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."