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Technology Featured East Asia

Smartphone brand Realme reaches 50M unit sales milestone: report

Shenzhen, China – Chinese smartphone manufacturer Realme has recently crossed the 50 million smartphone units sales, report from market research company Counterpoint said.

According to the report, the brand grew by 132% quarter on quarter (QoQ) and has also recorded a high level of quarterly shipments of 14.8 million units. 

Abhilash Kumar, research analyst at Counterpoint stated, “Realme grew to become one of the top 5, or even top 3, brands in its key markets, including India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Philippines and some other Southeast Asian countries.

With its efforts to bring the affordable yet premium-like products to consumers, as well as its ability to offer smooth digital shopping and after-sales services in different countries, Realme has emerged as the most resilient brand during and after the pandemic crisis,” Kumar also added, commenting on the brand’s trendsetting image that ‘clicks’ with the younger generation through design and affordable prices.

Expanding to 61 markets globally, Realme has since then been a popular brand choice, such as in India that saw 1 million smart individual audio devices purchases.

Sky Li, Realme’s CEO commented, “At Realme, we live out our philosophy, which is to dare to leap into the forefront of innovation, design and product value, which is something young people can identify with.” 

The brand, founded in 2018, has since then diversified to other products including smart audio, visual, and lifestyle products. 

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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Thai telecom TOT partners cloud tech provider Genesys, powers its call center with AI

Singapore – State-owned Thai telecommunications company TOT has collaborated with Genesys, a California-headquartered cloud customer experience and contact center solutions to accelerate its contact centers.

According to a press release by Genesys, TOT, as a company responsible for operating government contact centers in Thailand, experienced a surge in call volumes when the Coronavirus broke out.

To effectively manage the increase in calls, Genesys embedded machine learning and conversational AI capabilities with the use of Genesys Cloud and Google Cloud Contact Center AI (CCAI) into its system, allowing callers to now interact with AI-powered virtual agents who are able to accurately capture a customer’s intent easily, routing them to the agents most well placed to handle their needs.

Genesys Cloud is the company’s proprietary web-based unified communications solution, connecting contact center users, business users, vendors, partners, and customers; while Google Cloud CCAI is Google’s solution that helps integrate AI into contact center processes.

According to Genesys, one of the pain points it has also targeted for TOT in integrating the new solution is the company’s added complication of having less manpower to receive calls amid social distancing measures.

“The telecom provider needed a solution capable of scaling rapidly to meet the unexpected surges in call volume, address a constantly evolving set of requirements, optimize agent resources, and still deliver superior customer satisfaction with empathy,” said Genesys.

Senior Director for Cloud and Digital at TOT K. Santhiphap Phoemmongkhonsap said that customer experience remains one of the most significant measures of success for TOT as a government organization.

Phoemmongkhonsap also shared that with audiences increasingly utilizing digital channels, TOT has made it a priority to modernize contact center infrastructure and maintain high customer experience standards despite significant changes to customer requirements due to COVID-19.

“TOT and Genesys shares a common vision of improving lives with technology, and we look forward to continue serving businesses and consumers in line with Thailand’s digital transition vision with a like-minded partner,” said Phoemmongkhonsap.

Commenting on the partnership, Gwilym Funnell, senior vice president, and general manager at Genesys Asia-Pacific said, “Genesys is honored to assist TOT in serving the needs of local businesses and consumers, and more importantly, harness technology to make lives better amid the ongoing pandemic. We operate with a strong belief in the transformational potential of AI and Cloud technologies for modern economies. We are thrilled to have had the opportunity to collaborate with one of Thailand’s telecommunications pioneers to accelerate digital transformation within one of Southeast Asia’s fastest-growing internet economies.”

Meanwhile, Head of Product for Conversational AI at Google Cloud Antony Passemard said “The successful application of Google Cloud’s CCAI solution by Genesys for TOT is a tremendous example of how applied AI can help organizations digitally transform quickly, and ultimately drive stronger, more efficient experiences for their customers while maintaining control of their costs.”

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Technology Featured East Asia

China-based iClick launches new marketing analysis tool iNsights

Hong Kong – iClick Interactive Asia Group (iClick), an independent online marketing and enterprise data solutions provider in China, has launched its flagship marketing analysis tool iNsights, which gives brands in-depth and actionable consumer behavior insights to drive more effective marketing campaigns.

In the past months, iClick announced upgrades to iAudience and iActivate, its market intelligence and ad campaign management platforms. With the new tool launch, the iSuite solution of the company now completes the full campaign cycle including its audience targeting solution iAccess.

iNsights is a one-stop tracking solution that tracks and analyzes cross-channel campaigns covering China and overseas markets, eliminating the use of multiple marketing tracking systems.

Utilizing full-data analytics to produce reliable and accurate insights, iNsights provides for brands a better understanding of marketing-driven traffic as well as on-site audiences’ behaviors to facilitate more effective re-targeting. The tool is also said to carry a user-friendly dashboard that renders complicated data into visualized interactive graphics.

“iNsights effectively addresses the difficulties presented to marketers by the shallow insights provided by raw data and selective sampling data analysis, as well as the inconvenience and incomparability of multiple tracking systems for different regions,” said Frankie Ho, president of international business at iClick.

“Our recent update of iAudience and the launch of iActivate and iNsights are part of iClick’s commitment to continually build up and develop the best full-stack solutions for global marketers. iClick has always devoted itself to helping brands gain a better and deeper understanding of markets in real-time and to creating the best marketing strategies driven by data and advanced algorithms,” added Ho.

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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Google Pay makes enhancements for Singapore users, starting with PayNow integration

Singapore – Google’s digital wallet platform Google Pay has made a number of enhancements exclusively for Singapore users that will see an easier and further seamless use of features on the app. 

One of the latest updates is Google pay’s integration with Singapore’s national real-time payment service PayNow, which now allows users in Singapore to send money to anybody in the country, even if they’re not on Google Pay, with users only needing the person’s phone number. 

The feature has been previously introduced for OCBC customers earlier in the year, and now Google Pay will be extending it to customers of DBS Paylah! and Standard Chartered Bank. 

Customers of the said banks can also use their linked accounts to pay any business that has a PayNow QR code displayed, allowing merchants to receive payments in their corporate bank accounts.

In addition to the improved transaction process, Singapore will be the first country where Google Pay users can form groups to organize and manage payments, as well as divide bills and other joint expenses within the app.

Googe Pay Singapore

Google Pay has also announced added features for delivery and movie bookings, anticipating that more Singaporeans will dine out and watch movies amid lesser COVID-related restrictions.

Singapore users can now browse cuisines and order takeout or delivery with the Order Food feature on the app. Meanwhile, for movie enjoyment of the users, Google Pay has just added Golden Village locations in addition to Shaw Theatres, giving moviegoers a total of 174 cinema venues to choose from across Singapore. Users can now be able to skip queuing by booking a movie ticket and reserving a seat instantly within the app.

To make it fun to use Google Pay, the app will be giving out rewards for transactions in the form of virtual scratchcards, which users can virtually ‘scratch’ to find out a corresponding prize. Users can earn scratchcards with instant cashback rewards on qualifying transactions, with bonuses when a user has successfully referred Google Pay to a friend.

Director of Engineering Patrick Teo said that the motley of enhancements in the platform were undertaken on Google’s belief that Payments don’t take place in isolation, but are part of the daily interactions users have with friends, family and local businesses. 

“We built Google Pay around these everyday relationships, to make it quick and easy to transact with the people and businesses you know. In just a few taps, you’ll be able to see a past payment with a business, or find a friend to pay. Plus, sending money to someone new is as easy as sending a chat message—just start entering their phone number,” said Teo.

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Main Feature Technology Global

New feature on Google Maps enables users to view average number of new COVID cases in an area

United States – Google adds the latest update on Google Maps – a new COVID layer, which will enable users to view critical information about COVID-19 cases in an area, and therefore help them make more informed decisions about where to go and what to do amid the pandemic. 

The new layer is the latest COVID-related layer on the app. Layer is the app’s staple management button to see maps in a categorized view, and since the pandemic struck, the tech giant has updated Google Maps with COVID-related layers such as COVID-19 alerts in transit and COVID checkpoints.

The layer is labelled “COVID-19 info.” When users click on it, they will be able to see a seven-day average of new COVID cases per 100,000 people for the area of the map they’re looking at, and they will also be able to see a label that indicates whether the cases are trending up or down, explained product manager Sujoy Banerjee in an update post.

GOOGLE MAPS

By using the color coding feature, users will also be able to easily distinguish the density of new cases in an area. The trending case data will be visible at the country level for all 220 countries and territories that Google Maps supports, along with state or province, county, and city-level data where available. 

According to Banerjee, data featured in the COVID layer comes from multiple authoritative sources, including Johns Hopkins, the New York Times, and Wikipedia. Google chose these sources as their data comes from public health organizations like the World Health Organization, government health ministries, along with state and local health agencies and hospitals. Many of these sources already power COVID case information in Google Search.

“While getting around is more complicated these days, our hope is that these Google Maps features will help you get where you need to be as safely and efficiently as possible,” said Banerjee.

The COVID layer starts rolling out worldwide on Android and iOS this week.

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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

SEA venture capital firm Openspace Ventures appoints new senior team members

Singapore – Openspace Ventures, a venture capital firm focused on investing in technology opportunities in Southeast Asia has appointed former Walt Disney’s APAC head for business development Jessica Huang Pouleur as its new executive director, while finance and investment executive Aristo Setiawidjaja has been tapped as the company’s senior advisor for Indonesia.

The company said that the new appointments come as the team expands its portfolio of investments in the region.

Aside from the executive director position, Pouleur will be joining as a member of the investment committee of OSV+, the company’s newly established opportunity fund focused on mid-stage technology investing.

For over ten years, Pouleur has been focused on Southeast Asian opportunities in telecommunications, media, and technology. As Walt Disney’s head of strategy and business development for APAC, Pouleur led and oversaw strategic initiatives and managed Disney’s investment and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) activity across the region including key aspects of its 17 billion US dollar acquisition of 21st Century Fox. Before that, she was with Providence Equity Partners as director based in Singapore, leading the evaluation and management of growth-stage investment opportunities across the SEA region.   

Meanwhile, Setiawidjaja is a board member and managing director of hospital network Hermina Hospitals in Indonesia amid joining Openspace Ventures. Prior to that, he was a director at investment firm Olympus Capital.

Poeleur, commenting on her appointment, “Southeast Asia is evolving rapidly as a market and my experience at Disney and Providence has given me a great perspective on the exciting opportunity set. Good investment opportunities start with a clear understanding of diverse regional consumer dynamics supported by relevant product development and leading technology. I am excited to join Openspace where I have known the Partners for a long time and watched with admiration as their team has helped build some of the best companies in the region.

Meanwhile, Setiawidjaja said, “As we deal with the new normal due to COVID and rethink how daily life will change in its aftermath, there are plenty of emerging opportunities in Indonesia and the region. I am looking forward to contributing my perspectives to Openspace in sectors it is investing in, which coincide with my domain knowledge of the sectors.”

Shane Chesson, founding partner at Openspace remarked, “Openspace is now operating four funds across the region with a team of 25 diverse individuals delivering on the unique requirements of technology investing in Southeast Asia. We welcome our new team members who add to this diversity and skill set. The investment environment is attractive during this phase and we will keep executing on our busy pipeline.”

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Technology Featured APAC

Microsoft to train tech employers across APAC in hiring PWDs, launches enabler program

Singapore – Leading tech company Microsoft fortifies its diversity & inclusion advocacy through its latest initiative across APAC, the Microsoft Enabler Program.

Said to be the first of its kind, the program partners non-profit organizations (NPOs) who will provide training to organizations to become inclusive employers, who in turn will provide job shadowing, internships, mentoring, and opportunities in tech jobs for PWDs identified by the NPOs.

The program will be piloted in five markets: Korea, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, before expanding to the rest of the region by the end of 2020.

Within the program, Microsoft will also see the direct training to PWDs themselves, where sessions will circle engineering and programming and cloud computing on Microsoft Azure as well as application development in GitHub. 

For the employer partners, alongside offering inputs on workplace modifications, workshops by NPOs will teach inclusive design and assistive technologies enabled through artificial intelligence on Microsoft Azure.

Chief partner officer of Microsoft for APAC Vivek Puthucode said that as 2020 has been a difficult year for everyone, tech roles and digital skills will be the backbone of the economic recovery in every country.

“In today’s workplace, it is imperative that we include everyone, and accessibility is the vehicle to inclusion. It is a responsibility and an opportunity. There are no limits to what people can achieve when technology reflects the diversity of everyone who uses it,” said Puthucode.

He says of the program, “At the heart of the Microsoft Enabler Program is a comprehensive accessibility model that will not only improve inclusion of people with disabilities across Asia Pacific for years to come but [also] connects local talent from underrepresented communities and improves our society.”

Microsoft said that in addition, it will be providing a platform for all three parties to better collaborate on the program.

There are a total of Six NPOs, all dedicated to promoting inclusion in the workplace, and 14 tech organizations that are part of the program.

To expand the talent pipeline for employer partners and connect job-seeking PWDs to tech roles, the program will also feature a virtual job fair, which will be held at the end of the second quarter of 2021.

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Technology Featured Southeast Asia

Philippine university rolls out virtual learning system that allows students self-paced learning until “mastery” is achieved

Manila, Philippines – Philippines-based university FEU Institute of Technology (FEU Tech) has released a proprietary learning system for its students, Mastery-based Individualized Learning Enhancement System (MILES), as its response to schools’ shift to a new normal amid the Pandemic. 

The country’s government has been firm in its decision to hold off face-to-face classes until the availability of a vaccine, urging schools from primary to tertiary levels to take learning online. While many have opted to leverage available online tools such as ZOOM to administer classes, FEU Tech has taken the liberty to create its own system for learning. 

MILES runs on online learning platform Canvas. The system differentiates itself from other virtual learning systems via its “Mastery Network,” wherein in every course, students are required to achieve a certain level of mastery in one topic before they can go study the next, eyeing a more targeted and goal-oriented learning.  

According to FEU Tech Executive Director Dr. Benson Tan, he and his team have high hopes for MILES because the program was built to address the learning gap of the often favored method of rote memorization which is not enough to integrate into students deep knowledge of a topic.

How the mastery network works, students will be given the option “to try as many times as they need,” until they have achieved a certain minimum score on a test that demonstrates mastery. Alongside this, the system offers asynchronous learning, where they can easily access learning materials online at any point in the day. 

FEU Tech explains in a press statement: “Take the subject of trigonometry. Under a normal classroom setting, students may only have a few weeks to fully master the sin, cos, and tan operations needed to find certain angles. With MILES, students can undergo a formative assessment as many times as they need to, solving different trigonometry problems each time. Eventually, the students will come out with a better understanding than if they were rushed.”

Within MILES, FEU Tech is also determined to give students a holistic experience, albeit virtually, of campus services. Through a Blue button in the Canvas platform, students will be able to reach out to school-bound departments such as the clerical office, the library, and even the guidance counselor. The same goes for the university’s faculty.

MILES

Through the same Blue button, students will be able to easily consult professors on the course material. For every course, faculty will be ready to answer questions as they come, where at least one professor is made available online from 7 am to 9 pm. 

“On top of a self-paced learning environment, our faculty are ready to lend assistance at any time, whether that means simply asking a one-off question about the lesson or even taking time to give students one-on-one tutorial sessions,” said Tan. 

FEU Tech is the dedicated technology institute of Far Eastern University (FEU), and was established in 1992 in the country. FEU currently has six tertiary level branches and one secondary school campus. Aside from FEU Tech, the MILES program so far has been launched to two of its other campuses; FEU Diliman and Alabang.

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Technology Featured East Asia

About half of total APAC data center investment in 2020 is from Hongkong

Hong Kong – Hong Kong’s data centers have been highly sought by investors and owner-operators in 2020 with majority, 54%, of the total investment volume into data centers in the Asia Pacific coming from the city, according to data by Cushman & Wakefield.

Data center investment in the region has been on the rise with total transaction volume between 2018 and 2020 totaling USD 5.7 billion, over seven times that between 2015 and 2017.

Despite the pandemic outbreak, investment activity in the sector remains relatively robust with the total transaction volume in the region over the first eight months of 2020 reaching USD 1.43 billion, about 56% of the 2019 level.

Among the most notable transactions in Hong Kong is China Mobile’s securement of an industrial government site for HKD 5.60 billion in July. The record-high asset value of HKD 5,967 per sq. ft was 56% higher than the closest bid; demonstrating the eagerness of the buyer to secure a data center site amidst limited supply.

Hong Kong has long been eyed as an ideal data center location. The latest research by Cushman & Wakefield identifies the city as the fourth most attractive data center location in APAC, trailing Singapore, Sydney, and Tokyo. The city ranked highest in terms of low tax rate and low climate risks and ranked in the middle in categories of fiber connectivity, market maturity, and electricity costs. Meanwhile, it scored poorly on its high real estate costs.

At the end of the second quarter of the year, total data center stock in Hong Kong amounted to 7.9 million sq. ft, of which 80% was dominated by 10 operators including the two largest local operators – SUNeVision and PCCW Solutions, with the latter making up 31% of the market area.

Cushman & Wakefield forecasts that over the next four years, a combined 4.2 million sq. ft of supply will enter the data center market.

Cushman & Wakefield’s Associate Director for Research in Hong Kong, Eric Chong said that existing data center demand is supported by banking & finance, insurance, and telecom operators, and that in the future, such demand is expected to be largely driven by leading global cloud service providers such as AWS, Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud as well as Tencent Cloud, and Alibaba Cloud. 

Chong said, “The growing importance of Internet of Things (IoT) applications, the impending 5G network, and fast adoption rates of cloud computing as well as the post-COVID-19 ‘new’ normal are the four major factors driving the surge in demand for cloud storage”.