Thursday, December 22, 2016

Robots and disaster risk reduction

I didn't anticipate another post this year on the topic of robotics, but was prompted to write this one by an item in the news that featured the work of Professor Sangbae Kim at MIT, a young researcher whom I had the privilege to meet a few years ago.  In 2009, while he was still a graduate student at Stanford University, I ran across a video of the robot called "Stickybot" that he and his steam had developed.  I met Sangbae Kim and did two posts on the topic, in 2009 and 20011.  Little did I realize at that time how our paths might cross again.  Over the past two years, my department at SUNY Korea has collaborated closely with the UN office for disaster risk reduction in Songdo, SafeNet Forum, and the Red Cross (both the Korean Red Cross and the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies) and our colleagues from my department at Stony Brook University in New York.  With Stony Brook, we're developing a new master's degree emphasis on digital technologies for disaster risk reduction.  Stay tuned!

Monday, November 28, 2016

World's highest density of industrial robots

As shown in the graphic to the left (click for a full size version) South Korea as of 2014 had the highest density of industrial robots in the world, and by quite a margin over second place Japan.  Other data from the IFR World Robotics surveys makes it clear that, on a global basis, the automotive and electronics industries drive most of the use of industrial robots.  I expect that more recent data will show Korea continuing in the lead.  What is even more interesting to me, for the subject of a later post, is where Korea stands in world rankings on the density of service robots.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

ITU Telecom World 2016

If you happen to be a regular or semi-regular reader of this blog, you're probably wondering where I've been over the past weeks.  Although there is neither time nor space to go into all the details, most recently I flew to Bangkok to attend the first several days of the ITU Telecom World 2016 conference.
To be more specific, I attended the conference for two main reasons.  One was to attend the ITU Secretary General's Academia Consultation meeting last Sunday, prior to the opening of ITU Telecom World 2016 on Monday.  The second was to meet with colleagues in an expert group who are writing a book focused on the impact that information and communications technologies might have on achievement of the sustainable development goals (SDGs).
The ITU has a long history, being founded in Paris in 1865 as the International Telegraph Union. In 1947, the year I was born, it became a specialized agency of the United Nations.   The digital network revolution that occurred in ensuing decades had profound implications for the future of the ITU.   Until recent years it dealt primarily with UN member states and telecommunications corporations.  The current effort to network with educational and academic organizations is a natural response to the global impact of digital telecommunications technologies.  I'll have more to say on this topic in future posts.  What I can tell you now is that the ITU is on the right track in reaching out to engage and network with the world of academia and education.

Friday, October 14, 2016

ICT hardware exports: the ups and downs

Observers of Korea's ICT-driven economy have long noted a fundamental problem:  the nation's over reliance on the manufacture and export of hardware, rather than software and services.   For a year now, growth in Korea's ICT exports has been falling, and as reported today by The Korea Joongang Daily, the problems with Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 phone have only exacerbated the problem.  As reported in the article,"Exports of information and communications technology (ICT) fell for the 12th consecutive month as cellphones and televisions remained weak in foreign markets. ICT exports declined 8.5 percent year-on-year in September to $14.5 billion, the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy said Thursday. After posting a year-on-year decline of 1.6 percent last October, exports have continued a downward slide. Exports of cellphones fell 33.9 percent year-on-year to $1.87 billion, and those of semiconductor products fell 2.6 percent.
The ministry cited mid-priced smartphones produced by Chinese manufacturers, as well as the failure of the Galaxy Note7, as the biggest factors in the collapse of cellphone exports."

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

More on the Galaxy Note 7 problems

The announcement that Samsung will stop production of the Galaxy Note 7, only a few months after its introduction, has many observers speculating on how this will affect the company's overall reputation and business.   Statista has published two charts that help put the matter in context.   The first (click on the graphic for a full-size version) depicts the size and scope of Samsung Electronics business.
The second chart provides a timeline of how the problem unfolded.

Monday, October 10, 2016

Samsung halts production of Note 7

The New York Times and no doubt most other international media have just reported that Samsung has halted production of its Galaxy Note 7 smartphone due to battery-related problems that persist even after the company had recalled and replaced those devices that were prone to smoke or catch fire.  The good news is that Samsung has acted appropriately in response to a consumer-safety issue.  However, there are many more questions raised by this episode in its competition with Apple and Chinese manufacturers of smartphones for leadership and a share of the global market for smart handheld computing devices.  More on this topic in future posts.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Are smartphones killing digital cameras?

The accompanying chart published by Statista asks an interesting question.  To answer it, ask two other questions.  When was the iPhone introduced? Answer: 2007  When was were Android Phones introduced?  Answer 2008  Given a year or two for their penetration to take effect in relation to camera sales, this chart shows at least a likely correlation between increasing smart phone sales and declining camera sales.  (click on graphic for a full size version)

Monday, September 5, 2016

More on Korea's speedy digital networks

As a quick perusal of prior posts on this blog will show (you can read them at this link), I've long been concerned with the speed of digital networks in general and how fast Korea's networks are in comparison with other countries around the world.  Given the multiple organizations that measure internet speed and the many different methods they use, placing Korea in context compared with other countries can sometimes be very confusing.   The purpose of this post is not to solve that problem, but rather to call attention to OpenSignal,  a relatively new (founded in 2010) company that specializes in mapping wireless coverage and speeds.   One strength of their measure is that it comes from users of their app all around the world and therefore reflects internet download speeds in actual usage situations.
Open Signal as shown in the world map above and the bar chart at the left, measures "overall speed," which is a combined measure of speed versus availability of 3G and LTE mobile services. (click on the graphics to see a full size version.  Open Signal defines ".. overall speed as the average mobile data connection a user experiences based on both the speeds and availability of a country’s 3G and 4G networks. Overall speed measurements vary considerably from country to country depending on their particular stage of 3G and 4G development. For instance a country with fast LTE speeds but low 4G availability might have a much lower overall speed than a country with moderate LTE speeds but a very high level of 4G availability."  Obviously, South Korea's world leadership in LTE introduction and current penetration (availability) boosts its standing on this measure, relative to Singapore and a few other countries that have fast speeds, but lag behind Korea in availability.
Another was of effectively visualizing this is to see where Korea fits in the chart showing speed versus availability.  Click on the final graphic to see a full-size version of the screen capture.  Better yet, go to the online Open Signal report and see data for each of the countries in the chart by hovering over the dots.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

The digital divide: "The not so World-Wide Web"

Interesting but powerful chart published by Statista based on ITU data. (click on the graphic to see a full size version)

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The rise of digital media: Smartphones kill subway ads

The first picture to the left (click the image for a full size version) accompanied an article in The Korea Times entitled "Smartphones kill subway ads." According to the article, "Technological advances have changed many things from how people spend their time to where their attention wanders. This trend has pushed advertisers to move away from traditional forms of media toward digital forms. As a result, subway operators are increasingly struggling to sell ad space, which is one of their big revenue sources. According to Seoul Metro, the operator of lines 1 to 4, its ad revenue has dropped to 35 billion won ($31 million) last year from 42 billion won in 2012. It said only 36 percent of available ad space has been filled this year, down from 41.8 percent in 2014."
A more typical subway scene is shown in the second picture at left, published by the New York Times with an accompanying article in 2015.  The steady rise in use of digital rather than traditional media continues apace, and nowhere more rapidly than here in South Korea with its fast mobile broadband networks.

Friday, August 19, 2016

"Educating the world in Songdo" interview by the Korea IT Times

Earlier this summer I was interviewed at length by a writer for the Korea IT Times.  The interview took place in my office here at SUNY Korea, as pictured to the left (click to see a full-size version of the photo).   Read the full interview here.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

The brief disappearance of this blog --a cautionary tale of the digital era

A couple of days ago this blog disappeared from the Internet for the better part of a day.   Here's why.
In early July I started receiving notices from Google Apps warning me that the domain registration for would expire at the end of the month if I didn't update my payment method.  What ensued over the weeks of July was a seemingly endless exchange of e-mail messages with a tech support person at Google, who--despite all his efforts--could not provide instructions that actually worked, allowing me to log in to the admin console for the domain.   Probably not surprising since I registered the domain nearly a decade ago when I started this Blogger blog.  At that time, so I am told, Google automatically set up an admin console and login.
At any rate, to continue the story, I have multiple Google accounts, including one's through Stony Brook University, the Stanford Alumni Association and a Google Apps for Work account of my own.  This did not make it easier to decipher the e-mail tech advice.
The solution, finally, came when I called and spoke to a tech representative at Godaddy who asked if I'd completed Google's online form to solve admin login problems with Google Apps for Work accounts.  This was the first I'd heard of this, but I proceeded to fill out and submit the form.   About 30 minutes after doing so I received a phone call from a Google tech representative who quite efficiently walked me through the process of updating my domain renewal payment arrangements.  It took the better part of an hour, after I shared my screens with him, but I now understand the whole process, including why the first tech support person had been unable to help.
Welcome to the hyper connected digital era!  I'm glad to have the blog domain reserved for another year.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Technology trends and the future of Moore's Law

The Semiconductor Industry Association has issued its 2015 International Technology Roadmap for Semiconductors.  Regardless of how technically-inclined you may be, this report makes for interesting reading, providing a rather sweeping assessment of where we are and where we're heading in the unfolding digital network revolution.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Pokemon Go craze spreads to Ulsan

As reported in The Korea Joongang Daily, the Pokemon Go craze has spread  to Ganjeolgot, a cape in the southeastern city of Ulsan and another area where the Pokemon game app works.  (click on the photo to see a full-size version)

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Old phone booths become EV charging stations

Not that many years ago the public phone booths managed by KT were well utilized by Korean citizens.  Not any more.   As reported in The Chosun Ilbo, unwanted  public phone booths are being turned into electric vehicle charging stations.   (Click on the graphic for a full size version)

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Pokemon Go and Augmented Reality in Korea

I have long thought that the organizers and corporate supporters of the 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang should invest more efforts in augmented reality applications to assist visitors from around the world in learning about various aspects of Korea including history, geography, industry, and culture.  The recent worldwide media attention to the new Pokemon Go app that makes use of augmented reality caught my eye.  However, I was quite surprised to read in The Guardian and in local papers, including The Korea Joongang Daily, about South Koreans flocking to Sokcho to play the game.  As noted in the latter article, "Pokemon Go’s GPS is based on Google Maps, but the Korean government has yet to provide detailed maps to the American company because of concerns over the release of sensitive information such as military base locations, since the South is still technically engaged in conflict with North Korea. Pokemon Go gaming communities in Korea, though, found early on Tuesday that the game worked in certain areas in Gangwon, including Yangyang County, Inje County and the city of Sokcho. Some gamers’ screenshots uploaded on Wednesday to popular domestic webzine Inven showed the game working on Ulleung Island, 120 kilometers (74.5 miles) east of the Korean Peninsula."  (Click on the graphic for a full-size version)  There is little question that augmented reality apps like Pokemon Go are going to be very popular around the world.  The question in Korea is how legal restrictions currently in place might be adjusted to allow such apps to function fully here.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Korea's rising competition from China

Having just returned from a most interesting innovation studies conference in Beijing last weekend the article in today's English edition of The Hankyoreh newspaper naturally drew my attention.  It relates to a recurrent topic of this blog, the increasing competition Korea's ICT sector is facing from China.  As reported in the article and illustrated by the accompanying table (click for a full size version), Korea's industries are increasingly "feeling the heat" of competition from China.
What is most interesting about the table to me is the status of the last three industry sectors listed, namely telecommunications, display and semiconductors.  Given their role as key components of today's rapidly advancing digital networks, they have long since become the central engine of Korea's export-led economy.  Virtually all the other industries, starting with automobiles, shipbuilding and steel, are subject to the forces of digital convergence and are striving to increase their efficiency and competitiveness accordingly.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Beijing bound

I'm heading for Beijing tomorrow to attend the International Conference on Innovation Studies (ICIS2016) hosted by Tsinghua University. I'll deliver a paper entitled "Network-centric digital development in Korea: Origins, growth and prospects."

Thursday, May 5, 2016

The sudden rise of fintech!

The Korea Joongang Daily (English edition) carried an interesting article today on the rise of fintech in Korea.   The rapid development is deeply ironic, given the recent history here, including prolonged reliance on Internet Explorer and Microsoft's Active-X plug-in long after most companies, countries and Microsoft itself had stopped using it.  Click on the attached graphic to see a full size version.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Have computers met their match in Starcraft?

Jonathan Cheng, the Seoul based reporter for The Wall Street Journal, recently published a very interesting article that ties into interest in machine learning and artificial intelligence surrounding the highly publicized Go match between AlphaGo and Korea's top human player (see this earlier post).   As Cheng notes at the start of the article, "Humanity has fallen to artificial intelligence in checkers, chess, and, last month, Go, the complex ancient Chinese board game. But some of the world’s biggest nerds are confident that machines will meet their Waterloo on the pixelated battlefields of the computer strategy game StarCraft.
A key reason: Unlike machines, humans are good at lying." Later the article notes that "Demis Hassabis, creator of the artificial-intelligence program that defeated Go grandmaster Lee Se-dol in the recent closely watched match in Seoul, has long eyed StarCraft as a possible challenge for his AI company DeepMind, which Alphabet Inc.’s Google acquired two years ago."
The article mentions that Starcraft was developed in 1998.  It might have added that the game initially gained widespread popularity in South Korea, because its PC Rooms, in the late 1990s, afforded much faster broadband internet connections than most of the rest of the world had at that time.  Furthermore, Starcraft's popularity was an important factor in the rapid spread of household broadband connections (DSL and cable modem) around that time as Hanaro launched an advertising campaign aimed at parents, urging them to install broadband at home, so their children could play Starcraft there, and not come home late at night after playing at a PC Bang.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The vicissitudes of hardware exports

For some months now, the local press in Seoul have commented on the decline in some of Korea's flagship ICT products, notably smartphones and flat screen television sets.  Earlier this month, The Joongang Daily published an article with the accompanying graphic (click for a larger version).  The reasons for the decline in market share are not that difficult to discern and some are noted in the article.  They include competition from companies in China, and Apple, which recently introduced moderately priced phones.  More broadly,  smartphones are modular in nature and quickly become commoditized, making Korea's manufacturers vulnerable to competition from lower cost producers.    As noted in the article, the decline in flat screen television exports is partly driven by the popularity of online and mobile on demand TV services.  Simply put, more people are choosing to watch TV on mobile devices.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

South Korea's lead in speed

With the rapid spread of mobile communication and smartphones and the high proportion of data traffic accounted for by video, people and policymakers all around the world are coming to appreciate the importance of  speed in an internet connection.  Generally, the faster the better, as emphasized in numerous earlier posts on this blog.
Akamai, a leading industry monitor of the state of the internet, has published a web page that allows comparisons across countries over time.   As shown in the accompanying screen capture (click on the graphic for a larger version), Korea still leads the world in average connection speed (note that the southern half of the Korean peninsula is the only country shaded green on this world map!)
For comparison purposes, the second graphic here shows trends over time for China, the UK, the U.S. and South Korea, from Q3 of 2007 through the end of 2015.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Pyeongchang 2018, the "5G Olympics"

KT is the official telecommunications service provider for the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics in 2018 and the company has  dubbed them the "5G Olympics."  It intends to show the world how far it has gone in deployment and testing of 5G technologies. According to a recent post on the Netmanias Tech Blog, "KT is aiming to add 35,000 wired communication lines along the communication duct lines (1,391 km long) being placed across the town of the event. It also plans to install over 5,000 Wi-Fi APs, support 4G/5G/WiFi access, and deploy a mobile communication network capable of supporting up to active 250,000 devices concurrently. The company is also building a cloud-based data center to ensure more efficient and reliable mobile services through more stabilized networks even during traffic spikes with hundreds of thousands of concurrent users. The data center is scheduled to be completed in the first half of the year, and will become fully stabilized after trial operation in the second half of the year."
The timelines for deployment of the Olympics Network and its operation are shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version).  However, KT's efforts are not taking place in isolation.  There is domestic competition to develop 5G from the likes of SK Telecom, and considerable international interest and competition as well.  This is illustrated in a second interesting graphic published by the Netmanias Tech Blog (click for a full size version).
Beyond consideration of 5G network technologies per se, there is another important contextual factor at work.  As noted in earlier posts, that is Korea's commitment to build a nationwide Public Safety LTE Network by 2017.  So, it is no coincidence that Pyeongchang and the surrounding area are the location for initial testing of both 5G technologies and technologies for the PS-LTE networks.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Connecting with Stanford in Seoul

Early last week I had the opportunity to attend #Stanfordconnects in Seoul.  There were about 250 alumni in attendance from a range of Stanford departments.   It was a very informative evening, including a talk by outgoing (as of September 1) Stanford President John Hennessy.  His presentation was the highlight of the evening for me, but most especially because of his remarks about the new Knight-Hennessy Scholars program.   That program's global scope and its focus on service, collaboration, innovation and entrepreneurship promise to contribute greatly not only to Stanford but to solutions for some of the world's most pressing problems.  I am inspired by the commitment it represents and its close relationship to the vision and mission of SUNY Korea and the Incheon Global Campus here in Songdo.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Implications for Korea of Microsoft dropping support for IE browser

I was interviewed this past Thursday morning, March 10, on the topic of the implications for Korea of Microsoft's ending of support for older versions of its Internet Explorer (IE) browser.  The topic of Korea's "Microsoft monoculture," heavy dependence on Microsoft and the perils of Active-X have been treated in a number of earlier posts, as a search of this blog will show.
If you're interested, the podcast of the ten minute interview can be heard at this link.  Enjoy and let me know if you have thoughts.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

AlphaGo wins first two Go matches against Lee Se-dol

Just a few minutes ago, the news broke that Google's computer-based player of Paduk, as it is known in Korea, or the Asian-style chess game known as  Go around the world, won the second match of their series. This matchup between machine or "artificial" intelligence (AI) and a human player is drawing a lot of attention around the world because of its implications for the future role of AI in a highly digitally networked environment.  Arirang Television carried a report on AlphaGo's victory in the first match.  I encourage you to view it.  More to come on this topic.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Mobile communication, OSs, and Platform Thinking

This chart published recently by Statista with the very apt headline "Android and iOS are the last two standing" caught my eye.  It vividly illustrates how quickly the global market for operating systems can evolve and how important an industry platform or ecosystem is.  The "Others" represented by the grey shading included operating systems from Blackberry, Nokia and Windows phone.  The publication of this chart coincided with the announcement by WeChat that it would no longer support these OSs.   Clearly, platforms and ecosystems have assumed a major role in global communications. More on this topic in subsequent posts.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Korea boasts the smallest digital divide in the world

A new survey of internet usage in 40 nations around the world shows that, whether measured by Age, Education or Income, South Korea has by far the smallest digital divide in the world. As shown on the accompanying map (click for a full-sized version), 94 percent of Koreans reported using the internet at least occasionally or owning a smartphone (the 88 percent who own a smartphone is the highest proportion of the forty nations surveyed).  Using the same measure (adults who use the internet at least occasionally or report owning a smartphone), the digital divide between 18-34 year olds and those over 35 was 8% in Korea.  The gap between those with less education and more education was 9%, and the gap between lower income and higher income respondents was 10%.  These compared with considerably higher double digit gaps in the other countries surveyed.
The Pew survey, which was conducted in 2015, sheds light on an aspect of Korea's internet infrastructure and policies that those of us who pay attention have long known.  Through effective public-private partnership and strong leadership, this country consciously and consistently pursued policies, beginning way back in the 1980s, aimed at building a particular type of information society: one that provided equitable access to information services to all Koreans, whether from the nation's large cities or its small rural farming and fishing villages.  This is referred to as a 정보복지사회.   I haven't yet pinpointed the exact translation of this term, which literally means something like "information welfare society."

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

5G services for the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics

As reported by The Korea Joongang Daily, planning is well underway for using the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics to showcase Korea's 5G network technology.  At least since the 2012 London Olympics, and in the last winter games in Sochi, the role of television and the media has shifted to a multi-screen, "bring your own device" spectacle.
As noted in the newspaper report,"During the 2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympics, spectators around the world will have access to a number of services built from the nation’s next-generation 5G wireless capabilities, including the ability to watch an event from the perspective of a competitor. Telecommunications provider KT, an official telecom partner of the event, offered a peek into how it will deploy 5G-backed technologies such as 360-degree videos and holographic interviews to enhance the viewing experience."
This week KT demonstrated the holographic interview.  (click on the graphic to see a full size image)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Kakao in the global market context

Netmanias tech-blog published an excellent overview of the global growth in over the top (OTT) services and rich communications services (RCS).  As shown in the accompanying infographic showing monthly active users of leading OTT services (click for a full size version) , Kakao Talk, which is dominant in the South Korean market, has failed as yet to make a large dent in the global market.  According to the blog entry,"With the help of strong supports from domestic market, WeChat is becoming another worldwide OTT communication service platform. LINE, originated from Japan, is step-by-step penetrating into South East Asian market. KakaoTalk which dominated Korean market but has been staggering outside Korean market has merged with Daum, the second biggest portal service provider in Korea, seeking out further growth by gaining more contents strength in this battle."
After seeing this infographic and reading the Netmanias overview, I  learned that Line offers at Line-out service, so I promptly decided to install Line on my Galaxy 5 phone. (Remember that I stopped using Skype after Daesung Corporation began requiring use of Internet Explorer and Active-X controls to pay for Skype-out!)  While installing and setting up Line, I came to the realization that the main reason Kakao has had difficulty penetrating the global market is its lack of a high quality 1) English and 2)mobile friendly user interface.  This situation is reminiscent of other Korean services that have failed in the U.S. or global marketplace.  One example was Cyworld, which preceded Facebook by half a decade, but failed in its efforts to penetrate the U.S. market.   The lack of a world class English, mobile friendly app interface no doubt reflects not only language and a knowledge of mobile app creation, but also deeper cultural preferences.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

5G network architecture as envisioned by KT

The evolution of South Korea's mobile networks from 4G to 5G is well underway, boosted in part by the forthcoming 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics and the nation's plan to complete a dedicated nationwide public safety LTE network by 2017.  Last Fall the Netmanias tech blog published an excellent description by two tech experts of the new network architecture that is envisioned.  The article has some excellent diagrams, and I particularly liked the one shown here (click for a full size version).   It shows that 5G will involve the distribution of core nodes to tens of edge nodes nationwide, as compared to a couple of core nodes in Seoul for the 4G mobile network.  This change is dictated by the projected increase in volume of video and ultra real-time services such as real-time remote control and automatically controlled automobiles.  Such services, and others require very low end-to-end delays.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

What is the message behind this popular 2016 Super Bowl commercial?

Although I didn't watch the Super Bowl this year, I took note that Hyundai was among the top ten popular commercials aired this year, according to the Branding in Asia magazine.  Coincidentally, this morning, a few days after the Super Bowl, my wife and I stopped by a Speedmate auto shop because an icon had begun appearing on the dashboard of our Kia Sorento.   The technician took a quick look at the display, then fetched his notebook-sized electronic device and attached it to our car's network via a connection under the steering wheel.   After a few minutes of navigating around the devices on our car, he informed us we'd have to take it to a Kia center or a larger service center that has a more up-to-date diagnostic device.  Enjoy this video and think of the message it conveys.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Future high speed rail networks

I've posted frequently about the relationship of Korea's transportation infrastructure to its communications networks and patterns of communications, touching on such topics as national unification to urbanization (see these posts).  The Korea Joongang Daily recently carried an article describing government plans to spend 74 trillion won or $62.2 billion on high speed rail development.  As shown in the first graphic (click to see a larger version) the initial phase of the project will link five cities on the outskirts of the national capital metropolitan area.   I will admit a strong personal interest in this project because it will reportedly reduce travel time from Songdo to Seoul from about an  hour and a half to only 23 minutes.
The article also notes that "Outdated rail lines along the central and southern regions of the peninsula will also be upgraded.
It currently takes more than five hours to travel from Seoul to Gangneung, Gangwon, on the east coast by train. That travel time will be cut back to one hour and seven minutes. The time it takes to travel from Busan to Gwangju on the opposite site of the Peninsula will be reduced to two hours and 20 minutes from the existing six hours and six minutes." The second graphic illustrates the major national routes that will be in service upon completion of the project in 2025.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Speed Matters and Korea Leads

Readers of this blog will know that the speed of internet connections has been a recurrent theme of this blog over the years (for example, check out these posts).  Intuitively, most internet users understand that the speed of an internet connection is important and from the consumer standpoint, the faster the connection the better.  Google has done research with its search pages that empirically demonstrates this preference for faster loading pages.  In 2013 a survey of European internet users showed that 45% of them would be willing to upgrade or change their supplier for higher speed.
South Korea leads the world in internet connection speeds and is showing no signs of slowing down.  As shown in the accompanying graphic (click to see a full size version) published by Netmanias, KT declared its Gigatopia vision in 2014, and has already implemented both fixed and mobile services to achieve that vision.
Korean consumers, as shown in the second graphic, are adopting the newer, faster services at a rapid rate.  Speed matters, and this is something well understood in Korea by policymakers, corporate leaders and consumers.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Regulations limit smart health care in Korea

As reported today in The Korea Joongang Daily, regulations continue to hamper the development of smart health care, despite this nation's world-leading broadband networks. The article cited SK Telecom's exhibit at the 2012 Yeosu Exhibition and quoted a manager at SK Telecom who requested anonymity as saying that “Zero progress has been made on the smart health platform since we showcased it at the Yeosu Expo.There is nothing we, as an IT company, can do about it because the law prohibiting remote diagnosis and treatment of patients remains unchanged. What’s 100 percent certain, though, is that the health care field is a land of infinite opportunity for the IT industry.” The article also noted that "Under Article 34 of the Medical Act, doctors, dentists and Oriental medicine doctors are allowed to discuss with their patients and share treatment options with other doctors via phone or video, but they must diagnose and treat patients in person."
The article went on to observe that "The Ministry of Health and Welfare’s attempts to revise legislation to allow smart health care began in 2002, when the medical industry first saw the revolutionary - and lucrative - possibilities in applying information and communications technology to everything from treatment and prescriptions to surgery and aftercare. (click on the graphic below for a full size version)

But the efforts were immediately protested by the Korean Medical Association, an interest group representing doctors nationwide. Medical practitioners in Korea are notoriously protective of their turf and have worked to prevent non-doctors from gaining the ability to make even the simplest medical diagnoses. Every time the Health Ministry proposed revisions to the Medical Act over the last 14 years, doctors nationwide have gone on strike or threatened to do so, which has killed the efforts.
Within the association, different doctors cite different reasons for their opposition to smart health care depending on their own practice. The most frequently cited reason, though, is that senior citizens are at risk of mishandling medical equipment, which could lead to potentially severe accidents.
Some also point to privacy concerns raised by sharing medical information remotely.
“Health care via smartphones and connected devices wreaks havoc on the security of patients’ personal information - an extremely sensitive matter among Koreans,” the association said in a statement."

Thursday, January 28, 2016

E-commerce and "borderless buying" globally and in Korea

A new report by Nielsen highlights the fact that connected commerce is creating buyers without borders. The findings are based on an online study in 24 countries, including South Korea. The report notes that connected shoppers area also smart shoppers as measured by the number who looked up product information, checked and compared prices, searched for deals and promotions and so forth.  It also documents how online purchasing rates vary greatly around the world.  What may be surprising to some is that only 50 percent of online shoppers in Korea said they have purchased from an overseas retailer in the past six months, compared with much higher percentages in India, Australia, Thailand, the Phillippines, and China.   Only Japan, at 32 percent, showed a lower rate of overseas purchases than Korea, among the Asian countries surveyed.
However, as clearly shown in the accompanying graphic (click for a full-size version) Korea's domestic online commerce leads the world in terms of online purchasing rates across a variety of product categories, notably including all of the consumable categories in this study.

Monday, January 25, 2016

The "death of Internet Explorer" in Korea?

A week ago today I was interviewed by Chance Dorland, a reporter for TBS eFM 101.3 MHz, an English language station in Seoul. The topic was the "death of Internet Explorer" and its implications for South Korea, which continues to be heavily dependent on the browser despite the fact that Microsoft and most of the rest of the world are moving away from IE. (you may listen to the interview here with an mp3 player)  The interview prompted me to do a bit more research on the current status of Internet Explorer in South Korea.  Its hold, or perhaps one should say "iron grip" on the browser market here is one of the fascinating stories of ICT sector policies and growth here.
To place the matter in global context, the overall pattern of browser usage worldwide is shown in the graphic at left (click to see a full size version) which is based on statistics gathered by StatCounter and published by Wikimedia.  Note that StatCounter records data from 3 million or more websites and its statistics are based on page views.  It makes no adjustments and weightings and it is independent with no commercial support.  However, the data it reports can still be influenced by sample size and other factors.  For that reason, the accompanying graphic is mainly useful for showing several broad, long term trends over the seven year period represented.  First is the dramatic decline in usage of IE (blue line).  Second, there is an equally clear increase in use of Chrome (green).  Finally, the pink line shows a rapidly rising percentage of internet browsing is done on mobile devices rather than desktop computers.
The rapidly increasing usage of mobile devices is a major factor to keep in mind when interpreting the above line graph from StatCounter.  In fact, data from the 2015 Mobile Internet Usage Survey published by The Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) show, not surprisingly, that mobile internet usage in Korea is far higher than the global averages.  As shown in the second line graph based on data for only desktop internet usage, IE is still being used by more than 60 percent of Koreans to surf the web.  This is a much higher proportion than the global average.
So, as noted at the conclusion of the radio interview, IE is far from dead in Korea.   This raises a key question.  What are the costs to the Korean economy as a whole and individual consumers, both Korean and expat of this continued heavy reliance on an outdated Microsoft product?  

Saturday, January 23, 2016

The DMZ as a linguistic divide

I've posted frequently over the years on the role of Korea's demilitarized zone (DMZ) as a growing digital divide (read those posts here) and this post expands upon those musings to underscore the manner in which the DMZ today also functions as a cultural and linguistic divide between the two Koreas.  As reported by Public Radio International (PRI), preferred patterns of language usage in North versus South Korea have drifted apart over more than half a century of national division.
These days, South Korean researchers are trying to help recent arrivals from the North bridge the language gap "&...with a new smartphone app called Univoca, short for "unification vocabulary." It allows users to type in or snap a photo of an unknown word and get a North Korean translation. There’s also a section that gives practical language advice, like how to order a pizza — or an explanation of some dating terminology."
As reported by MailOnline, "Developed by Seoul's top advertising firm, Cheil Worldwide, the app offers translations of 3,600 key words culled from South Korean high school textbooks as well as everyday slang expressions.
Tapping in the Hangeul for "ice cream" brings up the word oh-reum-boseung-yi (literally "coated ice"), as ice cream is known in North Korea.
Created as a part of the company's social outreach programme, the free app has been downloaded more than 1,500 times since its launch in mid-March, said Choi Jae-Young, the Cheil manager in charge of the project.
"We were looking for ways to help socially marginalised people suffering from communication problems... and realised young North Korean defectors have this big language barrier when studying at school," Choi told AFP.
A group of North Korean defectors, including student volunteers and professionals like former school teachers, helped in the task of identifying -- and translating -- common South Korean words that may perplex the young refugees."

Digital laundry and reputation management services

Korea's extensive, advanced and fast broadband networks come with many advantages and allow consumers here to be among the first in the world to experience somethings.  For example, Cyworld, a web-based social networking service was introduced half a decade before Facebook and was universally popular among young people at the time of Facebook's introduction.
However, Korea's advanced networks also present some problems.  Internet addiction became a concern in this country years before being recognized in other countries.  These days, as reported by The Korea Joongang Daily, the problem of online scams such as porn phishing has led to concerns about privacy the digital reputation of individuals.  These concerns, in turn, gave rise to the business of digital laundry, which refers to the work of removing malicious comments or other online material to clean up an individual's online reputation.
The Korea Joongang Daily article describes the services provided by one digital laundry service, the Santa Cruise Company. Back in 2008, the company "...asked web portals to remove some malicious online comments about one of the company’s child models, and that was his first foray into digital laundry service.
After that, companies, celebrities and individuals began to knock on the door of Santa Cruise in hopes of getting rid of traces of their past lives or deleting negative comments associated with their names. Santa Cruise works with local web portals like Naver and Daum that host message boards as well as with local file-sharing services like Webhard."
(click on the graphic at left to see a full size version)

Friday, January 22, 2016

Korea tops 2016 Bloomberg Innovation Index

As reported by BloombergBusiness in reporting the results of its 2016 innovation index, "Korea dominates the index."  The website article starts by declaring that "In the world of ideas, South Korea is king."  Many in Korea, including both Koreans and expats knowledgeable about the nation's economy might differ with that assessment.  However, as with any index, this one for innovation depends upon what is measured and how.  The Bloomberg article goes on to note that "South Korea notched top scores worldwide for manufacturing value-added as well as for tertiary efficiency — a measure that includes enrollment in higher education and the concentration of science and engineering graduates. While the country's No. 39 ranking for productivity might pass for mediocre, it was second for R&D intensity, high-tech density and patent activity and ranked sixth for researcher concentration."  The accompanying graphic (click for a full size version) shows at a glance how Korea compares with other countries in the top ten on the 2016 Bloomberg index..

Monday, January 11, 2016

Hubo: The crown jewel of Korean robotics

Here's a digital toast or acknowledgement to one of Korea's truly great accomplishments last year.   Some of you may wish to re-read my June 2015 blog post.   To everyone else, I suggest viewing this excellent Arirang TV video about the accomplishment.   Happy (Solar and Lunar) New Year!

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Are Koreans data gluttons? I think not.

As reported today in The Korea Joongang Daily, wireless data traffic in Korea has reached an all time high and continues to increase.  As the article notes, "According to the Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning, an average 179,929 terabytes of data was transmitted per day in November last year, an increase of 115.5 percent compared to 22 months earlier, in January 2014." (click on the accompanying graphic for a full size version)  The article also says that "Data transmitted while using KakaoTalk, playing mobile games and downloading movies or songs all add to the massive traffic, and some overseas media outlets have referred to Koreans as “data gluttons” in response to the surprisingly large figure."
I think not!  Increases are not at all surprising given people's preference for mobile over fixed devices, the burgeoning growth of the internet of things and related trends. Korean consumers are simply giving the rest of the world a preview of what is to come, once their countries update broadband networks to the technological level and speed that is readily available in South Korea.
As the headline of the article correctly indicates, there is a continuing battle for bandwidth because of the simple physical reality that the electromagnetic spectrum is a finite resource.