Wednesday, July 31, 2013

POSCO using Google's cloud-based solutions!

Some years ago I recall touring the POSCO steel plant in Pohang and learning that it was highly computerized and the most efficient plant of its type in the world.   Today I read in The Korea Times that the company has recently taken steps to strengthen its IT systems and further improve efficiency.
What really jumped off the page when I read the article was the following section.

"On Dec. 10, 2012, the company launched its Smart Workplace program, partnering with Google and other technology providers. To facilitate communication among employees at various POSCO plants and offices, the company has implemented Google+ Hangouts, a video conferencing app and one of the U.S. Internet giant’s smart workplace solutions. Google+ Hangouts allows employees to access other Google products such as Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Drive, enabling employees to collaborate more frequently and achieve better results."

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Half of Korean elementary students and about 84% of secondary students own smartphones

South Korea's Ministry of Education yesterday released the results of a nationwide survey of smartphone ownership by students in elementary, middle and high schools.  Overall, 69 percent of all the students surveyed owned smartphones.  While the survey did not indicate what portion of the phones were LTE models, it seems a reasonable assumption that the vast majority are, given the rapid uptake of LTE nationwide here in Korea.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a larger version) the survey showed that middle and high school students were most likely to own a smartphone, with 83-85% of those surveyed reporting ownership.  However, almost half of elementary students reported owning one.

Ascendance and decline: the brand power of Sony vs. Samsung

I saw a report a few days ago that Samsung had finally broken into the top ten in Interbrand's annual "Best Global Brands" survey.  The Interbrand website includes a data visualization tool that allows comparison of any two of the brands they studied.  The graphic published here (click to see a larger version) is a screen capture of the results when one compares Sony with Samsung.  It clearly depicts the decline of Sony and the ascendance of Samsung over the period from 2001-2012.
My experience on the Interbrand website prompted me to do a comparison using Google Trends.  The second graphic (again, click to see a full sized version) shows worldwide web search activitity for Sony, Samsung and Apple.  This graphic illustrates not only the relative decline of Sony versus Samsung, but also the apparent sweeping impact of smartphones and tablets, starting with Apple's iPhone, launched in 2007.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Invitation to a World Technopolis Association international conference in September

A few weeks ago I received an invitation to give a panel speech at the forthcoming Preparatory Conference for the Daejeon Global Innovation Forum, a meeting to be held on September 25 and 26 in Daejon.  It is being organized by Daejeon Metropolitan City, the World Technopolis Association and UNESCO.  My panel session is on the topic of "innovation clusters in the creative economy."   The invitation is most interesting to me for several reasons.  One is that I did my graduate work at Stanford where Silicon Valley grew up alongside and in interaction with the university.  Another, of course, is that the Daedok Innopolis is far and away South Korea's largest and leading technopolis, and is about to become even as it forms the center of a much larger "global science belt."  I was fortunate to visit the Daejon Expo twice back in 1993, and that event gave a measurable impetus to the development of Daejon and the Daedok Innopolis as Korea's premier science city.   It is a welcome opportunity to do some reading and reflection on the role of urban technology clusters in fostering the "creative economy" that is a central goal of the Park Geun-hye administration.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Cloud-based "webhard" services show increased copyright violations

As reported in The Joongang Daily today, cloud-based file sharing services referred to in Korea as "webhards" (for web hard drives) have increased in popularity in recent years.   Consequently, as shown in the accompanying graphic, (click to see a full-sized version) there was a significant increase in copyright violations.  As reported in the article,"Webhards are fast becoming a breeding ground for transfers of illegal stuff like porn and copyright-protected files. In Korea, 1.8 billion illegal files were circulated last year, according to the Copyright Protection Center. Of those, 664 million were found to have been uploaded through webhards, or 36.1 percent. Between April and May, the Cyber Terror Response center at the National Police Agency found that 75 percent of pornographic materials accessed online had been uploaded through webhards."

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Microsoft's Active-X is a black hole in South Korea's cyber security

For quite a few years now, I've been happily using Skype, including the paid Skype-out service which allows low cost calling directly to telephones anywhere in the world using the service.  A few weeks ago I logged on to add another $25 to my Skype-out account, only to find to my astonishment that the service had disappeared!   Instead I was directed to a new web page hosted by the Daesung Group that described a new set of services and calling rates and instructed me to download an ActiveX control in order to purchase Skype credits!   Of course, that would have meant installing Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser, which I abandoned years ago in favor of the faster, safer and more efficient Chrome browser.
I tell this story only to illustrate a much larger problem, as reported today in The Korea Herald.  Continued widespread use of Microsoft's ActiveX control in Korea creates a massive security problem.  As the accompanying graphic shows, (click to see a full sized version) there have been a series of massive leaks of personal information over the past five years.  This issue is so important that I'm going to include a lengthy quote from the newspaper article below.   

"Many Korean websites depend on Internet Explorer’s cumbersome “ActiveX” platform, posing another risk factor. KAIST professor Lee Min-hwa said, “ActiveX is a program that momentarily disarms the computer to download codes from an outside source, which can be abused by hackers seeking to plant malicious codes.” Lee, one of the key patrons of President Park Geun-hye’s signature science and technology-based “creative economy,” said that Korea’s dependence on the ActiveX-based public key certificate system created a “black hole” in cyber security. The public key certificate is a type of digital document that enables online transactions. Korea’s online regulations require that certificates should be issued for any transaction worth more than 300,000 won ($268), and the issuance also requires a download of proprietary software on Internet Explorer via ActiveX. The mechanism, introduced in the late 1990s, is intended chiefly for South Korean citizens who use Microsoft Internet Explorer. Other Web browsers, such as Google’s Chrome, do not support ActiveX, and the whole system means foreigners often find it virtually impossible to purchase items on Korean websites. The mix of ActiveX and the key certificate system was originally designed to protect personal data, but experts say it is now making computers in Korea more susceptible to cyber attacks and identity theft."

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review of Digital Development in Korea published by USC-based online journal

The International Journal of Communication, an online journal based in the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California (USC)  has just published a review of my 2011 book with Myung Oh, Digital Development in Korea:  Building an Information Society (London:  Routledge).
The review can be found at this hyperlink in PDF format.

Forthcoming ICISTS KAIST 2013 Conference

I was pleasantly surprised recently to receive an invitation to speak at the annual International Conference for the Integration of Science, Technology and Society (ICISTS), hosted by KAIST here on campus and at the nearby Daejeon Convention Center August 5-9.   It is the largest student-organized interdisciplinary conference on this topic in Asia and appears to have been attracting growing interest in recent years.  You can learn more about the conference here, at its web site.
I've been invited to speak on the Sub-topic of "New Values," and to discuss the changes occurring in political society in the internet age.  The conference looks most interesting and I'm looking forward to exchanging views with students, faculty and other participants from Korea and 20 or more other countries!
The graphic at left is from the cover of the conference leaflet. (click to see a larger version)

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Apple to use Samsung processor chips in 2015

The news reported yesterday in the Korea Economic Daily is quickly spreading through the trade press.  According the report,Samsung Electronics will supply mobile application processors (AP) to Apple Inc. starting in 2015. The AP constitutes the "brains" of Apple's iPhone. Samsung Electronics will reportedly supply 14 nano A9 chips that will be used for Apple's iPhone 7. Samsung Electronics had supplied the AP to Apple since 2007 but lost the contract to supply 20 nano AP A8 chips to Apple to Taiwan's TSMC last year in the midst of patent disputes with Apple. Samsung Electronics developed state-of-the-art 14 nano models ahead of its rival TSMC, regaining the order from Apple.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Korea's monthly telecommunications expenditures third highest in OECD

The OECD has published the latest version of its annual report, entitled OECD Communications Outlook 2013.  This is recommended reading for those of you following global and regional trends in the ICT sector.
One of the items receiving quite a bit of attention in the local press is the report's data that show South Korean households spend more per month on telecommunications than any other OECD countries except for Japan and the U.S.  The accompanying bar chart is taken directly from the original online OECD report (click to see a full-size version).  The height of the bars represents U.S. dollars PPP (purchasing power parity)  According to this measure, a Japanese household on average spends $160.52 per month on telecommunications, while a U.S. household spends $153.13.   In China, represented by the bar on the far right, a household spent $30 per month as of 2009.
To me, the most striking aspect of this chart, apart from Korea's number three overall ranking, is the proportion of monthly expenditure accounted for by mobile communications.  Not surprisingly, this country is leading the way in the adoption of mobile broadband.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Korea's dominance in the Android and LTE markets

Today I ran across a release by Strategy Analytics reporting on the global share of profits from the sale of Android smartphones.   Before reading this information, I was aware of Samsung's dominance, but did not quite realize the extent of it.  During the first quarter of 2013, Samsung Electronics captured 95 percent of global Android smartphone profits, far outdistancing LG which garnered 2.5 percent of profits. (click on the accompanying graphic to see a full size version.
According to The Korea Herald, based on data from the same firm Strategy Analytics, global sales of smartphones running on the so-called "long term evolution" LTE network are expected to triple this year from a year earlier.

According to The Korea Herald  "Last year, a total of 92 million LTE smartphones were sold, garnering a 13.1 percent share in the global smartphone market, the data showed. Given that LTE services are currently only available in S. Korea, Japan and part of the North American region, the growth of smartphones running on the LTE network is spectacular, market watchers said. South Korea's three major handset makers -- Samsung Electronics Co., LG Electronics Inc. and Pantech Co. -- grabbed more than a 30 percent share of the global long-term evolution (LTE) phone market in the first quarter, earlier data showed."

Friday, July 5, 2013

Slim smartphones, IT exports, and the creative economy

As noted in this blog and in many of my other publications, South Korea leads the world in exports of smartphones, flat screen television sets and semiconductor memory chips.   However, the release by a Chinese company, Huawei, is a sharp reminder that all this may be about to change.  The new phone (click on the photo to see a full-size picture) is only 6.18 mm thick, compared with the iPhone 5 at 7.6 mm and 7.9 mm for Samsung's Galaxy S4.
About a month ago, most of the local and international media took note that South Korea's exports had unexpectedly increased in May, on the strength of smartphone sales.   Actually, as the accompanying graphic (click for a full size version) from the press release by the
Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on "IT Trade Figures for May," makes clear, it was not only smartphone exports that did well.  Exports of semiconductors and televisions also showed healthy increases.  The decline in exports of display panels is no doubt related to the decline in the global market for desktop computers, reflected in the graphic under "Computers and Related Devices."  South Korea's export strength in mobile phones, semiconductors and television sets is a trend that has developed over quite a number of years now.
What do the above developments have to do with the "creative economy" proposed by President Park Geun-hye?   Simply that hardware manufacturing, even high-end smart phones, involves products that are modular and rather quickly become commoditized.  China is moving rapidly into that space in the global market, which puts pressure on South Korea to develop strength in software, services and content, rather than continuing to rely on hardware exports.   The pressure is real, especially if we consider the future of manufacturing.
The whole question of how software relates to manufacturing is also worthy of consideration in this age of relatively inexpensive 3-D printers.  I showed my KAIST students a video of the gun that had been printed and successfully fired by the student in Texas.   However, as research by the Center for Bits and Atoms at MIT shows, we are moving toward the era in which it may be possible to manufacture many things on the spot, starting at the atomic level.  Not long ago this would have been thought of as pure Star Trek science fiction.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Korea's broadband networks are faster than Japan's

It would seem unnecessary to do a post like this, in view of the massive empirical data accumulated in recent years to support my assertion.  However, I am continually amazed by the number of highly educated Westerners and others from outside Korea, who think that Japan's ICT sector is more advanced and therefore that Japan must have faster broadband networks than Korea.
The best available measure of broadband speed is Akamai's quarterly "State of the Internet" report, which provides solid data with which to compare the average download speed of the internet across different nations.   The chart accompanying this post is based on 4th Quarter data reported by Akamai (click on it to see a full size version).
To place Korea and Japan in a little broader global context, the second graphic shows average measured connection speed for the top ten ranking countries in the world, as reported in Akamai's State of the Internet report for the fourth quarter of 2012.  (again, click on the graphic to see a larger version)

Of course, assessment of broadband internet involves other considerations such as penetration (the percent of people who have access), household access, price/affordability and so forth.    Even in these areas South Korea ranks at or near the top among national broadband leaders. However, the actual amount of data that can be downloaded per second is what customers will appreciate, anywhere in the world.