun = 12 km)
  • Triton - Takes the next logical SUV step: an electric semi-tank
  • Swiss - After US gov's recent pivot to EV, Switzerland is next
  • Apple - Forthcoming autonomous car will be for businesses only

EVs that aim to be environmentally friendly to make and operate.
  • Ami - Microcar of the Year 2021
  • Eli Zero - Neighbourhood Electric Vehicle (NEV)
  • Changli - Lowest priced electric car: $1200
  • AGY2 - Electric dune buggy: $2800

Ultralights can be 2, 3, 4 wheelers.
  • Ösa+ - Multiple design award winning electric motorbike
  • Ola - India's Uber goes big into e-scooters manufacturing
  • Bio-Hybrid - Electrically assisted, 4-wheel 2-seater 'bicycle'
  • RadPower - Best Electric Cargo Bike of 2021: $1700

Commercial vehicles where lower running costs are essential.

Buses can be highly customised and linked to larger metro or municipal systems, ideal for custom builders and system integrators.
  • Novabus - Long range electric bus (CA)
  • Karsan - Autonomous electric bus (TR)
  • BKM - Articulated electric trolley bus (BY)
  • Irizar - Ecological Industrial Vehicle of the Year 2021 (ES)

The infrastructure to support and complement electric mobility: charging, the grid, repairs, recycling, smart roads, cycling lanes, pedestrianised boulevards, car-light or car-free spaces, open architecture, autonomous driving, urban air mobility, vehicle operating systems, connected car systems etc.
  • Shell - Pivots to electric charging
  • Otonomo - Vehicle data warehouse
  • E-Clearing - European borderless charging network
  • UCI - Carless drivers are better than driverless cars!

Festive Dialects

A language or dialect is like a password, a password to culture (idioms, proverbs, poems, stories etc). Without culture, language is adrift. Without language, culture is veiled. In this festive supplement, we explore three diaspora dialects with webcam style covers.

First is Fujian (Hokkien/Minan) fave Going Home, by Rima Zeidan, which is notable for its rhythmic syllables. The rhythmic syllables can be translated figuratively into English, a gist of the song:

    Day by day, time passes
    Drop by drop, sweat perspires
    Time to grow-up and make good
    So that I can go home to meet my parents.

The second song (link) is a tearjerker in Hakka, Love Mom by Susie Onong in a duet with a friend over Smule. The third (link) has Chen Aoping performing a short, cheery Cantonese chorus Keep Smiling.

Chatbot | Science | Fintech

Smart Chatbot
Giant companies, big tech in particular, are frequently cited as providing insufficient post-sales support. This could be because support can be very labour intensive and gritty, and goes against the 'scalable' nature of some business models. There is where smart chatbots could come in useful. On the minus side, chatbots could also be trained to fob off customers without stonewalling them. Check out the latest in conversational AI and chatbots in the The European Chatbot Summit happening 4-6 Feb 2021.

Open Science
During lockdowns, students can't go to libraries to consult books, so they have to rely on ebooks. It seems publishers are taking the opportunity to raise prices of ebooks by as much as 500%, and each book digitally restricted to be read by only one person at a time. Unreasonably pricey journals and textbooks have always been a bane, and is one of the issues addressed by Open Science. For more, check out the Netherlands Open Science Festival happening Feb 11th, 2021.

Digital Finance
Fintech has been receiving brickbats recently. After Wirecard, it seems Robinhood is actually the Sheriff of Nottingham in disguise. But these are just newcomers. Check out what bankers have in store for fintech at Frankfurt Digital Finance happening Feb 3rd, 2021. Also, learn more about green bonds (bonds to finance green projects, lots of potential because of the urgent green imperative, and risks because regulatory and tech directions are not clear yet) at Digitizing Green Bonds happening Feb 4th, 2021.

Data vs Bugzilla

  • Daily stats usually provide the number of new infections etc. Would finer data granularity improve public awareness and buy-ins? Eg, what are the most common modes of transmission: at factories, offices, markets, dining, transport, social visits?
  • Rehearsal of stricter measures may be needed to cater for the possibility of the emergence of more virulent strains or new types of bugs (in the 1918 pandemic, a subsequent mutant strain was the devastator).
  • Research indicates eateries are a risk factor [1]. Eateries might need to prepare for dine-in being put on hold for extended periods and transition to food delivery (which still has room for innovation: selection, curation, delivery etc). In a previous post, we cited an eatery owner who delivered food in his limo. Between the first and second lockdowns, he transitioned to subscription meals.
  • In battling bugzilla, everyone counts, it is a test of discipline of a society or country. Going out to for work and errands, we noticed even as bugzilla attacks are getting stronger, some folks are not getting a sense of danger eg. improperly worn masks, tattered QR codes. More messaging and enforcement could be needed.
  • A recent viral social media thread showed face masks whose strings are detached easily or are made of skimpy materials. Masks come in many different anonymous brands, indicating they are dumped into the market with, surprisingly, no manufacturer or reseller willing to develop reputable brands out of them.
  • Commonsense counts, ahead of proven science. We noticed the lifts of some high rises have increased their fan airflow. That's because lifts can potentially be 3C: confined, close quarters and congested. Ventilation is important, bugzilla or otherwise. Keep safe & chin up.

Vive La Difference

Here's French hit J'en ai marre ('I'm bored') by Alizée. The singer, melody and dance, with its hint of flamenco, are different from standard fare. The song hasn't been covered much, perhaps because it has become synonymous with the singer and her dance, a rare distinction.

Film Fests
Speaking of FR, MyFrenchFilmFestival is happening online from Jan 15 to Feb 15, 2021. Sundance is happening this weekend. Despite bugzilla, it received a record 15,100 submissions, with passes sold out. Event website navigation is a maze and some pages don't render, catch glimpses here and here.

Urban | Sports | Accelerator

Urban Accelerator
UrbanX is a US-based start-up accelerator created by automaker Mini and accelerator UrbanUs. UrbanX makes investments in pre-seed startups and runs two cohorts per year with up to 10 startups per cohort. Each startup receives $150,000 in investment capital. The forthcoming UrbanX Cohort 10 program will be fully online and is open for application till 8 Apr 2021. Sample alumni:
  • Aquagenuity - Private water testing
  • Near Space - Geo imaging using high altitude balloons
  • Eva - Drone airport in a container
  • CoveTool - Built environment analysis
  • Hosta - Reverse engineer a CAD drawing from an image

Sports Accelerator
Tokyo 2021 is at a balance. The decision to go ahead must likely be made by March as athletes, officials, broadcasters have to book flights, resources and accommodation latest by then. At the rate bugzilla is stomping on, the odds aren't looking too great. There is a proposal for Tokyo to bid for the 2032 Olympics instead (after Paris 2024 and LA 2028). In a prelude to Tokyo 2020, Scrum Ventures ran a SportsTech accelerator, a sample of participants:
  • 3DDV - Virtualise the physical seat you bought for an event
  • 4DReplay - Close-up, multi-angle sports replay and highlights vid
  • ReellyAI - Automatically create sports highlights using AI
  • SportsCastr - Multiple event, live streaming, sports broadcasting
  • MSA - Display multiple, concurrent full screen videos on one screen

Linear City

  • To prepare for a post-oil future, Saudi Arabia is building a linear city to diversify its economy, and to attract investments and visitors.
  • Named The Line, it located at the climatically moderate north of the country and it is envisaged as a straight linear city of 170 km (105 mi) in length, which will be car-less and zero carbon.
  • This is a re-imagination of the standard urban sprawl which expands amoeba-like from a centre.
  • Literature that we have come across thus far does not explain why the geometry of a line is picked versus, say, a circle.
  • We hazard to guess a line can be extended, does not sprawl, does not enclose a large space like a circle, every part is close to nature (the sides of the line) and it needs only one straight transportation and infra system (versus circle and radial lines of a standard city).
  • It can also be visioned as a spine or computer bus to which modules (like suburbs or commercial districts) can be plugged in.
  • Construction starts this year, to complete 2030 and beyond. Video

Northern Anthem

In the midst of the Northern Winter, from the frozen far North, here is a song to warm your listening pleasure: Госуда́рственный гимн Росси́йской Федера́ции ('national anthem of Russia') by the Bolshoi Junior Choir.

GovTech Hackathon

MYHackathon is grassroots online GovTech hackathon organised by MOSTI. Running for the past 3 months, the hackathon culminates in a finale and showcase next Tue, Jan 26th, 2021. Sample winners (kudos for the fast-paced vids and succinct pitches):
  • BukuPINK - Digital immunisation and vaccination card
  • Anak2u - Adapt online edu to rural students (no device, bandwidth)
  • Pandai - Continuous edu via short courses (vs big conferences)
  • Avicenna - Digital disability card issued fast (vs months)
  • Vircle - Digital aid that uses the national ID card (eg for groceries)
  • eLancar - Move HRDF model from agency to marketplace
  • BossBoleh - Cloud-based company secretary and incorporation