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Internet Of Things Needs World Market Leaders, Interest Turns to Startups

Google and Microsoft dominate markets worldwide

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An employee displays ASUS’s new computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Computex will run in Taipei from June 5 to 9. VOA
An employee displays ASUS’s new computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Computex will run in Taipei from June 5 to 9. VOA
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A surge in participation by startup companies this week, at a highlight of Asia’s biggest annual tech event, shows an increased reliance on young entrepreneurs and leaders to come with the IT industry’s strongest ideas for connected devices and artificial intelligence.

The InnoVEX segment of Taipei Computex 2018 brought together 388 startups, a term usually defined as founder-owned firms of three to five years old. That number is a jump from 272 at the same event a year ago. Venture capitalists, including at least one with half a billion dollars in investment funds, evaluated them one-on-one and at formal pitching events.

Startups are catching attention as inventors of Internet-of-things technology because there’s no market leader yet, said Jamie Lin, founding partner of AppWorks Ventures, a startup accelerator in Taipei. That technology refers to software and hardware that let computers or phones communicate with everyday devices such as cameras and alarm systems.

Some connections run on artificial intelligence, which means computerized processing of the data collected from those devices. That can mean making human-like decisions.

“Computers continue to morph and there are no dominant players in IoT,” Lin said. “That’s why they need startups and that’s what makes the show relevant.”

In software, by contrast, Google and Microsoft dominate markets worldwide. Apple and Samsung, among others, lead in smartphones.

Coinciding with the tech show this week, Lin’s accelerator, another like it and a Japanese venture capital firm are all holding their own events in Taipei this week for startups.

Visitors review new MSI computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018
Visitors review new MSI computer products during the Computex Taipei, one of the world’s largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018, VOA

Expanding market

More than 20 billion things will be connected to the internet by 2020, up from 8.4 billion connected last year, market research firm Gartner forecasts. The number will pick up especially as 5G wireless services speed up connections.

By next year, Gartner anticipates, startup firms working with artificial intelligence will overtake Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM in “driving the artificial intelligence economy” for businesses.

Artificial intelligence, also known by its abbreviation AI, will reach a market value of $1.2 trillion per year by 2020 as investment triples between now and then, Forrester Research said.

“There’s a process, which is experimental — error and trial, error and trial – so there’s no one with a ready solution, and AI is so broad that one that can do it all,” said Tracy Tsai, a Gartner research VP in Taipei.

“With AI startups, they say ‘I’m focused, I just do some part of it and I do it well, and I do it attentively,’” she said. “For companies looking for a full solution, if you can show your part works, then they use it.”

Competitors perform speed tests using dry ice to cool hardware at OC World Record Stage 2018 during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018.
Competitors perform speed tests using dry ice to cool hardware at OC World Record Stage 2018 during the Computex Taipei, one of the world’s largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018.VOA

Venture capitalists watching

Venture capital firms at the three-day InnoVEX show Wednesday watched a spread of mostly Asian startups with software and hardware ideas focused largely on connected devices. Healthcare and the management of drones were among the fields that companies said they could help with AI.

The show offered chances for startups to pitch their ideas to venture capital firms and accelerators, which are programs that show young firms how to improve their businesses.

Startup promotion authorities from 13 countries, including France and the Netherlands, also scanned the exhibition hall for Asian firms that might complement their own.

Visitors review Thermaltake's MFC 2 2nd Place MOD during the Computex Taipei, one of the world's largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018.
Visitors review Thermaltake’s MFC 2 2nd Place MOD during the Computex Taipei, one of the world’s largest IT expos, in Taipei, Taiwan, June 5, 2018. VOA

“What we care about the most is whether these startups or smaller firms have technology, so if it’s a just a business model only, they aren’t suitable for us,” said Amanda Liu, CEO of the Taiwan government-backed business accelerator StarFab. Her accelerator takes 10 to 15 of every 100 applicants. “They need to have products and their core competence must come from technology.”

Taiwanese firms are good at altering hardware specs, Liu said, and for technology ideal for businesses rather than individual consumers, Liu said. Taiwan positioned itself decades ago as a high-tech hardware manufacturing hub for much of the world.

Qara was one AI-dependent startup at InnoVEX. The 4-year-old South Korean developer with $1 million in venture capital funding uses an AI algorithm to predict the movement of stock and cryptocurrency markets. It has earned revenues of $1.5 million and reports a profit.

“Anyone can see the predictions powered by AI,” said Qara’s global CEO Katie Bomi Son. In terms of accuracy, she said, “Some are from 70, or between 70 to 90. Most of our information [comes] from the machine.”

Also read: Russia’s heavy hand to internet to block messaging app

Qara counts mostly companies as clients but it’s looking for a way to monetize the free app for common users. (VOA)

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Cuba Gets Nationwide Internet For A Day

“We need to be able to put the content of the revolution online,” he told parliament in July, adding that Cubans could thus “counter the avalanche of pseudo-cultural, banal and vulgar content” on the internet.

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Cubans check their phones at an internet hotspot in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 10, 2018. A day of free, expanded internet was provided by the state-run telecommunications company
Cubans check their phones at an internet hotspot in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 10, 2018. A day of free, expanded internet was provided by the state-run telecommunications company. VOA

Cuba’s government said it provided free internet to the Communist-run island’s more than 5 million cellphone users on Tuesday, in an eight-hour test before it launches sales of the service.

Cuba is one of the Western Hemisphere’s least connected countries. State-run telecommunications monopoly ETECSA announced the trial, with Tuesday marking the first time internet services were available nationwide.

There are hundreds of WiFi hotspots in Cuba but virtually no home penetration.

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, considered the country’s social media pioneer, raved that she had directly sent a tweet from her mobile. In another tweet, she called the test a “citizen’s victory.”

A young Cuban checks his phone at an internet hotspot next to a picture of late revolutionary hero Ernesto "Che" Guevara in Havana
A young Cuban checks his phone at an internet hotspot next to a picture of late revolutionary hero Ernesto “Che” Guevara in Havana. VOA

On the streets of Havana, mobile users said they were happy about the day of free internet, even as some complained that connectivity was notably slower than usual.

“This is marvelous news because we can talk with family abroad without going to specific WiFi spots, there is more intimacy,” said taxi driver Andres Peraza.

Forty percent of Cubans have relatives living abroad.

Leinier Valdez, one of a group of young people trying to connect, said, “this is great. Its better and more so when you can connect for free.”

Hotspots currently charge about $1 an hour although monthly wages in Cuba average just $30.

The government has not yet said how much most Cubans would pay for mobile internet, or when exactly sales of the service will begin. But ETECSA is already charging companies and embassies $45 a month for four gigabytes.

Analysts have said broader Web access will ultimately weaken government control over what information reaches people in a country where the state has a monopoly on the media.

Cuba has lagged far behind most countries in Web access.
Cuba has lagged far behind most countries in Web access.

Whether because of a lack of cash, a long-running U.S. trade embargo or concerns about the flow of information, Cuba has lagged far behind most countries in Web access. Until 2013, internet was largely only available to the public at tourist hotels on the island.

But the government has since made boosting connectivity a priority, introducing cybercafes and outdoor Wi-Fi hotspots and slowly starting to hook up homes to the Web.

Long before he took office from Raul Castro in April, 58-year-old President Miguel Diaz-Canel championed the cause.

Also Read: Android Development and Data Analysis- Bloodlines of The Internet Industry

“We need to be able to put the content of the revolution online,” he told parliament in July, adding that Cubans could thus “counter the avalanche of pseudo-cultural, banal and vulgar content” on the internet. VOA