Tag Archives: technology

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 

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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.

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Student

South Korea Develops Smartphone Apps to Help Curb Student Suicide

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

The South Korean government has been developing a number of smartphone apps to help warn parents when their child might be at risk for suicide, the Education Ministry announced Friday.

The ministry is hoping to introduce the apps immediately, as they are programmed to detect “suicide-related” trigger words used by children on social networks, messages or Internet searches from their phones. The children’s parents would then receive an alert from the app on their own phone.

The apps are not mandatory for parents to use, but the hope is to bring down South Korea’s alarmingly high suicide rate, which is one of the highest among Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) member nations. According to the Education Ministry, 878 students took their own lives between 2009 and 2014, including 118 last year.

The suicides peak during the months when students study for the extremely competitive national college entrance exam, while the most common causes are listed as problems at home, then depression, grades and career concerns. A survey by the Korea Health Promotion Foundation also found that over half of South Korean teens aged 14 to 19 have had suicidal thoughts.

The Korean Teachers and Education Workers Union raised privacy concerns over the app, adding that the app did not address systematic problems. They also said the exam system itself was also in need of reviewing.

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South Korea Samsung Electronics Listening TV

Samsung’s Eavesdropping Smart TVs Raise Concerns

by YOUKYUNG LEE, AP Technology Writer

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Watch what you say in your living room. Samsung’s smart TV could be listening. And sharing.

At least that’s what you’d conclude in reading Samsung’s privacy policy for smart TVs. Voice recognition technology in Samsung’s Internet-connected TVs captures and transmits nearby conversations. The policy warns, “Please be aware that if your spoken words include personal or other sensitive information, that information will be among the data captured and transmitted to a third party through your use of Voice Recognition.”

In a blog post Tuesday, Samsung said it is removing that sentence and clarifying the policy “to better explain what actually occurs.”

For the voice command feature to work, the TV listens for predefined commands such as changing the channel or the volume. That speech isn’t stored or transmitted, according to Samsung. But the remote control also has a microphone that can not only respond to those commands but also search for content, such as requests to recommend a good movie. The speech is translated by third-party software into text and sent back to the TV as a command.

Although Samsung initially declined to name the software company, the blog post identifies it as Nuance Communications Inc. The TV also transmits other information including its unique identifier, both to provide the service and to improve the feature.

Samsung said voice recognition on the remote must be activated by pressing a button. It’s similar to how Siri and Google Now voice assistants work on smartphones. If the feature isn’t activated, there’s no threat of eavesdropping, Samsung said. Users will see microphone icon on the screen when it is on. Users can disable the feature, but voice control would then be limited to predefined commands.

The South Korean company said it takes consumer privacy “very seriously.”

“We employ industry-standard security safeguards and practices, including data encryption, to secure consumers’ personal information and prevent unauthorized collection or use.”

It is not the first time that smart TVs sparked privacy concerns. In 2013, the owner of a LG Electronics smart TV revealed it was sending information about his viewing habits back to the company without consent and without encrypting data.

LG has also experimented with displaying targeted ads on its smart TVs, which requires collecting and utilizing user data, such as their location, age and gender.

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Technology Writer Anick Jesdanun contributed to this story from New York. Photo courtesy of AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon.

Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Samsung

Samsung Loses Ground to Apple in South Korea

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

Samsung has always marketed their smartphones as the “next big thing,” but when Apple went big with the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus in 2014, South Koreans flocked to the fruit.

According to Android Authority, Apple gained significant market share in Japan, China and Korea as Samsung lost ground. Sales for the iPhone reached record highs in October and November in Korea and Japan. Samsung, which has consistently held upwards of 60 percent of the smartphone market at home, saw their market share drop significantly.

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As seen above, Apple’s market share in South Korea pretty much doubled from 15 percent to over 30 percent during the latter months of 2014. Globally, Samsung saw its market share decline to 23.8 percent in the third quarter, down from 32.5 percent from the same period in 2013.

Last year was not kind to Samsung’s mobile division, as the company struggled against cheaper handsets, led by the Chinese company Xiaomi, which overtook Samsung’s majority market share in China. On the premium end of the spectrum, the Galaxy S5 and Note 4 didn’t stand up as well against Apple’s larger iPhone 6 and 6 Plus. That led to the company’s first annual profit decline since 2011.

It’s not all doom and gloom for Samsung, though. Their other divisions of the company, in particular television and memory chips, are going strong, and Samsung isn’t sitting pat. They replaced the head of its mobile design team amid criticism of the Galaxy S5 in May 2014, and recently added former Tangerine co-CEO Don Tae Lee as their global design team leader.

Lee was responsible for coming up with an award-winning design for British Airways’ business-class and first-class cabins, according to Korea Joongang Daily. He also worked with mobiles back in 2011 with Huawei and introduced some innovative design concepts that unfortunately never made it to production. At Samsung, Lee will be in charge of leading the design philosophy for not only smartphones, but other Samsung products including washers, televisions and refrigerators.

Lee is part of Samsung’s long game, though, and the company faces more immediate challenges. There will be a lot riding on the Galaxy S6, due out sometime in March, to be Samsung’s flagship on the premium front. Samsung’s $92 Tizen-powered smartphone, however, hasn’t been received too well in India, where the company hopes to gain traction on the mid to lower-end front.

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Photo via Bloomberg News

Samsung-Z1

Samsung’s $92 Tizen Smartphone Might Be the Next Big Thing

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

Samsung just unveiled a new smartphone on Wednesday, but it’s probably not among those you’re looking for.

That is unless you’re in the market for a $92 smartphone (off-contract) that has the same specs as a device from, say, four years ago. But even if you were, you’d have to go to India to find one. If and once you cross the ocean, you’ll realize it doesn’t run Android, but something called Tizen (pronounced “tie-zen”). While the Z1 is one of the cheapest phones Samsung has ever launched, it’s also the first smartphone to feature Tizen, Samsung’s own mobile operating system.

What’s the big deal with Tizen? Samsung has made it very clear at this year’s Consumer Electronics Show that it is heavily investing in it. Their smart TVs, smartwatches and wearables all come installed with Tizen, and soon, all Samsung devices will include Tizen, including household appliances such as washers, dryers, robotic vacuums and refrigerators. It’s part of this mystical “Internet of Things” (IoT) plan that Samsung emphasized heavily during the convention, and Tizen will be the operating system connecting all these devices into the IoT “ecosystem.”

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Samsung’s wonderfully obnoxious Super Ultra-HD TV display in front of their booth at CES 2015. The displays are so beautiful you don’t notice the model standing in front until he’s pointed out to you. Photos by KoreAm.

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But should Samsung be investing so much in Tizen? All of their devices apart from the Z1 exclusively run on Google’s Android, and of all the smartphones and tablets in the tech market, Apple and Microsoft are the main competitors. Google and Apple as well as Microsoft, to some extent, have had the time and money to refine Android, iOS and Windows.

The South Korean company also does not have a reputation as a software company. They build gadgets and hardware, albeit damned good ones. However, their attempts at software haven’t been too well-received. TouchWiz–Samsung’s user interface, which has features built on top of Android in Galaxy devices–has been criticized for being too ugly, completely unnecessary and a drag on memory and processing speed. Apparently, Samsung is scaling back TouchWiz in its upcoming Galaxy S6. It was also the main reason why this writer chose a Motorola smartphone over the Note 4, which had really amazing specs, but an annoying UI.

Another challenge will be to grow and nurture developers for Tizen. Apple and Google have had that covered while Microsoft and Blackberry (yes, they’re still around) have struggled to provide the same number and quality of programs for their users. Tizen, however, would be starting from the ground up.

Tizen-in-the-Big-PictureImage via Samsung Tomorrow

Samsung claims to have their bases covered. They tout Tizen to be “lighter” than other operating systems and more energy efficient, and the company specifically addressed creating an “expansive and vibrant ecosystem” for its users through supporting developers with software development kits for different Tizen devices.

They also echoed what Samsung CEO BK Yoon said during the company’s press conference at CES: Samsung isn’t in the game to “abandon” other operating systems. “Openness” and facilitating relationships with partners and other devices is key to a successful Internet of Things ecosystem.

At the end of the day, though, Samsung wants to make money, and Tizen might be their product to challenge Google and Apple in the mobile OS department. It remains to be seen if Tizen can break into the brand cultures Google and Apple have created with their own products.

If Samsung can “tie it all together” by proving that Tizen will be more convenient, affordable and just as cool as the others, it may have a chance. Strategy Analytics said last month that while Tizen will remain a niche player, it would be one of the fastest-growing operating systems along with Firefox and Windows in the next six years. Who knows, a $90 smartphone could truly be the “next big thing.” Or not.