Google Bank

Google Bank
Google is dipping into banking in a creative way, It will deploy Google Pay as a sign-up, front end and UI for banks, with Citibank, BBVA and Bank Mobile among the eight pioneer partner banks. 'G Bank' is set for launch in 2021.

Tenino Currency
The town of Tenino in Washington, US, is issuing its own currency: $25 bills printed as retro wooden cards. The money is given to residents in need of financial aid and can be spent only at stores and eateries within the town. Merchants can redeem the cards for cash at City Hall which runs the program.

Digital Identity
Digital identities are typically based on email addresses or phone numbers One disadvantage is giving away these during registration with third parties may later lead to spam etc. ID 2020, a digital identity alliance, aims to address this (eg. use of generated numbers instead of fixed ids) plus promote better digital ids. Alliance members include Accenture, HyperLedger and Microsoft.

Card Tokenisation
JP Morgan and Marqeta will tokenise debit and credit cards by allowing virtual ones to be generated on the fly for commercial clients. Eg. virtual cards can be issued to project team members at the start of a project and rescinded when the project is complete. Other uses may include CSR, promos.

Pedicab Challenge

The tricycle-pedicab could be a product for our times. It offers open-air, bug-fighting airflow and a green alternative to gas guzzling, carbon spewing, micro-plastic shedding SUVs. Re-imagine the pedicab by joining an online challenge [lang:MY] hosted by MIF. MOSTI, MEDAC and SMEcorp.

Pedicab Types
  • 1F2R - One wheel in front, cab & two wheels at the back
  • 2F1R - One wheel at the back, cab & two wheels in front
  • Sidecar - Cab attached to the side of a two-wheeler
  • Towed - Cab towed by a two or three wheeler

Tri-Wheel Startups

Working Class

Cosmopolitan came up with a list of Hollywood It Girls for the years 1960 to 2015, for its readers to find out the female star that shone during their year of birth. From the list, we picked Debra Winger (1982) and Jennifer Beals (1983) for portraying the working class in their respective standout movies, An Officer and a Gentleman and Flashdance. A study in contrast to contemporary posh, techno-fantasy themes. [The above videos are 'PG rated'.]

CoWorking + CoStorage

A co-working + co-storage space is ideal for fledgling businesses which require inventory storage, and a workspace for packing, unpacking, acceptance, delivery and admin tasks. See an example below in our latest list of startups:
  • ScoutDNS - Content filtering using DNS
  • LibreTaxi - Open source version of Uber/Lyft
  • WorkFriendly - Co-working plus co-storage space <<
  • Armis - Inventorize IT equipment using network analysis
  • LessAccounting - Small business alternative to Quickbooks
  • Dataplor - Accurate, hand-compiled database of businesses
  • AreaWFI - Continuous passport for humans in a virtual world
  • Mobeewave - Turn iPhone into a card waive PoS, no attachments
  • Mapwize - Indoor mapping (not covered by Waze, GMaps, Here etc)
  • Bollinger - One of new wave of EV startups offering truck-like SUVs
  • GDFLab - Use AI to upscale images & videos eg from 360p to 1080p


Some random thoughts on economics in the event bugzilla mounts a heavy winter campaign. [Backyard economics, for thought exercise only, two part series]

  • Immediate danger is a sudden and domino-like freeze in liquidity.
  • Liquidity is like water (or oxygen), many stuff can't do without it for long even if everything else is in OK. Example, a car won't run long without water in the radiator even if every other component is fine.
  • Liquidity is availability of currency (money). Currency implements hard counting (vs imaginary or conceptual).
  • Say, you wish to sell widgets. You price the widget, determine the labour, material and overhead costs. As numbers, these are just concepts. Currency makes the numbers real, do real work, allows one to trade with other parties.

Money Printing
  • Money printing is in itself not necessarily bad.
  • It's like adding water or adding to the water supply.
  • The key is a suitable amount and what is done with the extra water.
  • Is it used to quench thirst, plant crops or fill a swimming pool?
  • If it quenches thirst and irrigates crops, the water may turn into apples, berries, grapes, wheat, barley (even an impossible burger).
  • This is when the water turns into real stuff, real currency. A currency that was previously merely printed is now backed by real produce

Phantom Gambus

The gambus of Nusantara is a guitar-like instrument that is closely related to the Yemeni qanbūs, Arabic oud and distantly related to the Western lute. Compared to the guitar, the gambus has no frets (the vertical bars at the neck of the guitar) and comes with a bulbous body. Watch as Fauziah Suhaili combines three disparate elements in her performance: the traditional gambus, the theme from the musical Phantom of the Opera, and a rock backing. [The tempo starts slow and picks up from there.]

Socially Distant 2021

Socially Distant 2021
  • CES announced yesterday (28 Jul) its 2021 edition, scheduled for the first week of January, will go all digital.
  • Google also told its employees they won't be returning to the office for another year, till July 2021.
  • Goggle's move is likely intended to help its staff plan ahead for childcare, accommodation etc.
  • If this is also general policy, it will assist other stakeholders plan accordingly too.
  • Eg, a cafe which had relied on Google's staff for patronage would now know to plan for otherwise. Or event planners can't expect Google to turn up for in-person events, as exhibitors, speakers or delegates, for another year.
  • Other big tech companies could be similarly inclined and major events in the first half of 2021 like MWC, SXSW, F8, IO, Hannover, WWDC and Cannes look to be going digital, hybrid or be shelved.

Side Note
  • A meme was going around suggesting The Year of the Rat has played out according to the characteristics of the rodent. Rats tend to stay in their burrows coming out only occasionally for foraging.
  • Next year will be The Year of the Tiger. Will it turn out to be a tiger or a tabby? Well, at least for the first half of 2021 it is looks like it could be slumbering as felines like to do.
  • [This section is a bit of trivia , not to be taken seriously.]

Tiger Day
  • Today (29 July 2020) is International Tiger Day.
  • Remarkably, endangered tigers have made a comeback in five countries: Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Russia.
  • This is due in part to WWF's TX2 initiative, a 12 year project from 2010 to 2022, from the last Year of the Tiger to the next.

Plastic Challenge

Ending Plastic Pollution Innovation Challenge

UNDP, Regjeringen and Norad invite residents from ASEAN countries to EPPIC (Ending Plastic Pollution Innovation Challenge). With a focus on ocean pollution, the challenge seeks to address the production and consumption of plastic. Possible solutions may include:
  • Materials to replace plastic
  • Drones and crowd sourcing to track plastics
  • App for recycling of plastics
  • Behavioural change programs
The top 4 winners will be awarded a USD 18K seed funding, a 9 month impact incubation program @ VN and access to impact investors. Interested parties may apply here by Aug 6th, 2020.

Solution Survey

New School 1 2
  • Abeego - Reusable wrapping made from hemp, cotton, beeswax
  • Stasher - Food grade, silicone storage bag that is BPA free
  • Candy - Cutlery made from cane sugar
  • Arekapak - Packaging from palm leaves
  • DoEat - Edible containers from potatoes (think ice cream cones)
  • Pond - Natural resin that can used to bind natural fibres

Old School
  • Banana Leaf - Natural, biodegradable water-proof wrapping
  • Newspaper - Recycled, outer wrap for food and other materials
  • Tiffin Carrier - Durable food carrier which can last decades
  • Coconut Shell - Multi-use, biodegradable, BPA free bowl
  • Rattan Basket - Durable, crack and scratch-free carrier
  • Food Kart - Travels to customer, minimal or BYO container

  • Natural wrappings were strengthened by folding, geometry, strings
  • The above solution survey covers mainly consumer products
  • Need also to address industrial uses eg nylon fishing nets

The Art of Alfresco

Battle of Bugzilla
  • In the battle of bugzilla, it is essential to keep to procedures.
  • In WW2, towns and cities were frequently bombed at night.
  • To make it harder for the bombers to spot their targets, these towns and cities went into blackouts.
  • Great discipline was required, for if a resident kept their lights on, it could result in the whole neighbourhood being leveled.

Targeted Lockdowns
  • Authorities are mulling or in the cusp of going back to lockdowns.
  • Some are considering targeted lockdowns vs blanket ones.
  • Target: any place crowded, confined and close quarters (3C).
  • Prime candidates: eateries, pubs, events, gatherings.

The Art of Alfresco
  • A possible escape for eateries is to be allowed to go alfresco.
  • Needs monitoring to validate alfresco is indeed safer.
  • Not applicable to all eateries, malls could focus on easy takeouts.
  • Alfresco case studies: NY | UK | SG | NY | KL | HK | BK | US | US | CDC

Startup Contest

Gobi has come up with an interesting format for a MY startup contest: making the startups go through a 4-round knockout tournament (starts Mon, 27 Jul):
  • Public voting
  • Video pitch
  • Panel selection
  • Full pitch finals

The organiser has signed up 64 startups, a sample:

Olympian Disruption

The Summer Olympics was due to start today (Fri, 24 Jul 2020) @ Tokyo but has been rescheduled to to 23 July 2021. This pause provides an opportunity for us to reimagine how the format of the Olympics itself could be disrupted [fun, non-serious post]:

De-emphasise winning in favour of friendly tests of abilities. An over focus on winning results in hacking, doping, obsession with medal standings, pressure cooker sports academies, extreme technicalities etc.

Make events less predictable and more fun by introducing random elements. For example, the 100m sprint could be turned into 2 x 50m (requires a turn). Athletes won't know what the modifier will be beforehand, so they can't optimise train but just need to be in good general condition.

Have newer, more relatable contests. Discus and shot put are two activities hardly anyone remotely does. Instead, combine them into tests of dynamic strength. Such as tossing bales of hay, sacks of grain, grapefruits etc.

Replace gold, silver and bronze medals with (more environmentally friendly) brushed steel merit medallions for top three or four finishes. For instance, in the boxing finals, both participants get merit medallions.

Athletes can compete in one Olympics max. This takes the Games back to its more amateur roots and widens participation and freshness, maintaining its attractiveness to host cities, sponsors and broadcasters.

Post Lockdown Show

The KL Performing Arts Centre is holding its first post lockdown show from tomorrow (22 Jul 2020) till end of the week. The theme is 'Yesterday Once More' featuring music from the 50s to the 70s. A genre from that era is jangle pop ('jangle' refers to the strum of the guitar) exemplified by the above cover of All I Have To Do Is Dream by Travis Bigwood and Zach Gilleran.

As bugzilla is still lurking around, standard procedures probably include registration and distancing. Additional ones could be masking up (give or sell masks at the entrance for those who did not bring one) and soft, minimal or no talking by audience members (latest reports suggest loud talking is a risk factor). [Researchers can also use the show as a test like in DE (via ALIFE).]

Mask Startups

Face Mask Tests
Firstly, a summary and update of our earlier face mask testing post. [This is an informal guide for your further research only and is not technical or health advice. Masks that do not pass some of the tests are not necessarily defective. Check with qualified sources or health authorities for proper information.]
  1. Fire The middle ply is inflammable (the other 2 plies too)
  2. Water The mask holds water (on both sides)
  3. Electrostatic The mask picks up small pieces of paper
  4. Blow The wearer of the mask cannot blow out a lighter flame
  5. Droplets Front (blue) side of the mask repels water, the back absorbs
  6. Breathing Wearer does not feel dizzy after wearing for a few minutes
  7. Seal When breathing, the surface of the mask rise and fall visibly
  8. Tear The middle layer is hard to tear, not like paper
  9. Bands Stretch the bands a few times, they should not tear off easily
  10. Box Sealed, states manufacturer, importer, expiry date

Face Mask Startups
  • LEAF - Clear N99 mask
  • UVMask - Ultraviolet irradiated mask
  • AIRism - Uniqlo's cool & dry mask a big hit with shoppers
  • Donut Robotics - Mask doubles as a smartphone microphone
  • Mizuno - Mask made from (swimsuit like) soft-stretch tricot
  • Ao Air - Futuristic, dual-intake, powered mask
  • BioVYZR - Full-face, powered mask and shield
  • Good For You - Hand-made, reusable, sustainable masks
  • PurME - P100 mask that can be used for public health & haze
  • Disney - Branded, donor masks that come in multiple sizes
  • Shellios - Bike helmet maker goes into making PAPR
  • O2 Curve - Certified 3-part mask: cover, filter, seal
  • Civility - Next generation transparent mask
  • iMASC - Affordable, reusable, N95 grade mask

The Art of Mask

  • A typical, surgical-type, consumer grade face mask has a front (blue) and back (white), top (hard) and bottom (soft)
  • To prevent a mask from slipping down the face, press the top of the mask (which feels like a length of wire) down on the bridge of the nose to form a V shape which will grip the nose bridge.
  • Check the mask has no gaps on the top and sides of mask. Research indicates that even a small gap significantly increases the bug's chances of getting through.
  • Avoid masks with an exhale valve. The valve may make exhaling easier but could potentially let the bug out unfiltered. Valved masks are intended for industrial and anti-pollution use, not public health.

  • We have noticed issues with some batches of masks we sampled lately (in the course of acquiring them for everyday use).
  • In particular, they failed the tear test: the middle layer tore like paper with clean edges. Melt down polypropylene should tear with some difficult and result in jagged, fibrous edges.
  • Melt down polypropylene is essential because it uses static electricity to trap the bug, not merely pore size. If the pore size is to be small enough to trap the bug, it would be hard to engineer and breathe through. Thus, ingeniously, proper masks are designed to rely on both pore size (fibre gaps) and static electricity. This is why the simple looking mask is hard to make: health grade melt down polypropylene is not easy to come by.
  • Masks we bought from KK (a local grocery chain) passed this test. Currently, a pack of 50 is priced at around MYR 40 (USD 10) with a list price of around MYR 60 (the new ceiling price).

  • The above information is for your further research only and is not health, technical, consumer or purchasing advice.
  • The post image is of iMASC, an affordable, reusable N95 mask created by MIT and Brigham and Women’s Hospital.
  • Check out our updated post on face mask startups here.

Startup Roundup

A pick of startups from various sources:
  • Mapillary - Crowd sourced street imagery vid
  • K7 - Security robot that combines self-driving, AI & robotics
  • LabelFuse - Upload a cat image and find that cat in a video
  • UpStreet - Shop and get shares in the shop as a reward
  • Lunch - Be a food vendor to your colleagues
  • Cameo - Digital autographs from celebrities (includes zoom chat)
  • JumpRope - How-to-videos that are delivered in short chunks
  • WhiteHat - Tertiary education through apprenticeship
  • Appear - Airbnb for pop-up stores
  • Speiz - Airbnb for warehouses

New Generation Mobile Banks

Novi and Zelf are forthcoming new generation 'mobile banks' that will exist mainly in instant messaging. With messaging as its only interface, Zelf will have no branches, no app, no installation and no new UI to master.

Novi 1
  • FB's digital wallet for its digital currency Libra
  • Send money as easily as sending 'hello' to another person
  • No charges or fees: what you see is what you get
  • Buy Libra in local currency and transact locally and globally in Libra
  • Seamless cross-border, no exchange rates, no conversion
  • Product announced, no launch date set yet

Zelf 2 3
  • Minimalist bank and Novi's European challenger
  • Works via third party instant messaging, offline via ewallets
  • Provides virtual account and virtual card
  • Open account in seconds, send and receive money in seconds
  • No KYC needed until EUR 150 balance is reached
  • Founded by ex Deutsche Bank (DE), Barclays (UK), BNP Paribas (FR)

Bonus: EPI 4 5
  • European Payment Initiative (EPI) is EU's alt to Visa & Mastercard
  • Envisaged as a unified European electronic payment system
  • To support EU single market & defrag of incompatible systems
  • Features cards and digital wallets, but no new digital currency
  • Sixteen founding banks including BBVA, ING, Société Générale

Other News
  • Google to consolidate payment systems under Google Card
  • FB introduces whatsapp payment, available at limited locations
  • Natwest's Mettle for small businesses: free accounts, bookkeeping
  • Memo is a bank for SMEs, offers friendly bankers
  • Greece mandates residents use epayments for 30% of spending

Arts Funding

The first video sees Fasya Rafrita plucking a few bars from Karna Su Sayang ('because of love'). In the second, Ray Mak plays Asal Kau Bahagia ('as long as you are happy') out on the street, under street lights and with no audience (the present state of musicians?).

Arts Funding
Based on their profiles, Fasya looks to be a hobbyist while Ray, a professional musician. With music events and venues still mainly halted, discouraged or still trying to pick up where they left off, musicians and artists are seeing slim pickings. Fasya and Ray both have YouTube as an additional outlet. Fasya probably gets some pocket money (10K subscribers, top vid 403K views) and Ray could be making more than spare change (269K subs, some 10 vids with over 1M views).

Find out more about Arts Funding during these squeezy times at an in-person meet next Mon (20 July 2020). Note: ticketing says the event, originally scheduled for 16 Apr, is fully booked, Check with the organisers for the latest status or if there is an online broadcast. [update: event has been cancelled, apply direct for funding here: organisations, artists, venues.]

Bugzilla Musings

Reopening Dial Back
Based on the experiences of various locations which eased lockdowns (eg HK) only to have bugzilla come roaring back, there is a possibility authorities may dial back re-openings. Thus, businesses should have their secondary channels ready (digitalisation, virtualisation, branding etc) in case lockdowns return, while still firmly running business as usual (or unusual).

Methanol Sanitisers
Suddenly feeling giddy headed while out shopping? Could this be due to using hand sanitisers that contain methanol? Better to buy your own hand sanitisers from reputable sources and keep one handy with you while going out. Rather than generously apply free sanitisers from random public dispensers. [Note: not medical advice, for your further research only.]

The Art of Masking
[Not serious] In certain locales, people who decline to mask up also tend to drive SUVs and pickups. And are unlikely to be seen driving small cars. This suggests there could be a market for an SUV equivalent of the face mask (full-face protection, powered, look and function like a tactical helmet) that mask agnostics could take to. A hypothetical example of where sometimes art and design might be the answer.

Alt University

École 42, a French software engineering alt-university, is launching a campus at Sunway with the first intake set to commence this fall semester. Features:
  • Open to anyone aged 18 and above
  • No lecturers, classes, books or tuition fees
  • Admission does not require transcripts or grades
  • Selection is via an aptitude test and a bootcamp
  • Teaching and learning are by projects, peers and self-study
  • Study is self-paced, progression is by acquisition of merit badges
  • Projects are of a scope & quality of full-fledged commercial apps
  • Funded by a French philanthropist and other benefactors
  • Endorsed by the founders of Twitter, Snapchat, Airbnb, Slack & YC

42 is 'the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything' in the science fiction book The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Join the online launch this July 23rd together with partners MDEC and CIMB.

Whispers In A Dream

Ennio Morricone was a renowned composer of movie and classical music. Two of his most memorable movie scores were for The Mission and La Califfa ('The Lady Caliph'). Morricone later teamed up with Hayley Westenra to pen lyrics for both scores resulting in Whispers in a Dream and La Califfa showcased in the above videos. [The La Califfa video is a contemporary remix featuring the first half of the song, the lyrics are shown below.]

You look down at all you see
Throw your broken words at me
A flower fair a whisper in the air
Your heart is blind to all that I see

You say love is like the tide
Nothing lasts for all of time
But I believe that love is here with me
And for eternity