Tag: Singapore

A deep learning colouriser prototype

Wednesday, 13 February, 2019

“We used the popular fast.ai and PyTorch libraries to develop our model, with an architecture and training steps inspired by Jason Antic. We trained our model based on a new set of more than 500,000 old, publicly available Singapore based images that we compiled, using a local GPU cluster with NVIDIA V100 GPUs.”

So writes Preston Lim about a project of the Data Science and Artificial Intelligence Division of GovTech Singapore. If you want to “colourise your black and white photos,” this AI will do it. Rainy Day tried it and here are the results. Impressive, eh?

Mr and Mrs RD in BW

Mr and Mrs RD in colour


The KPMG AVRI

Thursday, 8 March, 2018 0 Comments

Which countries are most prepared for driverless cars? The question is pertinent because autonomous vehicles (AVs) will revolutionize transportation and the way people live and work. The 2018 KPMG Autonomous Vehicles Readiness Index (AVRI) offers an in-depth view of what’s needed for countries to meet the challenges of self-driving vehicles. This is the first study of its kind, examining where countries are in terms of progress and capacity for adapting AV technology, and the top ten are:

1 The Netherlands
2 Singapore
3 The United States
4 Sweden
5 The United Kingdom
6 Germany
7 Canada
8 United Arab Emirates
9 New Zealand
10 South Korea

Quote: “There will be economic benefits, because the time we currently spend driving a car becomes productive time in an AV that can be spent working, relaxing or sleeping. But moreover, there will be social benefit, including a vast reduction in the 1.3 million people killed each year in car accidents, and accessibility for those who currently cannot drive, because of age or disability.”

The learn more, download the KPMG AVRI PDF (2.9 MB).

KPMG


New Year’s reading: CRISPR

Wednesday, 3 January, 2018 0 Comments

We’re devoting time this week to the books that were the presents of Christmas past. On Monday, it was The Best of A.A. Gill, a gift from Noel Donnelly, yesterday it was Five Escape Brexit Island, put in the Rainy Day Xmas stocking by Ian McMaster, and today it’s Change Agent by Daniel Suarez, a gift to this blogger from himself.

At the end of March last year, The Hollywood Reporter posted an “Exclusive” story titled “Netflix Options Upcoming Sci-Fi Novel ‘Change Agent’.” So, before the publisher had stocked up on ink to print the novel, its author was laughing all the way to bank. Nice one! What’s all the excitement about, then? Well, Change Agent is thriller about genetic engineering that combines CRISPR with non-stop action in Singapore, Malaysia and Myanmar. At the centre of the story is Kenneth Durand, an Interpol agent who’s given the face and body of a scary villain, thanks to some deft in vivo gene editing that threatens to eliminate the very notion of individual identity. In telling the yarn, Suarez creates a near-future world of cryptocurrencies, drones, surveillance, AR glasses, trade and terror. Snippet:

Early evening and Durand sat in the conditioned air of a private autonomous comcar as it merged into the close coordination of rush hour. His daughter’s wrapped birthday gift sat on the seat beside him. He leaned back and felt the stress of the day leave him.

In the distance he could see the glowing logos of synbio firms on the Singapore skyline. Licensed AR video ads played across the surfaces of several skyscrapers — although they were really only being beamed into Durand’s retinas by his own LFP glasses. The contract for his LFP glasses required exposure to specific layers of public advertising. At least he’d opted out of the low-end ads, but opting out of all AR advertising was prohibitively expensive.

Just the same, Durand frowned at the shoddy data management employed by the advertisers. He was clearly not in the target demographic for an ad gliding across the neighboring buildings, alive with images of Jedis, Starfleet officers, and steampunk characters: “Singapore’s premier Star Wars, Star Trek, and steampunk cosliving communities…”

Cossetted young professionals at the big synbio firms were a more likely demo for their product — single people with a couple million to blow on living in a theme park.

But by then the ad had shifted to CRISPR Critters. Gigantic, adorable neotenic cats cavorted from building to building, pursuing a virtual ball of yarn.

Durand decided to close his eyes.

He clicked off and followed other commuters down a narrow lane between old brick buildings. This MRT crowd skewed young — twenties and early thirties. Lots of expats. Well dressed and all talking to people who weren’t there. Snatches of conversation floated past him in Hokkien, Mandarin, Malay, Tamil, English, Russian, Swahili, German, Korean — and more he didn’t recognize. They’d no doubt come to Singapore to make their killing. To work threads in a blockchain corporation or license their own cellular machinery. XNA programmers. Genetic engineers. Entrepreneurs. And they all had to have impressive CVs to get a work visa in the city.

Change Agent


A Dyson EV is on the horizon

Monday, 2 October, 2017 0 Comments

“It has remained my ambition to find a solution to the global problem of air pollution. At this moment, we finally have the opportunity to bring all our technologies together in a single product. So I wanted you to hear it directly from me: Dyson has begun work on a battery electric vehicle, due to be launched by 2020.”

So wrote Sir James Dyson to his employees last week. It was news, but not a surprise. In October 2015, Dyson bought solid-state battery company, Sakti3, for $90 million, which he said had “developed a breakthrough in battery technology.” That Dyson is working on an electric vehicle has been apparent in its recent hiring: executives from Aston Martin and Tesla are among those headhunted. Dyson says it has a team of “over 400 strong” on the project and it plans to invest more than £2 billion in the venture. The vehicle is set to hit the road in 2020, and Asia will be a key market. The company’s decision to open a tech centre in Singapore this year with a focus on R&D in AI is part of a greater global strategy.

Founded in 1987, Dyson is best known for its home appliances, including its bagless vacuum cleaners, fans, heaters and a hair dryer and the company’s revenue reportedly hit £2.5 billion last year. Because most Dyson devices use small, efficient electric motors, the company sees itself as an electric motor company, not a vacuum cleaner company, and electric vehicles are very much about motors.

Writing about Sir James and his dreams, Jack Stewart noted yesterday in Wired: “He could enforce Britain’s strong tradition of producing boutique automakers, the likes of Aston Martin, Lotus, TVR, MG, and Caterham.”

Dyson


Glossolalia: Singlish

Monday, 16 May, 2016 3 Comments

It’s the week of Pentecost, which is associated (Biblically) with “speaking in tongues,” a phenomenon linguists call glossolalia. So, in honour of all things etymological, we’re devoting this week’s posts to language and we’re kicking off with Singlish, a hodgepodge dialect of Singapore’s official state languages — English, Malay, Mandarin and Tamil — as well as bits of Bengali, Cantonese and Hokkien.

To “talk cock” is Singlish for “to talk nonsense” and the definition can be found in The Coxford Singlish Dictionary by Colin Goh and Woo Yen Yen, which was published in 2002, and has sold more than 30,000 copies since. “Bo hee hae ma ho” is the Singlish equivalent of “Beggars can’t be choosers,” and means “When there’s no fish, prawns are good too.” The latter example is courtesy of Gwee Li Sui, the Singaporean poet, novelist and literary critic. “Do You Speak Singlish?” is the question he posed yesterday to readers of the New York Times. Singlish, he said, “is one of Singapore’s few unique cultural creations” and it seems to be thriving, despite official attempts to outlaw it:

“The government’s war on Singlish was doomed from the start: Even state institutions and officials have nourished it, if inadvertently. The compulsory national service, which brings together male Singaporeans from all walks of life, has only underlined that Singlish is the natural lingua franca of the grunts.”

To an outsider’s ear, Singlish sounds like verbalized text messaging: concise, energetic, abbreviated, playful, elastic. Here, Gwee Li Sui tok the tok.


Seven questions with Parag Khanna

Friday, 13 May, 2016 1 Comment

After five days of posting about CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization, it’s time to talk to the author, Parag Khanna, about his book. Here goes!

1. Eamonn Fitzgerald: What inspired you to write Connectography?

Parag Khanna: My love of geography and travel, and my obsession with geopolitics going back to the fall of the Berlin Wall and my introductory class in Geopolitics taken 20 years ago at Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. All of the many ideas that had not yet found expression in The Second World and How to Run the World needed to be contained and also wrapped in a meta-theory that also encompassed these previous books. I also wanted to update these with new insights as these countries evolve, and include more recent travels.

2. Eamonn Fitzgerald: For writers, geography remains a very popular science for interpreting our world. Four years ago, Robert Kaplan’s The Revenge of Geography: What the Map Tells Us About Coming Conflicts and the Battle Against Fate described how countries’ histories have been shaped by their relationships with water and with land. Last year, Tim Marshall’s Prisoners of Geography explained how a nation’s geography affects its internal fortunes and international strategies. Is that kind of terrain-based approach outdated? Are you saying in Connectography that geography is no longer destiny?

Parag Khanna: Not at all. Robert Kaplan is a dear friend and mentor and inspiration for me. Connectivity doesn’t invalidate geography but builds on it. Connectivity is how we make the most of our geography. Some places turn their geography into an advantage — for example Singapore and Dubai — while others don’t. China is surrounded by 14 countries but now it is using connectivity across terrain to extend its geopolitical influence in non-military ways. Connectivity is now a deep part of our relationship with geography, and that is what this book explores.

3. Eamonn Fitzgerald: One of the hottest new words coined during the last decade was “crowdsourcing,” which means getting people to contribute to a project via a website where they can make contributions. Why should “connectography” be part of our vocabulary a decade from now?

Parag Khanna: Connectography should be part of our vocabulary because geography alone assumes that geography is an unchangeable force. However, we now use topographical engineering to modify our geography, and that tells us a great deal about the fate of human civilization than geography alone.

Parag Khanna

4. Eamonn Fitzgerald: Responding to a journalist who asked what is most likely to blow a government off course, the British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan reputedly said, “Events, dear boy, events.” Did you encounter any unexpected events when writing Connectography that forced you to rethink a chapter or change a section?

Parag Khanna: Great question. In fact, I only found events that reinforce my conclusions. During the time of writing, Russia invaded Ukraine, but the gas pipelines are the really important long-term contest, and it is building a bridge to Crimea. In other words: Infrastructure is a key tool and battlefield. China began dredging sand to build up South China Sea islands — yet more topographical engineering. Every day I see more examples of the thesis coming to life.

5. Eamonn Fitzgerald: What’s the most surprising response (positive or negative) you’ve had so far about the book?

Parag Khanna: I’m so pleased with people’s appreciation of the maps. It has been a global outpouring of excitement and admiration for the maps made by two truly amazing teams of digital cartographers whom I worked with at Harvard University and the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’m so gratified that their intense work has received such widespread recognition.

6. Eamonn Fitzgerald: Can you sum up the three key points you’d like the reader to take away from reading Connectography?

Parag Khanna: Rather then enumerate takeaways, I simply want readers to gain an appreciation for the categories of connectivity (transportation, energy and communications) that we have ourselves built and have such a profound impact on our lives. This premise plays out in so many ways in the book (economics, climate change, geopolitics, urbanization) that I hope readers will learn about many issues they are not personally familiar with.

7. Eamonn Fitzgerald: Connectography has been published and you’re busy right now promoting it, but what’s next for Parag Khanna?

Parag Khanna: That’s a great question. This was a trilogy, and I don’t know the word for a series of 4, so I will not write another one. I intend for this to have a long shelf life, so we shall see!

Our thanks to Parag Khanna for taking the time to answer these questions. CONNECTOGRAPHY: Mapping the Future of Global Civilization is a useful guide to globalization and its impact on trade, communication and culture. “Where we’re going, we don’t need roads!” says Dr. Emmett Brown in Back to the Future, but where we’re going, we do need maps and Parag Khanna is pointing us in the right direction.


The IoT of farms, cities and 5G

Monday, 22 February, 2016 0 Comments

On Friday here, farming was mentioned in connection with everything being connected at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona. Now, Nokia is getting in on the act with the announcement of a $350 million fund for investments in IoT (Internet of Things) companies. The focus will be on connected cars, digital health, the enterprise, big data, analytics and farming. Presenting the fund to the press, Nokia CEO Rajeev Suri said:

“For example we have worked with KT in Korea on the application of real time analytics and automated action to increase farming productivity. We have conducted a market trial for connected bus terminals in New Zealand. Trying new business models for smart cities that go beyond advertising and that improve the overall transportation experience. We have worked on providing intelligent transportation on the highways of Germany with real-time hazard warnings and other safety information, enabling vehicle to vehicle and other infrastructure communication.”

Smart cities are found in smart nations and Ericsson, Nokia’s Nordic rival, is making an IoT move in Singapore in partnership with Singtel, a Singaporean telecommunications company, with a combined mobile subscriber base of 500 million customers. Snippet:

“IoT connectivity is an important part of Singapore’s enterprises and supports the Singapore Government’s Smart Nation initiative. We anticipate a growing demand to connect a multitude of sensors and devices in a cost-effective manner… With the early introduction of low-powered IoT devices, this brings us a step closer to 5G goals, where new device and sensor technologies can leverage network connectivity to power a variety of use cases, such as lighting and vehicle-to-infrastructure connectivity.”

The common factor in the Nokia and Ericsson moves is 5G — the next generation of cellular technology. After all, if you’re in the network business, you need to get customers to upgrade to 5G so you can make more money. The carrot and stick of the IoT is a clever way of persuading them to spend.


Lee Kuan Yew combined the Vatican with Confucius

Monday, 23 March, 2015 0 Comments

“He modelled Singapore’s democracy after what he saw in the Vatican, where only cardinals nominated by a Pope could elect the next Pope… As Prime Minister he bankrupted or imprisoned individuals in the political opposition… He spoke in disparaging and politically incorrect ways of women, the disadvantaged, and both the downtrodden and the powerful — but worked harder than anyone else in Southeast Asia to build a harmonious, peaceful state, where all races felt welcomed in an incorruptible, transparent meritocracy.” Danny Quah writing about Lee Kuan Yew, who died yesterday aged 91.

In his 31 years as Prime Minister, from 1959 to 1990, Lee transformed Singapore into a globalized economy and his template has brought vast wealth to Asia. But despite what Danny Quah implies, Lee was not a democrat. Rather, he was a Confucian leader and this is what made him a role model for the rulers of modern China. They, too, have seen their nation rise from rags to riches and they, too, are frightened that open debate will undermine the fragile stability that underpins the edifice.

“Supposing Catherine Lim was writing about me and not the prime minister… She would not dare, right? Because my posture, my response has been such that nobody doubts that if you take me on, I will put on knuckle-dusters and catch you in a cul de sac… Anybody who decides to take me on needs to put on knuckle dusters. If you think you can hurt me more than I can hurt you, try. There is no other way you can govern a Chinese society.” — Lee Kuan Yew

The Straits Times has a tribute blog about reaction to the death of the man who created the modern miracle of Singapore. It is also printing a special 24-page tabloid edition devoted to his life and work.

Singapore mourns


Post written while using a Lenovo ThinkPad X1

Tuesday, 30 July, 2013 1 Comment

In fact, most Rainy Day blog posts are written using a Lenovo ThinkPad X1 as it happens to be our workhorse of choice. But what if the trusty old X1 were so configured that it might be sending these posts back to Beijing? Would that affect our thinking about it’s lightness and sleekness and reliability?

You see, Lenovo, which has its headquarters in Beijing, acquired IBM’s ThinkPad brand and technology in 2005 and it hasn’t looked back since then. It had revenues last year of $29 billion and has a market share of nearly 17 percent. Note: The Chinese Academy of Sciences, a public body, owns more than a third of Legend Holdings, which in turn owns 34 percent of Lenovo and is its biggest shareholder.

And now comes the disturbing news that the intelligence and defence services of Australia, the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand have banned Lenovo machines from their networks because of concerns they are vulnerable to being hacked. According to the Australian Financial Review, “malicious modifications to ­Lenovo’s circuitry — beyond more typical vulnerabilities or ‘zero-days’ in its software — were discovered that could allow people to remotely access devices without the users’ knowledge. The alleged presence of these hardware ‘back doors’ remains highly classified.

In a statement, Lenovo said it was unaware of the ban. The company said its ‘products have been found time and time again to be reliable and secure by our enterprise and public sector customers and we always ­welcome their engagement to ensure we are meeting their security needs’..

A technology expert at the ­Washington-based Brookings ­In­stitution, Professor John Villasenor, said the globalisation of the semi-conductor market has ‘made it not only possible but inevitable that chips that have been intentionally and maliciously altered to contain hidden ‘Trojan’ circuitry will be inserted into the supply chain.

‘These Trojan circuits can then be triggered months or years later to launch attacks,’ he said.”

By the way, Lenovo is not the only company with links to Beijing to run into trouble about its hardware. Similar allegations were made against Huawei Technologies, the telecommunications giant earlier this year after it was banned from competing for a huge broadband contract in Australia. And Huawei was accused earlier this month by a former head of the CIA of passing details of foreign telecommunications systems to the Chinese government. It has repeatedly insisted its products are safe and challenged its detractors to provide proof for their claims.

Those who think that this is all tech talk, should read the brilliant and frightening Death in Singapore by Raymond Bonner and Christine Spolar of the Financial Times. This is a dangerous world and the stakes are higher than we can imagine.

ThinkPad X1