Archive for ‘Technology’

01/10/2014

US, India to collaborate on Mars exploration – The Hindu

India and the U.S., after sending their own respective spacecraft into Mars’ orbit, have now agreed to cooperate on future explorations of the Red Planet, which America said will yield “tangible benefits” to both the countries and the world at large.

NASA chief Charles Bolden.

The agreement in this regard was signed by NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and K. Radhakrishnan, Chairman of the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) in Toronto on Tuesday on the sidelines of the International Astronautical Congress.

The two sides signed a charter that establishes a NASA-ISRO Mars Working Group to investigate enhanced cooperation between the two countries in Mars exploration.

They also signed an international agreement that defines how the two agencies will work together on the NASA-ISRO Synthetic Aperture Radar (NISAR) mission, targeted to launch in 2020.

“The signing of these two documents reflects the strong commitment NASA and ISRO have to advancing science and improving life on Earth,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden.

“This partnership will yield tangible benefits to both our countries and the world,” Mr. Bolden said.

The joint Mars Working Group will seek to identify and implement scientific, programmatic and technological goals the two agencies have in common regarding Mars exploration.

The group will meet once a year to plan cooperative activities, including potential NASA-ISRO cooperation on future missions to Mars, it said.

NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft arrived at Mars September 21. MAVEN is the first spacecraft dedicated to exploring the tenuous upper atmosphere of Mars.

ISRO’s Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM), India’s first spacecraft launched to the Red Planet, arrived on September 23 to study the Martian surface and atmosphere and demonstrate technologies needed for interplanetary missions.

One of the working group’s objectives will be to explore potential coordinated observations and science analysis between MAVEN and MOM, as well as other current and future Mars missions.

“NASA and Indian scientists have a long history of collaboration in space science,” said John Grunsfeld, NASA associate administrator for science.

“These new agreements between NASA and ISRO in Earth science and Mars exploration will significantly strengthen our ties and the science that we will be able to produce as a result,” he added.

According to a NASA statement, the joint NISAR Earth-observing mission will make global measurements of the causes and consequences of land surface changes.

Potential areas of research include ecosystem disturbances, ice sheet collapse and natural hazards.

The NISAR mission is optimised to measure subtle changes of the Earth’s surface associated with motions of the crust and ice surfaces.

NISAR will improve our understanding of key impacts of climate change and advance our knowledge of natural hazards, he said.

“NISAR will be the first satellite mission to use two different radar frequencies (L-band and S-band) to measure changes in our planet’s surface less than a centimetre across. This allows the mission to observe a wide range of changes, from the flow rates of glaciers and ice sheets to the dynamics of earthquakes and volcanoes,” it said.

Under the terms of the new agreement, NASA will provide the mission’s L-band synthetic aperture radar (SAR), a high-rate communication subsystem for science data, GPS receivers, a solid state recorder, and a payload data subsystem.

ISRO will provide the spacecraft bus, an S-band SAR, and the launch vehicle and associated launch services.

NASA and ISRO have been cooperating under the terms of a framework agreement signed in 2008.

This cooperation includes a variety of activities in space sciences such as two NASA payloads — the Mini-Synthetic Aperture Radar (Mini-SAR) and the Moon Mineralogy Mapper — on ISRO’s Chandrayaan-1 mission to the moon in 2008.

During the operational phase of this mission, the Mini-SAR instrument detected ice deposits near the moon’s northern pole, it said.

via US, India to collaborate on Mars exploration – The Hindu.

20/09/2014

Huawei: The great disrupter’s new targets | The Economist

“THE last time there were so many people down by here, the Rolling Stones were in town.” So declared one of those attending an unusual gathering this week in a vast auditorium along the shores of Shanghai’s Huangpu River. The music was blaring, the coloured lights flashing and the ceiling shimmering, but this was not another rock concert. Astonishingly, the enthusiastic throngs—10,000 squeezed into the venue and another 13,000 joined in via streaming video—had gathered for a technology conference.

The gig was organised by Huawei, a Chinese maker of telecoms equipment, which used the occasion to unveil a new business strategy. As they strode across the stage in front of a video screen nearly as wide as a football pitch, Huawei’s bosses declared their aim of making their firm the world’s leading information-technology (IT) company. In the first stage of this, Huawei plans to increase its sales of servers, storage and other data-centre equipment by a factor of ten by 2020. Last year such products brought in only about $1 billion of Huawei’s total revenues of $39 billion.

It is an audacious goal. It pits Huawei against such titans as IBM, Cisco and HP—innovative giants with deep customer relationships and comprehensive offerings that Huawei cannot yet match. Then again, a decade or so ago Huawei faced a similar challenge in telecoms equipment and has grown to become one of the world’s dominant vendors. It has also become big in smartphones. Evan Zeng of Gartner, a consulting firm, says Huawei starts with an edge in China’s fast-growing market, where state-owned firms favour domestic suppliers. That said, it has some strong local rivals, notably Lenovo and ZTE.

Bryan Wang of Forrester Research, another consulting firm, says Huawei is taking on this daunting challenge because the telecoms-equipment market has become saturated and is set to grow only sluggishly. The IT business is also crowded. But it is a far bigger market than telecoms equipment, and Huawei, since it has such a small share of it, has enormous scope for growth.

In an attempt to keep the company nimble, Huawei recently introduced a system in which three of its bosses take turns, six months at a time, at being the chief executive. Guo Ping, who is in charge at the moment, argues that the telecoms operators that are now his firm’s main customers are embracing cloud computing, so it makes sense for Huawei to make sure it can provide all the gear they need to do so.

Second, Mr Guo argues, the long-predicted convergence of the telecoms and IT businesses is finally happening. The switching of telecoms and internet traffic will no longer require so much of the costly, specialist hardware that Huawei now makes. Increasingly, the job will be done by software, which will run on cheaper, standard IT equipment—what is known as “software-defined networking”. Huawei is seeking to get ahead of this disruption of its core business by being a disrupter itself.

There are good reasons to think Huawei may be up to the challenge. As a privately-held company, “its managers don’t have quarterly pressure, and can invest for the long term,” notes Mark Gibbs of SAP, a German software firm that works closely with Huawei. Ryan Ding, Huawei’s head of product development, recalls that his firm stuck with its efforts to penetrate the markets for routers and LAN switches—two important bits of telecoms gear—despite losing money on each for more than a decade. Likewise, this year it is pumping $600m, or more than half of its entire revenues from IT products, into researching future ones.

Huawei is a proven innovator entering a bloated industry, ripe for change. Its bosses speak clearly and compellingly about what innovation is for: not to win Nobel prizes, or plaudits in the media for the “coolness” of its products, but to create value for customers. To this end, Huawei stations armies of engineers at 28 “joint innovation centres” at customers’ sites around the world. “My guys don’t just ask the customer what he wants: they go to the field site together, do the installation together, and figure out together how to increase efficiencies,” boasts Mr Ding.

The American and European giants of IT have been put on notice. Mr Wang of Forrester says Huawei has already shown it can deliver a potent combination of price, service and customisation. That is why he feels sure it will disrupt the IT business just as it did with telecoms.

via Huawei: The great disrupter’s new targets | The Economist.

15/09/2014

Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ

If you’re tired of walking behind someone who’s trudging along as they text, has this Chinese city got the sidewalk for you.

Last week, the city of Chongqing unveiled a lane specially designated for people who want to walk as they use their cellphones. “Cellphones, walk in this lane at your own risk” is printed in the lane in white lettering. The adjoining lane reads “No cellphones.”

On Monday, Weibo users reacted to the news with a mixture of amusement and scorn. “It’s such a lazy design. Shouldn’t the cellphone lane be placed [farther from the road]? It is not practical at all,” wrote one user.

Another dismissed the innovation, writing, “It’s just another imitation of foreign inventions,” the user wrote, referring to a similar experiment launched in Washington, D.C., earlier this year. “Besides, it seems only to be serving as a tourist attraction,” the user wrote of the road, which is located in a Chongqing tourist area called “Foreign Street Park.”

Still another wondered whether the road would make anything safer. “Is the goal here to encourage still more people to use their cellphones while walking?”

via Chinese City Launches Special Lane for Cellphone Addicts – China Real Time Report – WSJ.

12/09/2014

Schumpeter: The China wave | The Economist

MANAGEMENT thinkers have paid surprisingly little attention to how Chinese firms are run. They routinely ascribe those firms’ rapid growth in recent years to their copious supply of cheap labour, or to generous financial backing from the state, rather than inventiveness. They have much more time for India, particularly its knack for frugal innovation, with all those colourful stories of banks putting cash machines on bikes and taking them into the countryside, and companies building water purifiers out of coconut husks.

However, it seems unlikely that China’s companies have come as far as they have just by applying lots of labour and capital. It is also hard to imagine that the huge expansion of China’s education system and its technology industries is not producing fresh management thinking. Western companies knew little about Japan’s system of lean production until its carmakers gobbled up their markets. The danger is that the same will happen with Chinese management ideas.

There are, however, signs that these are now getting the attention they deserve. The MIT Sloan Management Review devotes much of its current issue to examining innovation and management lessons from China. Peter Williamson and Eden Yin of Cambridge University’s Judge Business School contribute a fascinating essay on “Accelerated Innovation: the New Challenge from China”. The latest issue of the Harvard Business Review has a piece on “A Chinese Approach to Management” by Thomas Hout of the Monterey Institute of International Studies and David Michael of the Boston Consulting Group.

The first article suggests that the Chinese, like the post-war Japanese, have been doing a great deal of innovation under the radar. The second demonstrates that they are becoming more creative as they seek to solve the problems of a rapidly advancing consumer economy.

Messrs Williamson and Yin focus on the way that many Chinese companies are using mass-production techniques to speed up not just the manufacture but also the development of products. They break up the innovation process into a large number of small steps and then assign (often sizeable) teams to work on each step. For example, WuXiAppTec, a drug company, divided the search for a new treatment for chronic hepatitis C into eight steps, assigning dozens of people to each. The firm also adapted German software that was designed for managing assembly lines to co-ordinate the innovation process. Whereas a Western software firm typically releases an early “beta” version of a product only to a select group of guinea-pigs, Chinese firms are more likely to launch theirs straight into the market: they use consumers as co-creators, seeking their feedback and then rapidly adjusting their products.

This sort of accelerated innovation may not generate stunning breakthroughs. But that is not what it is for. China’s success has depended on its ability to be a “fast follower”, copying foreign ideas and turning them into mass-market products. Messrs Williamson and Yin argue that the Chinese can now apply accelerated innovation in lots of areas; and that the technique helps them make better use of one of the country’s most important resources—a pool of competent but unexceptional technicians.

Messrs Hout and Michael are also struck by Chinese companies’ emphasis on speed, and their willingness to throw things at the market. Goodbaby, which makes prams and car seats, introduces about 100 new products each quarter. Broad Group, a construction firm, puts up buildings rapidly by breaking them up into modules, fabricating those modules in factories, pre-loaded with utilities, and then plugging them together: an idea long talked about in the rich world but not much implemented.

However, their paper’s focus is broader—on how Chinese entrepreneurs are coping with the speed at which technology-related industries are changing. They note that even big companies delegate lots of authority to preserve flexibility: Haier, a home-appliances giant, consists of thousands of mini-companies, each of which reports directly to the chairman. That is an interesting contrast with Japanese firms’ obsession with seniority and consensus-building.

Messrs Hout and Michael also highlight the creativity of some Chinese companies when faced with the need to build entire ecosystems out of thin air, from supply chains to labour pools. Hai Di Lao, a hotpot restaurant chain, deals with one of its biggest problems—recruiting and retaining young people to train as branch managers—by offering them housing, schooling for their children and trips abroad. This sort of imaginative thinking on how to attract good workers will increasingly be needed now that China has used up most of its surplus rural labour.

via Schumpeter: The China wave | The Economist.

05/09/2014

Alibaba’s Taobao, Tmall Transform Shopping in China’s Small Cities – Businessweek

Li Yuxin remembers when she had to travel from Zhangjiekou, her northern Chinese home town, to visit her half-sister in Beijing so she could buy the right clothes. Sure, Zhangjiekou has large shopping malls full of cheap t-shirts and baggy jackets, but not stores where the aspiring fashionista could purchase accessories from such foreign luxury brands as Prada (1913:HK) or even popular Western sportswear made by Nike (NKE) and Adidas (ADS:GR).

Checking deliveries from online marketplaces Tmall and Taobao at an express delivery company in Beijing

But since she started ordering clothes from Taobao and Tmall—websites owned by Alibaba Group—her options and her wardrobe have dramatically expanded. “Maybe I spend too much money now, but I have to catch up with Li Zhu,” her half-sister who lives in China’s capital, she says.

E-commerce has quickly changed the face of shopping and consumer marketing in China. Mirroring the rise of Amazon (AMZN) in the U.S., the ascendance of Alibaba in China has greatly accelerated this trend and turned China into the world’s second-largest e-commerce market.

via Alibaba’s Taobao, Tmall Transform Shopping in China’s Small Cities – Businessweek.

05/09/2014

India’s $33 Smartphone Sales Surge, Setting the Stage for a Shakeup – India Real Time – WSJ

The maker of India’s $33 Mozilla Firefox smartphone says sales of the world’s cheapest smartphone have been strong since it launched last week.

Intex Technologies India Ltd. said it quickly sold out of its first batch of Cloud FX phones–which use Mozilla Corp.’s Firefox operating system—and that it has already had to order another large shipment. It expects to sell 100,000 handsets this month and a total of 500,000 by the end of the year, the company said.

Another super-cheap Firefox-powered smartphone hit the Indian market on Tuesday. India’s Spice Retail Ltd. started selling its Spice Fire One Mi FX1 for about $37. The company did not respond to requests for early sales figures.

The less-than-2,000-rupee price tags make the Firefox mobile operating system smartphones more than 30% cheaper than the least-expensive smartphones which use Google Inc.’s Android operating system.

Other phone sellers say they are also planning Firefox handsets. India’s Karbonn Mobiles says it plans to launch a $41 Firefox smartphone by the end of September. It will be less than half the price of Karbonn’s latest Android phone, making it a “game changer,” said Pardeep Jain, managing director of Jaina Mobiles India Pvt., which  controls the Karbonn brand.

Reviews for the ultralow-cost phones have so far been generally positive. While the phones may lack some functionality and speed, buyers and technology reporters agreed they were still a great deal for the price and a good option for first-time smartphone buyers who use their phones for basic calls, web surfing and social networking.

While Mozilla phones will make smartphones affordable to millions of new users, they will likely get more competition soon on price from Android, the operating system used on most phones from Samsung Electronics and others, analysts said.

Google is expected to launch its Android One low-cost smartphone in the next few weeks.

via India’s $33 Smartphone Sales Surge, Setting the Stage for a Shakeup – India Real Time – WSJ.

30/08/2014

Houses in Shanghai are not built, they’re printed[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn

A Chinese company recently built 10 full-sized houses using a giant printer.

Houses in Shanghai are not built, they're printed

The detached, one-story houses now standing in the Shanghai Hi-Tech Industrial Park, in the city’s Qingpu district, look like ordinary buildings. But they were “printed out” in less than a day with “contour crafting“, commonly known as 3-D printing technology.

‘Mirror’ perfect fit for shoppers  Four huge printers measuring 32 meters long, 10 meters wide and 6.6 meters tall were used to make the houses, which were built layer by layer.

“It’s not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly,” said Ma Yihe, inventor of the printers, who is also president of the Shanghai Winsun decoration and design company.

“Unlike traditional construction, the new technology doesn’t produce any waste,” said Ma, who has been working in the 3-D printing construction industry for 12 years.

The materials used to make the houses are a mixture of quick-drying cement and recycled industrial waste, which help lower construction costs by up to 50 percent. For the moment, the company is keeping the recipe for the cement a secret.

Meanwhile, the houses can withstand just about any safety test, Ma said.

via Houses in Shanghai are not built, they’re printed[1]- Chinadaily.com.cn.

15/08/2014

Online sites shake up hidebound retailing in India – Businessweek

Finding a way into India’s vast but vexing market has long frustrated foreign retailers. Now, overseas investors are pouring billions of dollars into e-commerce ventures that are circumventing the barriers holding back retail powers such as Wal-Mart and Ikea.

Some investors see India as the world’s next big e-commerce opportunity, with the upcoming mammoth public stock offering of Chinese online giant Alibaba hinting at the potential.

Online shopping is still in its infancy in India at $2.3 billion of an overall $421 billion retail market in 2013, according to research firm Crisil. But it is growing fast and the potential of reaching a mostly untapped market of 1.2 billion people has sparked a funding-and-expansion arms race.

Flipkart, a Bangalore-based company founded in 2007 by two former Amazon employees, last month announced it had raised $1 billion in mostly foreign capital after building its registered users to 22 million.

A day later, Amazon raised the stakes with founder Jeff Bezos saying the company would pour $2 billion into developing its India business.

Snapdeal.com, another Indian e-commerce contender, has raised at least $234 million in the past year, and recently local media have reported that Rajan Tata of India’s Tata Group conglomerate is considering a personal investment in the company.

via Online sites shake up hidebound retailing in India – Businessweek.

06/08/2014

China Investigates Microsoft, Symantec – Businessweek

For years, U.S. politicians have been calling Chinese telecom-equipment makers Huawei Technologies and ZTE (000063:CH)threats to American security. But making charges about national security is a game that China can play, too. Following Edward Snowden’s disclosures of U.S. spying, the Chinese government seems eager to show American companies that they will pay a price for U.S. government actions.

Why China Is Investigating Microsoft and Symantec

That’s a lesson that Microsoft (MSFT) and Symantec (SYMC) are learning now. An antivirus company from Silicon Valley, Symantec competes in China against local favorites such as Beijing-based Qihoo 360 Technology (QIHU). According to reports by Bloomberg News and the Chinese media, China has instructed government departments to stop buying antivirus software by Symantec and its Moscow-based rival, Kaspersky Lab. Symantec software has back doors that could allow outside access, according to an order from the Public Security Ministry. Not coincidentally, Qihoo’s New York-traded shares rose 2.7 percent on Monday, following reports of the move against Symantec and Kaspersky.

Symantec is trying to contain the damage. Although the official People’s Daily newspaper reported on Sunday that the government had banned both Symantec and Kapersky, Cupertino (Calif.)-based Symantec says the action is more limited. “It is important to note that this list is only for certain types of procurement and Symantec products are not banned by the Chinese government,” the China Daily reported Symantec commenting in a statement. “We are investigating this report and will continue to bid for and win government projects in China.”

via China Investigates Microsoft, Symantec – Businessweek.

05/08/2014

Seaplane about to enter trial production – China – Chinadaily.com.cn

China expects to test-fly next year its first domestically developed seaplane, which is intended to be the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, according to an executive at the company working on it.

Seaplane about to enter trial production

Trial production of the TA-600 aircraft, formerly known as Dragon-600, will start in Zhuhai, Guangdong province, around the end of this year or the beginning of 2015, as the design has been completed, said Fu Junxu, a senior manager of China Aviation Industry General Aircraft, a subsidiary of Aviation Industry Corp of China, the country’s leading aircraft maker.

Fu said contractors will deliver large parts to the company before the end of this year, and the aircraft’s maiden flight is planned to take place in 2015.

The aircraft, with a maximum takeoff weight of 53.5 metric tons and a maximum range of more than 5,000 kilometers, will be larger than a Boeing 737 and could be used for a variety of operations such as passenger transport, marine environmental monitoring, firefighting and maritime search and rescue, Fu said.

Powered by four turbine engines, the TA-600 will be the world’s largest amphibious aircraft, surpassing Japan’s Shin Maywa US-2. It is designed to carry up to 50 people during search and rescue missions.

The company’s market research estimates there is demand for 60 of the seaplanes in China.

The country began developing the aircraft five years ago, Fu said.

Wang Ya‘nan, deputy editor-in-chief of Aerospace Knowledge magazine, said the TA-600 would fill a vacancy of modern seaplanes in China, which has long ignored the development of such aircraft.

“The old saying ‘A thousand days the country nurtures its soldiers and all for one day’s battle’ applies to the development of amphibious aircraft. People say such equipment is becoming useless, but will eventually realize they are indispensable in maritime operations,” Wang said, referring to the continuing search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

“If the Chinese navy had such large, modern seaplanes as the TA-600, it would be much easier for it to search at sea,” he said.

Rescue agencies are among the largest operators of seaplanes due to their efficiency and their ability to both locate and rescue survivors of emergencies at sea. Land-based aircraft cannot rescue people, and many helicopters are limited in their capacity to carry passengers and in their fuel efficiency compared to fixed-wing aircraft, Wang said.

China now has at most five SH-5 maritime patrol amphibious aircraft, which are old and cannot perform modern maritime tasks, Wang added.

via Seaplane about to enter trial production – China – Chinadaily.com.cn.

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