Saturday, June 27, 2015

Digital developments in Jeju, Korea's island province

I'm in Jeju where yesterday I attended a conference of The Korea Society for Innovation Management and Economics (KOSIME).  It was a full day of presentations by graduate students, professors and researchers from leading Korean institutions on a broad range of topics related to science, technology and innovation.  Three Ph.D. students from our Department of Technology and Society at SUNY Korea gave presentations in the morning sessions and two of my faculty colleagues are active in KOSIME.
Coincidentally, President Park Geun-hye visited Jeju yesterday for the official launch of The Jeju Center for a Creative Economy and Innovation.  It is part of a network of such centers being established around the country as part of the Park administration's creative economy initiative. Not surprisingly, as explained in the embedded video from Arirang News, the new Jeju center will focus initially on bringing the island's booming tourism industry into the digital age.
Another obvious focus for the center will be the energy sector and smart grid technology.  Jeju island, with its plentiful supply of both wind and sun, was chosen in 2009 as the site of the nation's smart grid pilot project.  For that reason, I'm extending my stay in Jeju for a few days in order to meet with executives of KEPCO and to visit their exhibition center on the smart grid pilot project.  More on this topic in future posts.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Team KAIST wins the DARPA robotics challenge--congratulations!

The accompanying video captures the moment, earlier this month, that a robot built at KAIST won the 2015 DARPA robotics challenge in California.
I was delighted to learn that a team from KAIST had won the challenge, for several reasons.
  • I taught at KAIST in 2012-2013 and had the opportunity to meet Professor Jun Ho Oh, who heads the Humanoid Robotics Research Center there.
  • The robotics industry and its role in future networks is of considerable interest to me and a frequent topic of this blog, as this selection of posts shows.
  • The theme of the DARPA robotics challenge (described in detail on the challenge website here) is disaster response, and SUNY Korea has just begun working more closely with the Songdo office of the United Nations Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (UNISDR). 
There are quite a few excellent photographs from the 2015 DARPA Robotics Challenge circulating on the internet, including the following one.
As you can see, Hubo was designed like a transformer, allowing the robot to perform a wider variety of tasks, one of which is shown in the following photograph.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Sustainable energy, smart-grids, and Korea's islands

The title of an article recently published in the Korea Joongang Daily caught my attention, along with the illustrations it contained.  You see, I'm going to visit the island province of Jeju later this month and plan to extend my stay for the specific purpose of learning all I can and observing the results of a large smart-grid pilot project conducted there in recent years.  The title of the article, "Global sustainable energy starts on Korea's islands," also resonated with material being covered in the course I've taught this semester on ICT for development, which placed considerable emphasis on sustainability.  As noted in the article, "Tiny Gasa Island off the nation’s southwestern coast is perhaps best known for the special seaweed its residents export to Japan. But these days, it’s the wind turbines and solar panels making the island energy independent that are grabbing all the attention. (click on the graphic to see a full size version) The island is home to the nation’s first completely automated energy management system that powers Gasa Island’s homes and small businesses. Developed by the nation’s sole distributor, Korea Electric Power Corporation (Kepco), the system also stores extra power in electricity storage system (ESS) batteries in case of outages. The fully charged batteries can provide enough electricity to supply the entire island for up to 24 hours."

"Before the microgrid facilities arrived, the island used to be entirely dependent on old and costly diesel power plants. In order to pay for power, the Jindo County government used to face an average operating loss of 700 million won ($629,000) every year. But after Kepco came in last October, the small island has shaved 150 million won from its power bill over the past six months." The article also noted that "The microgrid project on Gasa Island is one of Kepco’s test-bed communities, which the corporation hopes can demonstrate the viability of its systems for use on far-away islands and in mountain villages. So far, the government has worked with Kepco to transfer the system to 86 other islands around the peninsula." Reading about this project made me wonder just how many islands surround coast of South Korea. According to one government website there are more than three thousand islands, only about 400 of which are inhabited. In addition to their natural beauty, they comprise a potentially very valuable test bed for developing sustainable energy that might be exported and shared around the world.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Korean's preferred snacks vary by the hour

The Korea Joongang Daily today carried a short but interesting report made possible because of the popularity of online shopping and the associated data that are gathered electronically.  According to the article, "The snacks Koreans crave vary depending on the time of day, a study by online shopping mall Gmarket showed Monday. Before noon, the most frequently ordered bites were filling items like bread, chocolate and pizzas. After lunch, buyers preferred lighter and more refreshing snacks like candy, gum and ice cream." (click on the graphic to see a full size version)  The study is one specific illustration of the uses for the big data that accumulates as people move to cloud-based and mobile, digital media for their daily activities, including shopping. A quick glance at the overall pattern suggests that there may be public health as well as marketing implications to this study by Gmarket!

Friday, May 29, 2015

Government to open mobile market to a new, fourth player

As reported widely in the local press, including the Korea Joongang Daily the Korean government has decided to allow a fourth player into the mobile telecommunications market.  According to the article,"The government Thursday introduced a plan to allow a fourth telecom into the Korean mobile telecommunications market, which has been dominated by SK Telecom, KT and LG U+. The government said an additional player will trigger competition and lower monthly telecom bills." The Korea Joongang Daily went on to note that "Cutting back household spending on telecom bills was one of President Park Geun-hye’s election pledges in December 2012. “Looking at overseas examples like France, Spain and Japan, those countries succeeded in reducing household telecom bills by up to 43.9 percent last year, when compared to the past when there was no new carrier,” said Cho Gyu-jo, director of the ICT Ministry’s telecommunications policy division." (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version)
Not surprisingly, the government's announcement of this move was opposed by the three existing carriers, who argue that competition is already overheated and that the addition of another carrier is only likely to increase such competition.