Salvadorian Dalliance

Legal Tender
  • There's a bit of buzz recently regarding El Salvador making BTC legal tender. But first, what is legal tender, legal and illegal?
  • Illegal - can't hold, use, buy, sell, trade BTC (Algeria, Egypt, Morocco)
  • Legal - can hold, use, buy, sell, trade BTC but subject to restrictions eg. banks won't accept BTC, trade must be via regulated exchanges or only P2P (most countries)
  • Legal Tender - can hold, use, buy, sell, trade BTC and if BTC is offered for payment or deposit it must be accepted (El Salvador)
  • Except, El Salvador isn't making BTC acceptance mandatory (the street ice-cream seller can't be accepting BTC). In other words, in practice, BTC is just legal, like most other countries.

El Crypto
  • Nevertheless, El Salvador and her prez is making an effort to give some legs to BTC (whilst more advanced countries are still working on bespoke digital currencies).
  • El Salvador's base currency remains the USD. The Salvadorian government will set up a initial fund (USD 150 million) to guarantee price stability (likely for small businesses only)
  • If a burger is sold for 5 USD (0.00015 BTC, say) in the morning, and if BTC drops by half in value by evening when the burger seller tallies his daily sales, the government will guarantee he receives USD 5 and not USD 2.5.
  • A relatively unknown e-wallet/neobank startup, Strike, has been appointed BTC payment processor including foreign remittances (many Salvadorians work abroad).
  • To bootstrap a BTC ecosystem, El Salvador is offering permanent residency for crypto entrepreneurs for 3 BTC (roughly USD 105K at time of publication).
  • Many challenges remain eg no mention of AML, KYC. If laissez-faire refuge is the principle, it might be a magnet for, say, ransomware bros to launder proceeds. Or if USD is the base currency, ordinary folks will likely stick with it locally, instead of having to convert mentally, administratively and electronically, between USD and BTC.

Japanese Themes


To mark the forthcoming Olympic Games, we have two Japanese songs: Subaru ('unity of seven stars') by Shinji Tanimura, and Faito ('fight') by Ai Ninomiya. A classification of events:
  • Aquatic: Swimming (Artistic, Marathon, Pool), Water Polo
  • Court: Badminton, Basketball (3x3, 5x5), Handball, Table Tennis, Tennis, Volleyball (Beach, Indoor)
  • Field: Baseball, Football, Hockey, Rugby, Softball
  • Martial: Archery, Boxing, Fencing, Judo, Karate, Shooting, Taekwondo, Wrestling
  • Movement: Gymnastics (Artistic, Rhythmic, Trampoline)
  • Outdoor: Cycling (BMX, Mountain Bike, Road, Track), Equestrian, Golf, Skateboarding, Sports Climbing, Triathlon
  • Track: Athletics, Pentathlon
  • Water: Canoe (Slalom, Sprint), Rowing, Sailing, Surfing

BigData TechDays

ODSC 2021
The European Open Data Science Conference is happening June 8th-10th. Sample talks:
  • Data Virtualization: a Data Scientist's Best Friend - Denodo
  • Bayesian Modeling without the Math - PyMC Labs
  • Smart City Data Pipeline - Red Hat
  • Using News to Inform Investment Decisions - RavenPack
  • Finding A Needle: Fraud and Anomaly Detection - IAA
  • Accountable AI: Ready for Legislation? - Oxford Internet Institute

Tech Days
Tech Days Munich,, 8th June, is a spot for founders, entrepreneurs and creatives to find new ways to accelerate innovation. Sample topics:
  • CleanTech: Smart, Green & Lean - EnerIQ
  • Innovation Within and Across Organizations - Table Of Visions
  • Boost Products by Human-Centered Design - Futurice
  • Quantum Computing and its Business - Oxford Quantum
  • Model-based Systems Engineering - Siemens
  • Beyond 5G: The Future of Wireless - Nokia

Olympics Onwards

Looks like the Tokyo Olympics is all set to go ahead in July 2021 (barring a last-minute, catastrophic deterioration in the pandemic situation). Notes:
  • It will be a badge of honour for Japan to deliver the games despite the difficulties caused by bugzilla. Ditto the OIC, athletes, officials and broadcasters.
  • The games could help the pandemic situation by encouraging viewers all over the world to stay home to catch the action.
  • There will be no on-site foreign spectators, maybe not even local ones, so broadcasters may need to make up for their absence by novel production: more close-ups, side stories etc.
  • Safety measures [1|2|3]: no quarantine, no compulsory vaccination (free jabs offered by Pfizer and Sinopharm), constant testing, contact tracing, masking, social distancing, no sight-seeing, leave once done, no arriving early for opening or staying back for closing.

OlympicTech

Elon's Eatery

T-Cafe
After dogecoin, looks like Elon Musk is going into F&B. Rather than rent out space to franchises like KFC and McD, Tesla might be setting up its own eateries at supercharger stations. Branded 'T',  here's our take on how the menu may look like:
  • Tomato bruschetta, shakshouka, soup.
  • Tofu burger with new UX: patty firmness calibrated to that of the bun, more creamy pie than dry sandwich or sloppy hotdog.
  • T-Bone steak that is laser-grilled rather than flame-grilled. More precise and less carcinogenic (the overly burnt parts).
  • Turkey: Since Elon is based in Texas now, Texas Fried Turkey (TFT). Coated with spices including turmeric and thyme, air-fried using solar energy fryer, and comes with tobasco sauce.
  • Trout: Pan-seared trout or tuna with tarragon.
  • Tea (including teachino and teapresso) and tequila.

T-Station
Tesla could also make superstations a destination in themselves. By offering vehicle checks, tune-ups, repairs, sales of accessories and other products (eg solar batteries  and future Tesla consumer products), convenience store, Tesla vehicle ordering and deliveries.

Tiger Shroff


Martial Arts Movies
  • The kungfu movie genre had in the past being lit by the likes of Jackie Chan (Opera), Jet Li (Wushu) and Donnie Yen (Wudang).
  • That HK-based era looks to be in abeyance. Instead, the mantle of eastern martial movies has been taken up elsewhere by Tony Jaa (TH, Muay Thai), Iko Uwais (ID, Silat), Vidyut Jammwal (IN, Kalari) and Tiger Shroff (IN, TKD).
  • In the clip above, Tiger Shroff and foil Shraddha Kapoor do up a light martial arts demo (the vid starts slow, watch till the end).

Martial Arts Training
  • The keys for a good old-school martial arts movie are the actor and the choreographer, both who should be well versed in pugilistic arts. These give the the movie that extra oomph. Other elements like the script, direction, photography and editing carry the rest.
  • Jackie Chan studied at the harshly disciplinary Peking Opera school, Jet Li went through a hothouse Wushu sports academy, and Donnie Yen was home schooled by his mom, a senior martial arts instructor.
  • Into theatre or acting and wish you could pick up some martial arts like the old-timers? Check out director and producer Khairul Kamsani's in-person martial arts workshops for thespians @ SG, Jun 5-26, 2021.

Digital Euro

CBDC
CBDCs (Central Bank Digital Currency): a technology looking for a solution? On the contrary, there are urgent needs looking for solutions which CBDCs may be able to provide. A sample:
  • Because of pandemic lockdowns, a large amount of financial aid was provided to businesses and individuals. Billions, even trillions. Was the money well utilised? Did it instead, say, pushed up the stock market? A rule-based, programmable digital currency may be able to ensure money is spent on investments, jobs etc, and not entirely on cigars.
  • Privacy is an often stated need for digital currencies but opt-in full transparency could also be a worthwhile goal. Some organisations would thrive on full transparency eg. charities, social enterprises and even some portions of governments. Example, if a government wishes to raise a mild tax to replant forests, tax payers may not mind shouldering the tax if they know all the money goes towards replanting forests, and saving flurry (and non-flurry) friends.

Tokenisation
  • On another note, a banker has suggested digital currencies could be expanded to a wider concept of tokens.
  • Thus, money, property, stocks etc are all tokenised and acquire the properties of immutable ledgers and programmability.
  • Interesting concept (and worth exploring further) but not sure if making everything highly liquid and under one paradigm or platform would be the best way to go.
  • In nature, water nurtures, but beware of turbulence, spills, rocky cascades, rip tides, floods, stagnant water, upstream damming, dam breaches, quick evaporation due to lack of tree cover etc.

Digital Euro
The month of May saw at least 3 major crypto conferences including Ethereal and Consensus. We didn't cover the two unlike previous years because their foci were more on coins, NFT and DeFi vs the more techie topics of previous editions. But Crypto Asset Conference 2021, happening May 31-June 2, breaks the mould. While the first two days see the usual topics, the third day is dedicated to CBDCs, specifically the Digital Euro, with topics like:

Pandemic Pooch


Some random observations on bugzilla (from a lay person):

Vaccination
  • Vaccination works, see the new cases graphs of US, UK and FR.
  • Imagine the vaccine as a rescue boat, calmly get onboard ASAP.
  • Vaccination is a primary defence but shouldn't be the only defence.
  • Some countries may not get enough shots for a long time.
  • Or a new variant may emerge that side steps vaccine protection.

Sample Counter-Measures
  • Locales emerging from lockdowns risk going right back to sin bin without widespread and concrete counter-measures in place (including vaccination).
  • Vaccinate front liners first, including people in the food logistics and supply chain.
  • Allow companies to acquire vaccines to vaccinate their own staff.
  • Premises mandated to have flow-through ventilation.
  • Al-fresco eateries only: pavements, carparks offered as space.
  • Automated app alert on entering hotspots (this is a statistical counter against an invisible foe, it won't be precise but it could be one extra tool in the toolbox).

Pandemic Pooch
  • Another counter-measure is widespread testing eg at the entrance of buildings, offices, factories and malls.
  • Not practically feasible at the moment as the fastest tester that we have come across, BreFence, is still on trials (and will probably be very expensive). Results return within a minute.
  • The next fastest is ID NOW by Abbott with results in 5 minutes and Vivalytic by Bosch, 30 minutes.
  • There is a tester faster than BreFence and it is the pandemic pooch, it sniffs out bugzilla in under a second (availability of these pooches is likely very limited at the moment though)
  • Travellers to some countries may have come across sniffer beagles at customs. One walks through a corridor with fans on one side and a beagle or two behind a fence on the other.
  • For now, if bugzilla is still lurking around at your locale, stay home if you can and stay safe.

Three Questions


The Three Questions as narrated by Sakan Lam. Though the questions sound like Far Eastern philosophy, they are from a Russian author.

MWC | Computex

MWC 2021
Mobile World Congress 2021 is going ahead @ Barcelona, June 28th - July 1st. While some brands like Ericsson, Sony, Nokia and FB are skipping the event and others like Qualcomm, Samsung and Lenovo participating virtually only, MWC has nonetheless managed to sign up some 1000 exhibitors. Sample: [For virtual tickets, register your interest here.]

Exhibitors
  • Lattice - Factory automation
  • VoltDB - Database for 5G times
  • Infinet - Dedicated point-to-point network
  • PinRoute - Social network for the outdoors
  • Ulefone - Armoured phone with night vision
  • Vintegris - Give digital identities to customers
  • Napatech - Network packet capture for monitoring & security

Pavilions

Talks



COMPUTEX 2021
Computex is happening @ Taipei and online, May 31 - June 30. Sample:

Exhibitors

Talks

Double Masking

  • Health authorities have recommended double masking at high risk locales. You can try double masking to be doubly safe eg while at hotspots. [This post is not health or technical advice.]
  • Double masking is the wearing of a face cover over the standard disposable mask. It serves as an additional filter and to seal the gaps of a disposable mask, particularly at the top edge (the nose) and sides (the cheeks).
  • You can easily detect these gaps in others (but not yourself ) by close observation. Not infrequently you will notice them at the cheeks and near the bridge of the nose.
  • Some locales may notice bugzilla, once a distant rumble of battle, is now closer to home. Easy to underestimate because it is invisible, bugzilla must be seriously reckoned with due to the activation of its new crack assault unit, the B1617.
  • But isn't bugzilla being taken seriously enough? Perhaps more can be done! Eg, one of simplest and best DIY (vs regulated) counter measure is better ventilation (exhaust fans etc).
  • It will be a long, hard battle. Success will favour the focused, organised, systematic, diligent and disciplined.

Light Up


In a previous post, we highlighted an abridged version of the song Run. Here's the original by Snow Patrol. Composed by frontman Gary Lightbody (the singer in the vid) after he was seriously injured falling down a flight of stairs (after some binge drinking), the lyrics can be read as a farewell bid or reaching out from 'the realm of angels'. From the chorus:

Light up, light up
As if you have a choice

Yes, light up as if you have a choice - and even if you do not have a choice.

Cyber Security

Security Summits
Ransomware and data breaches are on the rise. Find out the latest in cyber threats and defences at Human Layer Security Summit (June 3rd, 2021) and Akamai Security Summit (May 20th). Topics include:
  • Security Relies on People, Not Machines - Tessian
  • 3 Human-Centric Strategies - KnowBe4
  • Hacker Explains How To Prevent The Next Attack - OpenPath
  • Lessons From a Security Trailblazer - ICE NYSE
  • Security Starts At The Edge - Akamai
  • Understanding Hackers and Cyberthreats - KrebsOnSecurity

Security Startups
A sample of cyber security startups:
  • Randori - Test defences using simulated attacks
  • AttackBound - White hat attack as a service
  • Cado - Pre-prepare for post-event forensics
  • TrustGrid - Network-based security (access, traffic etc)
  • Prevailion - Predictive defence
  • Vanta - Prepare for SOC2, HIPA and ISO27001

PusseCoin

Dogecoin
Dogecoin is on a tear having risen 26,000%. Its cousin, Shiba, is up 6,600%.  Missing out on the action? Fret not, these are speculative instruments, for pros and people with spare change. Like at the casino, serious plays and big bets are for the professionals only. For ordinary folks, a bit of dabbling is fine but beware of it taking up too much attention (watching the ticker all day long) or getting hooked on highs and lows (as the ticker goes up and down). 

Britcoin
In more sober pursuits, UK is getting serious with Britcoin. The coin could be an edge for UK after leaving EU and perhaps draw on the Brit tradition of eccentric innovation. Remains to be seen what form the coin will take. Diem (Libra) is on the move too. It's moving its HQ from Switzerland to US to focus on USD as its paired currency. Former Libra boss, and ex-PayPal whiz, David Marcus, now heads F2 (Facebook Financial), FB's new Fintech venture.

PusseCoin
[Not serious] How about a useful coin? A real currency, not a 'store of value' or a speculative vehicle. Let's name it PusseCoin after felines as not everyone loves Shiba Inus, cute as they might be. As Dogecoin is pronounced 'dosh coin', PusseCoin will be pronounced 'posh coin'. Characteristics:
  • Starts small at a small locale. If it works well, other locales will want it, no need to push it.
  • Anti-speculative. Value tied to natural inflationary or deflationary measures. An inflationary measure (the value of the coin rises over time) could be the number of green kilowatts generated globally. A deflationary measure (the value decreases over time) could be the total number of forest trees as counted by satellites. Deflationary because, what's the use of an asset getting bigger and bigger in paper value as the planet burns.
  • Run by somebody, like Linus Torvalds for Linux. To give it direction and impetus. Anything owned by everybody is owned by nobody. Anything owned by nobody risk being taken over by somebody (nefarious or not). Plus an elected senate as a progressive counter balance and as advisors.

Scottish Themes


Scotland is famous for whisky, golf, bagpipes and haggis. Illustrious Scots include Alexander Fleming (penicillin), Alexander Graham Bell (telephone), James Watt (wattage), James Maxwell (physics), Adam Smith (economics), Andrew Carnegie (steel magnate) and Anya Taylor-Joy (actress).

The first video has Paulina Yeung with Loch Lomond ('lake of the elms'). In the song, 'high road' refers to returning from battle intact, 'low road' otherwise. It is an ode to being brave and spirited going into battle. In the second video, AndrĂ© Rieu and the Johann Strauss Orchestra showcase Highland Cathedral.

Mobile Sensing

Mobile Sensing
  • The rise of autonomous machines sees a corresponding rise in the importance of sensing.
  • For autonomous vehicles, sensors include cameras, radar and lidar (radar uses sound to bounce off stuff, while lidar uses lasers).
  • A sensing market leader is Tesla which has vehicles on the road, at the front line. Unlike competitors Waymo and MobileEye, Tesla is moving towards using cameras only versus its rivals which use cams, radar and lidar.
  • Tesla's move towards cameras only is to resolve this: during field tests when the camera says go, and the radar says don't, which does the AI defer to? Answer: use cameras only and make them really good. (As an aside, intuitively, the vehicle should go only if both cam and radar say go, but this breaks down if there are too many disagreements).
  • A camera only approach also makes sense because it more closely approximates humans, who don't have radar or lidar senses, thus making the AI more natural. It also translates well to drones, low cost vehicles etc because lidar and radar are bulky and expensive. 
  • There are still many challenges. Machine learning thrives on training data, a car trained in one city may not work well in another city where the built environment, vehicle mix, rules and driving culture are radically different.
  • Sensing is a big field. Gadgets like smartphones sense too but can't do much for the end-user (except perhaps give health signals) and are possibly mainly used for data collection. For vehicles, sensing will make mobility safer and cleaner.

Self-Driving Startups

Latest Startups

An eclectic sample of startups from our in-tray:

Mutant Bugzilla

Mutant Bugzilla
  • With some exceptions, in many countries, bugzilla is on the retreat.
  • Vigilance is still necessary as mutants are cropping up all over. In the 1918 pandemic, it was a mutant that wrecked havoc.
  • Many locales treat each wave optimistically as it is going to be the last when it might be useful to use the opportunity to practice and prepare for a super mutant, or simply for the next wave.
  • May require big societal changes: eg. switch from recirculating aircon to quick-refresh, natural ventilation, al-fresco instead of indoor dining, etailing instead of bazaars and markets.

Food Delivery
  • Food delivery is still mainly for the middle-class and above.
  • A dish which normally costs 7 bucks, will have 5 bucks added as markup and another 5 bucks for delivery. A 7 bucks meal gets 10 bucks added on.
  • Fundamentally, delivering single meals is sub-optimal both in terms of economics and ecology.
  • Other areas which need revamp: curation (meh top listers), variety (same old top listers each time the app is opened) and nutrition (mostly salt-laden, meat-heavy food).

Meal Subscription
  • We have previously posted about a food outlet which, in the first lockdown, the owner delivered meals himself in his lux ride.
  • In the second lockdown, the outlet switched to offering food subs.
  • In this present third lockdown, we decided to try out a subscription. It turns out the outlet has gone green - customers must provide tiffin carriers - no plastic, no cardboard.

Keep Walking


Two videos with 'walk' themes. First, Nayli Azmi with Mirai-e. The literal translation of Mirai-e is 'to the future', the lyrical meaning could read 'keep walking'. Second, Triway Asiska collates four songs - Aisyah, Ramadhan, Insya Allah and La Ilaha Illallah - into an Alan Walker style music video.

FoodTech Startups

Though planet-friendly, alt-meat startups are popular presently, an alternative to alt-meat could simply be a delicious, nutritious veggie meal. Some latest FoodTech startups:
  • Root Kitchen - Plant-based, chef-made meals
  • Food Tech Valley - Dubai's new FoodTech hub
  • Yokai - Ramen vending machine (e-hawker) vid
  • Heattech - Uniqlo teams up with Nissin for instant udon
  • Tyson - US's biggest meat company goes veggie
  • Sach - Paneer (cottage cheese) as an alternative to tofu
  • Nestor - No menu maze, only one food delivery choice per day
  • Crisp - App only supermarket