Tag Archives: technology

Samsung

Samsung’s ‘Safety Truck’ Allows Drivers to See the Road Ahead

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

 

Overtaking a truck on a two-lane highway isn’t always the easiest task in the world. But what if we could see through the truck instead of cautiously attempting to peek around the edge of the semi?

Samsung’s experimental Safety Trucks could provide a solution in the near future. Utilizing a combination of wireless cameras and four Samsung monitors, the Safety Truck seeks to make driving on single-lane roads easier and safer.

Samsung Tomorrow wrote in a blog post that the Safety Truck technology can also help reduce accidents caused by sudden braking or animals crossing the road. The camera and displays also support night vision.

Samsung ran a pilot test with a prototype of the Safety Truck in Argentina, which has some of the worst accident rates in the world. While the prototype truck is no longer operational, the technology does work. With this in mind, the company said the next step would be to work with safe driving organizations and the government to obtain permits and approvals, as well as make sure any future versions of the Safety Truck comply with existing protocols.

Forbes brought up a few questions and potential issues—for one, would the system end up causing more problems than it proposes to solve? How distracting would the screens be, especially at night? How reliable will both the camera and display be in bad weather? Also, will the screens would be prime targets for stealing and/or vandalizing?

Regardless, if all things check out for Safety Trucks, there’s a possibility that the new tech will help reduce South Korea’s high number of road deaths. In 2014, South Korea was reported to have the second-highest traffic fatality rate among 31 OECD member nations, according to Yonhap News Agency.

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Featured image via Samsung Tomorrow

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FitBit

Fitbit Goes Public, Co-Founder Confident in Further Growth

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

 

Fitbit on Thursday became the first startup in the wearable fitness tracker industry to go public, and needless to say, it got off to a running start. The company’s shares surged on the New York Stock Exchange more than 50 percent when trading began on Wall Street, opening at $30.40 per share, up 52 percent from its IPO price of $20. It closed up 48.4 percent ($9.68) at $29.68, raising $732 million for itself and shareholders. The IPO price valued Fitbit at $4.1 billion.

Since being founded in 2007 by James Park and Eric Friedman, Fitbit has become a household name due to its popular and lightweight wearable fitness trackers—in 2014, the company reported 10.9 million devices sold and $745 million in revenue with a profit of $131.8 million, reversing its negative net incomes from 2012 and 2013.

Park, Fitbit’s CEO, told Forbes the company’s recent profitability could be traced to “financial discipline,” as the company hasn’t relied much on outside investment. Earlier this year, the San Francisco-based company unveiled a new line of products—the Charge, Surge and Surge HR, priced from $59.95 to $249.95—which have also boosted sales.

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The full Fitbit family (from left to right): Zip, One, Flex, Charge, Aria Smart Scale, Charge HR and Surge. Image courtesy of Fitbit

Fitbit owns an 85 percent market share in the competitive wearables industry, Park told the New York Times. Still, Chinese companies like Xiaomi are increasingly on the up-and-up with more cheaply priced products, while, on the other end of the extreme, the multi-dimensional Apple Watch (priced from $549 to more than $1,000) may leave simpler fitness trackers behind in the dust. But Park told the Times he isn’t worried, emphasizing that the market for wearables is big enough for coexistence. (Market analyst group CCS Insight predicts that the wristband market could nearly triple in sales over the next three years.)

Rather than going head-to-head with the Apple Watch, Fitbit plans to continue to focus solely on fitness, says Park. He told the New York Times that the capital from the IPO would be spent on investing in research and development of new hardware and software, and possibly even exploring further acquisitions (Fitbit bought fitness app developer FitStar earlier this year). Park estimated that the company would triple R&D costs this year to $150 million.

“It takes an enormous amount of R&D spending to create compelling products and software,” Park explained to Forbes. “A key part of our success has been focus. All we do are health and fitness tracking products. We don’t create phones and light bulbs. The focus has allowed us to succeed over the years.”

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Fitbit Searches for Identity in a Crowded Wearables Market – KoreAm Journal

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Feature image via Los Angeles Times/Getty Images

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Will New Yorkers Go Cuckoo for KakaoTaxi?

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by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Daum Kakao Corp. is considering bringing South Korea’s most popular cab-hailing app service to the Big Apple, according to Bloomberg.

KakaoTaxi launched just over two months ago, but since then, the Korean app has rapidly overtaken Uber, with reportedly more than 2 million cumulative bookings and about a third of the nation’s taxi drivers registered on the app.

KakaoTaxi’s popularity with Korean commuters isn’t just attributed to the brand recognition of KakaoTalk, South Korea’s most popular mobile messenger. Its software monitors real-time traffic—an invaluable resource in an urban setting like Seoul—to calculate the estimated time of arrival for a taxi to reach a passenger. Passengers can conveniently pay their fares with their T-money card, which is also used for buses, subways and select taxis.

KakaoTaxi also addresses many of the security issues that have plagued Uber’s services around the world. The app provides a full profile on the drivers, who must carry an official taxi license to be a KakaoTaxi driver. When passengers enter the cab, they can send push notifications to friends and family that includes their real-time location, pick-up time, estimated ride time and any messages.

John Jung, Daum Kakao’s director of business development, told Bloomberg that KakaoTaxi’s success also came from their willingness to work with the government and cooperate with the taxi industry—both of which were upset over Uber’s business. The government booked Uber Korea employees on suspicion of operating illegal taxi services in the country back in March, leading to the company suspending its services in Seoul.

Since Uber and other ride-sharing apps began operations in New York City in 2012, the city and its Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) has heard complaints from both the established taxi industry and ride-sharing providers. Yellow-cab drivers have claimed Uber’s business is illegal because drivers do not have to pay fees or buy expensive medallions. Total yellow-cab trips fell 8 percent between 2012 and 2014 since Uber began operations in the city.

On the other hand, ride-sharing app providers have complained about city policies, opposing new regulations that they claim would “threaten the options” both riders and drivers rely on.

Uber and other ride-sharing companies are not permitted to operate outside of New York City. Lyft was shut down after a brief run in cities like Buffalo and Rochester due to concerns from state regulators. A bill was introduced in the New York State Legislature to open access to outside of New York City earlier this year, but the bill is reportedly stuck in limbo.

See Also

 

KakaoTaxi Hits the Road in South Korea, Challenging Uber

Uber Korea Employees Charged with Operating Illegal Taxi Ring

How KakaoTalk Founder Became South Korea’s Rarest Billionaire

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Featured image via whowired.com

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Mers

South Koreans Seeking Transparency Develop MERS Info-Sharing Tools

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

South Koreans frustrated over the government’s handling of the MERS virus outbreak have taken matters into their own hands and have been developing tools to help share accurate information with one another, according to Korea Bizwire.

A popular website called MERS Map allows users to browse a map of the country to view and share information about which hospitals have treated, diagnosed and isolated individuals with the MERS virus. MERS Map accepts reports from the general public—these individuals must be logged in with their Facebook profile, and they must provide clear evidence from media reports. Other netizens can flag rumors, and if more than five individuals do so, the piece of information is deleted from the site.

There are talks of developing MERS Map into an app, while other similar maps have also made their rounds on social networks. For those seeking information on the virus itself, a medical industry labor union released a web page detailing past and current MERS virus outbreaks with links to additional information.

Government officials said they would be stepping up their response on Friday, following the death of the fourth victim. Currently, 41 people have been infected, and more than 1,600 people have been placed under quarantine. Precautionary masks are commonplace as more than 1,000 schools and colleges have closed.

South Koreans have largely been skeptical of reassurances from public officials, and they have blasted the government for their lack of transparency and what they saw as an inadequate response. The health ministry drew criticism for taking a while to release the name of the hospital where the first person diagnosed with MERS was treated.

It doesn’t help that public officials are going back and forth. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon criticized the government for not reporting the first MERS diagnosis of a doctor who was believed to have attended a conference with nearly 1,500 people while infectious. The mayor told reporters on Friday that the city would be “embarking on a war against MERS” and take “swift and stern measures.”

Health Minister Moon Hyung-pyo apologized for causing public anxiety but shot back at Park, accusing him and other Seoul officials of giving out incorrect information that he said would increase public alarm.

See Also

 

More Reason for Calm Than Panic in South Korea’s MERS Scare

“South Korea’s Tally of MERS Rises to 12″

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Feature image via Yonhap/AFP/Getty Images

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campus seoul

Google Opens First Asian ‘Startup Campus’ in Seoul

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

South Korea’s startup scene is one of the most dynamic and fastest growing in the world, and Google’s “Campus Seoul” is expected to only add fuel to its growth.

Google officially opened Campus Seoul on May 8 after announcing the entrepreneurial center’s launch last August. Seoul is Google’s first Asian start-up campus and third international campus, following two other campuses in London and Tel Aviv. Google also plans to establish campuses in Warsaw and Sao Paulo in the near future.

Campus Seoul will support local entrepreneurs by serving as a “community hub” and foster creative ideas by connecting professionals on a local level. Additionally, the campus gives entrepreneurs access to Google’s extensive international network, which allows them to connect with fellow startups and venture capital firms on a global scale.

South Korea’s Ministry of Science, ICT and Future Planning (MSIP) expects that Campus Seoul participants will attract more investment by targeting the global market from the beginning of establishing their startups. Previously, Google and the MSIP joined forces to support the K-Startup program, which attracted more than $23 million (USD) in investment and created 77 startup companies from 2012 to last year, according to Business Korea.

South Korea is quite fitting to house the first Google Campus in Asia. The country already boasts a reputation for being the perfect place to test next-gen IT technology, since it has the highest smartphone penetration rates and Internet of Things (IoT) utilization rates. The government is also pouring money into the startup scene, and the trendy neighborhood of Gangnam has become the brightest spot in the country for new tech businesses.

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Featured image courtesy of Google’s Asia Pacific Blog 

Baggage

Samsonite and Samsung Partner Up to Create ‘Smart Luggage’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Travelers rejoice—you may soon never have to worry about lost luggage again.

Travel luggage maker Samsonite is teaming up with Samsung to utilize GPS and computer chips to keep track of your bags the moment they leave your hands, according to the Daily Mail. Samsung will understandably provide the chips while Samsonite figures out a way to build them into their line of bags.

The concept of GPS-tracking chips isn’t original, as most of our smartphones (and now wearable tech) come with one. It was only a matter of time that a company would utilize the well-proven technology with luggage, but this “smart luggage” goes beyond just tracking where the luggage goes.

Through an app, travelers receive alerts when their luggage is unloaded from, say, an airplane and when they are about to appear on the carousel at the airport. Smart bags can also notify their owners when they’re being opened or moved beyond a comfortable distance from the owner.

There’s no release date as of yet, but it can’t be too far off. The Verge noted that NYC-based company Bluesmart unveiled its Indiegogo campaign back in October 2014 with similar “smart luggage” technology that also utilizes Bluetooth technology. The crowdfunding campaign for Bluesmart’s carry-on blasted past its initial $50,000 goal easily, topping the $2 million mark in just a few months. There’s clearly a demand for more smart luggage on the market.

Future iterations may also include smart bags that allow you to skip the check-in line, as they’ll relay their own weight and destination to the airline’s computer system. Samsonite is also exploring the concept of self-propelling smart luggage that follows its owner around, according to the company’s chief executive, Ramesh Tainwala. As of right now, though, the technology is too bulky and heavy for commercial use.

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ZeroG1

Mega Tiny Corp’s Zero G Case Allows iPhones to Defy Gravity

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

Sometimes, for better or for worse, parents can attest that a smartphone or tablet can be the best babysitter. When out with the family or at home, parents could use a few minutes of respite while their kids are captivated by whatever is playing on the screen.

That was the initial idea that sparked the eventual creation of the Zero G anti-gravity case for the iPhone and iPhone 6, which has been described as the “Spider Man of iPhone 6 cases.” The Kickstarter has already hit nearly $18,000 of its $25,000 goal at the time of publishing, and it’s only the third day since the campaign launched on March 31.

Mega Tiny Corp. co-founder Wannie Park recalled seeing his young children struggling with his own iPhone to find the best viewing angle, propping it up against a cup or napkin dispenser at a restaurant.

“I was thinking, man, why can’t I just build something where we could stick it to something?” Park said. “How hard could it be?”

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Not many individuals can capitalize on an idea like that, but for someone with 15 years of product development at Intel and Belkin on his resume, it was just another day on the job. Park and partner Carl Winans, who co-founded the startup Mega Tiny Corp. in October 2014, began researching potential materials and designs, as well as other potential uses for such a product in December.

“I just wanted my kids to use my iPhone at a proper viewing angle,” Park said. “After that, the thoughts turned to guys tailgating, while watching ESPN with the phone stuck on the car window while they’re barbecuing. Or my wife, while she’s cooking, looking at the recipe on her phone while it’s stuck to the wood cabinet.”

Perhaps the most important use: The hands-free selfie that removes the awkwardness in asking a stranger to take a picture, as well as the potential disappointment in how it turns out. “I do that all the time now,” Park said. “Instead of asking someone to take a picture of my family, I can just stick my phone onto wood or glass somewhere, angle it properly and take it without bothering anybody.”

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In their research, Park and Winans came across the company EverStik, which had developed the NanoSuction adhesive material that was primarily being used for industrial and commercial purposes. Integrated with a smartphone case, however, allows users to stick their phones on glass, tile, stainless steel, mirrors, counter tops, white boards, computer screens, windows and even some walls. From there, it’s just a matter of choosing what to do: hands-free selfies, video chatting, web browsing or video watching. The material is washable, and lint doesn’t stick to it.

Sound too good to be true? CNET’s David Carnoy stuck his prototype case to a window overnight, and it was still there in the morning. There’s obviously some common sense involved in utilizing the Zero G case, but users can have confidence in the material—a 6-inch NanoSuction patch can supposedly hold a 10 lb object.

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There’s a good amount of consumer confidence already as evidenced by the Kickstarter’s early success, but Park isn’t surprised.

“Not to sound arrogant,” Park said, “But the thing is, I see how this product can be great. Think of it this way—nearly everyone I know attaches some type of protective cover or case for their smart device.”

The challenge is now to deliver the product in a timely fashion. This Kickstarter is Park’s third, and he knows the frustrations involved with waiting for a crowdfunding campaign to take several months in delivering its product. For the Zero G case, he wants the turnaround to take less than two months.

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“Typically, that’s the result of them not ever having built a product in China and understanding logistics, imports, all the cost of doing business out there,” Park explained. “That’s the one thing we’re super strong at—I’ve been doing it for 15 years now.”

As for non-iPhone 6 and even tablet users, you may see different models of the Zero G case in the future. “I was really touched by how people, whether it’s friends, family, people I don’t really know, promote the product like crazy,” Park said. “I have people funding it who don’t even have iPhones, and they expect us to build one for the [Samsung] Galaxy or the iPhone 5S or whatever.”

The Zero G case will be available in June for the iPhone and iPhone 6 Plus for around $50 on Amazon or through Mega Tiny’s website. Kickstarter supporters, however, can get early deals for less than $40.

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Hackathon

Global Hackathon Seoul Looks to Showcase Local ‘Hacker Culture’

by JAMES S. KIM | @james_s_kim
jamesskim@iamkoream.com

The South Korean technology industry is often dominated by its electronic giants, but the headlines are slowly starting to change. Seoul has increasingly become one of the most promising scenes for startups, thanks to government support, including cutback on regulation on tech-related industries to encourage innovation and Park Geun-hye’s pledge to invest $3.7 billion in startups over the next three years.

This summer, South Korea’s capital will also host Global Hackathon Seoul at the COEX (Convention and Exhibition Center) in Gangnam, Seoul—a region that has quickly become a bright spot for Korean startups. The Global Hackathon plans to bring together some 2,000 hackers, from local South Korean developers to their international counterparts.

But the hacking doesn’t refer to the keyboard-slapping nonsense we see in Hollywood movies. There is a much deeper culture to the “hacker mindset” that the Global Hackathon sees in Seoul champions.

“The ‘hacker’ mindset is the art of building or putting things together in order to create a change or facilitate positive disruption in the world,” explains Ted Kim, Chief Operating Officer of London Trust Media, Inc., which owns title sponsor Private Internet Access (PIA). “In general, the hacker ethos is that nothing is impossible—anything can be hacked, created and conquered.”

PIA features a personal virtual private network (VPN) service that protects users when they are online, has been a leading sponsor of other major hackathons including, UCLA’s popular LA Hacks in April.

“As the advent of the Internet did not take the loss of privacy into consideration as a consequence, our goal is to protect the privacy of a society that has forgotten its rights to it. We hope that many hackers at the hackathon will build products that will enhance end users’ privacy,” Kim added. “We believe that supporting the next generation of startups and hackers is a logical next step to further our goal.”

Opportunities abound for startups at these hackathons, where they can showcase their own technology from wearables, virtual reality, cloud services, big data hubs, online security and other innovative ideas, such as KPOP UNITED‘s crowdfunding-based concert ticketing platform. On the other end, there are plenty of businesses and investors looking to work with the brightest and best hackers.

“Hackathons provide a wonderful opportunity for developers and businesses (and their recruiters) alike to meet each other,” Kim said. “Hosting Asia’s premier hackathon in South Korea is monumental because South Korea has been pumping significant funds into its technology startup scene. I wouldn’t be too surprised if many quick hack projects built during the Hackathon end up receiving investment and becoming new South Korean companies.”

KJ Yoo, the executive director of Global Hackathon Seoul, said he hopes the event will convince even more Korean students and recent graduates to look at the burgeoning startup industry for opportunities, rather than relying solely on established companies.

“Seoul already has an incredible infrastructure (fastest Internet/mobile speed), highest smartphone penetration and tech savvy people,” Yoo said. “What we need is a cultural shift. Through Global Hackathon Seoul and other awesome hackathons, I don’t want to just show people but let them experience the hacker culture, and collaborate with really different thinkers of this world. We have an opportunity to import the mindset and innovative trends of the best hacks from around the world.”

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Disclosure: Private Internet Access (PIA) and KoreAm Journal are both owned by parent company London Trust Media, Inc.