Turbotodd

Ruminations on tech, the digital media, and some golf thrown in for good measure.

Archive for the ‘china’ Category

A Powerful Reading

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Chinese tech giant Alibaba’s research unit has said its deep neural netowrk model is the first to beat humans in the Stanford Question Answering Dataset, according to a report from ZDNet.

Alibaba’s research unit, the Institute of Data Science on Technologies, said it had developed a deep learning model that attained a score of 82.44 in Exact Match on the Stanford Question Answering Dataset. Humans had clocked a previous score of 82.304.

More background:

Squad comprised more than 100,000 question-and-answer sets based on more than 500 Wikipedia articles, in which participants were required to build machine-learning models to respond to the questions. These models would be evaluated by Squad, which then would run the model on the test set.
– via ZDNet

Commenting on the Squad score, Alibaba IDST’s chief scientist of natural language processing Si Luo, said: “That means objective questions such as ‘what causes rain’ can now be answered with high accuracy by machines. We believe the technology underneath can be gradually applied to numerous applications such as customer service, museum tutorials, and online responses to medical inquiries from patients, decreasing the need for human input in an unprecedented way.”
– via ZDNet

Written by turbotodd

January 16, 2018 at 9:19 am

Finding a Mate

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If you’re in the market for a new Samsung smartphone, you’ll have to wait until Mobile World Congress in late February for the Galaxy S9 announcement.

ZDNet is reporting that DJ Koh, president of Samsung’s mobile business, said its first flagship smartphone of the year will be unveiled at MWC (where they will also announce the on sale date).

If, on the other hand, you were looking for the new Huawei Mate 10, it’s looking more and more like you’ll be needing to acquire it not from a major telecom vendor if you’re a prospective customer in the U.S.

As Android Police reported recently, The Information reported that the U.S. and House intelligence committees sent letters to the FCC back in December alleging Huawei was a security threat, and expressed “concerns” that the company was working with U.S. telecom providers to sell smartphones here in America.

The AT&T deal died a few weeks after members of the U.S. Senate and House intelligence committees wrote to the Federal Communications Commission raising concerns about reports that Huawei had struck a deal with a major telecommunications carrier. The Dec. 20 letter, reviewed by The Information, cited an intelligence committee report on the Chinese firm’s alleged ties to the Communist Party and China’s intelligence and security services. “Additional work by the Intelligence Committees on this topic only reinforces concerns regarding Huawei and Chinese espionage,”
– via Android Police – Android News, Apps, Games, Phones, Tablets

Android Police goes on to report that Verizon is facing similar pressure.

You can read CNET’s review of the Huawei Mate 10 here.

Also in the China Internet news front…9to5Mac writes that Apple has announced a date for when it will hand over operations of iCloud data services for residents of mainland China to Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry Ltd., a cloud partner in the Middle Kingdom.

GCBD will manage a new Apple data center in China that will eventually store all iCloud data for Chinese customers. Affected customers are now being notified about the transition which will start on February 28. Apple reassured users that the data will be protected by the same encryption standards as its current US policies and that no special backdoors will be created. This means that customers who live within mainland China will see the physical storage location of their data change, although it should go unnoticed in terms of available iCloud features and functionality. All of a user’s data will not move across to the new geographic location, but the process is beginning from February 28.
– via 9to5Mac

According to 9to5Mac, the switchover will happen automatically on February 28, and Apple customers in China will be “notified in due course.”

Written by turbotodd

January 10, 2018 at 11:27 am

Chinese Expansion

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While everybody freaks out about the Meltdown and Spectre microprocessor exposures, life goes on in much of the tech world.

Well, sort of.

TechCrunch reported yesterday that the U.S. Government has blocked the proposed acquisition of global payment service MoneyGram by Alibaba’s Ant Financial.

This is the second China-led acquisition of a U.S. tech company that has “failed” during U.S. President Trump’s tenure. The first was last September when a private equity group was blocked from purchasing Lattice Semiconductor due to “potential security risks.”

Here’s the background from TechCrunch:

Ant Financial, the Alibaba affiliate which controls Alipay — China’s top mobile wallet — and other financial services, announced a deal to buy Nasdaq-listed MoneyGram in April 2017 after it beat off a rival bid from Euronet. Ant initially bid for MoneyGram in January 2017 as a means to develop its cross-border payment network into the U.S., and major corridors including India and the Philippines, but instead it will “explore and develop initiatives” to collaborate with MoneyGram’s business.
– via TechCrunch

The article goes on to suggest that “the collapse of the deal is a huge blow to Ant, which spent much of 2017 developing its mobile payment network beyond China and into Southeast Asia, India, Korea, Japan and other parts of Asia with a series of partnerships and investments.”

As Confucius said, “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” That includes Uncle Sam.

On the other hand, nothing’s stopping the Chinese in Brazil!

SiliconANGLE reported that the Chinese ride-hailing firm, Didi Chuxing, bought Brazilian car booking service 99 Corp. yesterday for some $600M.

99 is Brazil’s version of Uber, writes SiliconANGLE, and has some 300,000 drivers and 14 million users in 400 cities across Brazil.

The deal is notable not only as a major acquisition in a large marketplace but also because it marks the beginning of Didi Chuxing’s international expansion. The Chinese giant was first reported to be expanding into Mexico in December with a ground-up strategy as opposed to an acquisition. Its global ambitions were finally laid bare when it said Dec. 21 that its latest round would in part be dedicated to its international expansion. The other takeaway from the deal is that Didi Chuxing is willing to acquire companies it has previously invested in, meaning there’s a swath of companies on Didi’s radar. To date, Didi is a large investor in Southeast Asia’s GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd. and India’s Ola (ANI Technologies Pvt. Ltd.), with smaller investments in Eastern Europe-focused Taxify OU, the Middle East’s Careem and last but certainly not least Lyft Inc., Uber’s largest rival in the United States.
– via SiliconANGLE

Et tu, Uber?

Written by turbotodd

January 4, 2018 at 12:04 pm

Posted in 2018, acquisitions, china, uber

WeChat, We Invest

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Building on last week’s post about the overinflux of venture capital money into the Chinese tech market, China Money Network is reporting that China’s Baidu, Inc. has teamed up with China Life Insurance Co., Ltd. to jointly launch a RMB 14 billion (U.S. $2.12 billiion) investment fund to back companies in the mobile Internet, AI, fintech, and other tech sectors.

Chinese insurers were permitted by regulators in 2014 to invest in venture capital.

The Baidu-China Life fund is to be managed by Baidu Capital, Baidu’s private investment arm. It will focus on making middle and late-stage investments in areas surrounding Internet and its applications in traditional sectors, in addition to AI, fintech and consumer upgrade.
– via China Money Network

In unrelated Chinese Internet play news, Tencent Holdings Ltd said on Monday it would lead an $863 million investment in apparel platform Vipshop Holdings.

The deal extends a recent push by Tencent into Alibaba’s home turf of retail, where the firm hopes to leverage its messaging service WeChat and its online payment systems to drive shopping demand.
– via U.S.

Tencent’s WeChat has nearly a billion users, and the app has become a lifeline for both mainland Chinese and the Chinese diaspora around the globe.

The app provides everything from text messaging to video games and conferencing to sharing photographs to apps that allow users to pay for municipal utility services.

Written by turbotodd

December 18, 2017 at 9:24 am

Chinese Unicorns

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The VC market in China has become hotter than hot, with some even suggesting it’s in bubble territory.

According to a report from The Wall Street Journal, in the first 11 months of this year, 3,418 new venture-capital and private-equity funds in China raised 1.6 trillion yuan (some $241B U.S.), which was more than double the amount of 2015 and more than 10 times that of 2006.

The data, which comes from Zero2IPO Group, estimates about 12,000 investment firms manage 8.5 trillion yuan in capital.

When it comes to so-called “unicorns,” or those startups valued at over $1B U.S., 59 of the 221 around the world come from China (the U.S. has 127, the U.K. 12, and India, 9).

But…

The financing bonanza has also seen startups wage expensive subsidy wars as they try to grab market share before worrying about profits. Nothing exemplifies the trend as much as the bike-sharing apps. First praised for the convenience they brought, bike-sharing apps such as Ofo and Mobike are now scorned for clogging cities with millions of bikes.
– via WSJ

And…

As in the U.S., easy access to capital in China allows startups to stay private longer. For venture capitalists, that means their shares in those startups get diluted and returns dwindle with each successive funding round. By the time of an IPO, the returns can be much lower than initially expected.
– via WSJ

The inevitable conclusion, the “b” word (“b” for “bubble”) is starting to get thrown around in China.

On the other hand, there are 1.4 billion people living in China, some 18.67% of the population. Meaning, there’s lots of opportunity, and plenty of both red and black on the Chinese entrepreneur roulette wheel for VC and angel investors to place their bets.

Written by turbotodd

December 15, 2017 at 9:30 am

Walmart, JD.com, IBM and Tsinghua University Launch a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance in China

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Walmart, JD.com, IBM, and Tsinghua University National Engineering Laboratory for E-Commerce Technologies announced today they will work together in a Blockchain Food Safety Alliance that will kick off with a collaboration designed to enhance food tracking, traceability and safety in China,  to achieve greater transparency across the food supply chain.

The four companies will work together to create a standards-based method of collecting data about the origin, safety and authenticity of food, using blockchain technology to provide real-time traceability throughout the supply chain.

This will encourage accountability and give suppliers, regulators and consumers greater insight and transparency into how food is handled, from the farm to consumers. This has traditionally been challenging due to complex and fragmented data sharing systems that are often paper-based and can be error-prone.

Walmart, JD, IBM and Tsinghua University will work with food supply chain providers and regulators to develop the standards, solutions and partnerships to enable a broad-based food safety ecosystem in China.

IBM will provide its IBM Blockchain Platform and expertise, while Tsinghua University will act as a technical advisor sharing its expertise in the key technologies and the China food safety ecosystem. IBM and Tsinghua will collaborate with Walmart and JD to develop, optimize and roll out the technology to suppliers and retailers that join the alliance.

As a world leader in global food safety, Walmart works closely with suppliers, regulators, industry partners and the research community around the world. In China, it invests heavily in food safety research through the Walmart Food Safety and Collaboration Center and has promoted food safety, both through its own supplier network, as well as working with JD, which has rich omni-channel food supply chain management experience. The two have been able to leverage JD’s expertise in the application of artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, big data and other new technologies to protect consumers.

Following IBM and Walmart’s announcement in August of a new consortium to enhance food safety, this collaboration brings IBM’s blockchain food safety expertise to China. IBM, Walmart and Tsinghua University have piloted the use of blockchain to trace food items, including pork in China and mangoes in the U.S., as they move through the supply chain to store shelves. Recent testing by Walmart showed that applying blockchain reduced the time it took to trace a package of mangoes from the farm to the store from days or weeks to two seconds.

The collaboration is designed to help ensure brand owners’ data privacy while helping them integrate their online and offline traceability for food safety and quality management channels. Companies that join the alliance will be able to share information using blockchain technology, and plans include them being able to choose the standards-based traceability solution that best suits their needs and legacy systems. 

This will in turn bring greater transparency to the supply chain and introduce new technologies to the retail sector designed to create a safer food environment and enhance the consumer experience.

The insights gained from the work in China will shed light on how blockchain technology can help improve processes such as recalls and verifications and enhance consumer confidence due to greater transparency in China and around the world. 

Written by turbotodd

December 14, 2017 at 11:25 am

China Tops Top500 Supercomputing List

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For the first time ever, China has the most systems on the Top500 supercomputers list with 202, up from 159 six months ago.

By comparison, the U.S. dropped from 169 to 144, according to a report from CNET.

China also sits atop the Top500 list, with its Sunway TaihuLight supercomputer at China’s National Supercomputing Center in Wuxi reaching 93.01 petflops, or 93 quadrillion calculations per second.

But don’t rule out the U.S….

The United States might reclaim the top spot on the Top500 list, though. An IBM-built machine called Summit at Oak Ridge National Laboratory is designed to reach about 200 petaflops, double the performance of Sunway TaihuLight. It’s in a 10,000-square-foot facility that’s got a 20-megawatt power system for running the machine and keeping it cool. That’s enough electricity to power about 16,300 houses.
– via CNET

Written by turbotodd

November 14, 2017 at 9:34 am

Posted in 2017, china, ibm, supercomputing

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