As Hong Kong reckons with the havoc wreaked by the novel coronavirus (Covid-19), local universities are pushing through and putting forward remarkable findings and research.
For example, pioneering research led by scientists at City University of Hong Kong (CityU) has led to the development of the most efficient all-inorganic inverted perovskite solar cells (PVSCs) to date.
This novel approach will contribute to cost-effectively addressing the global energy issue.
PVSCs are a type of solar cells produced by metal halide perovskite materials, which are an attractive option for renewable energy technologies due to their high efficiency and low manufacturing cost.
The all-inorganic inverted PVSCs developed in the year-long research project have achieved a recorded efficiency of 16.1% and a certified efficiency of 15.6%. This level of efficiency has great potential to enhance the stability and practical value of PVSCs.
The findings were published in Nature Communications under the title “Highly efficient all-inorganic perovskite solar cells with suppressed non-radiative recombination by a Lewis base”.
PVSCs, especially the organic-inorganic hybrids, have shown remarkable progress since they first emerged a decade ago, with efficiency improving from 3.8% in 2009 to 25.2% in 2019. However, the hybrids are intrinsically unstable at high temperature, and more likely to be influenced by humidity.
The research team has resorted to all-inorganic PVSCs that demonstrate better thermal and photostability, but which are less efficient. A novel strategy for improving efficiency has been devised, too.
It involves a strategy called passivation, i.e. adding an organic functional material during the film fabrication process to eliminate surface defects on the inorganic perovskite film, resulting in the improved efficiency of the PVSCs and enhanced stability.
The Provost of CityU and Chair Professor of Chemistry and Materials Science stated that the team’s research has shown that the all-inorganic inverted PVSCs can achieve a 16.1% efficiency, but there’s also potential to go higher.
The future potential of PVSCs will allow roll-to-roll processing with high efficiency, which comes with the added advantage of being semi-transparent. This means future PVSCs could be used as an alternative for building-integrated photovoltaics.
“The manufacturing of PVSCs would be like printing newspapers,” said the Professor stated referring to the future of the new technology.
The all-inorganic PVSCs can be very competitive for their high efficiency and thermal stability.
“The hope is to provide a similar level of efficiency compared to the organic-inorganic hybrid system,” said the Assistant Professor in CityU’s Department of Chemistry and a member of the research team.
Besides, the configuration of the all-inorganic inverted PVSCs is arranged in a way that’s suitable for fabricating tandem cells. Because an array of tandem cells reacts to different aspects of the sunlight spectrum, the PVSCs in the study have the potential to raise the power conversion efficiency (PCE) of the application.
If only one material is used on the solar modules, only a limited spectrum of sunlight is absorbed, and hence converted to power.
By optimising the materials and interfaces of the solar cell to absorb a wider spectrum of sunlight, the future PCE of the PVSCs using tandem cells is estimated to be over 30%.
The two professors from City and a third professor from the South China University of Technology are the corresponding authors of the paper. The first authors are a CityU PhD student and a postdoctoral fellow from CityU’s Department of Chemistry.
Australian Border Force (ABF) officers are set to receive a fleet of new portable and handheld biometric devices capable of both collecting and verifying fingerprints and facial images. The Department of Home Affairs approached technology vendors for a “portable and handheld biometric collection capability” to replace its assortment of existing solutions. Existing handheld solutions are used by roaming ABF officers in airports, while other portable and desk-mounted devices are located at seaports and overseas refugee camps.
Home Affairs said that there are a number of existing solutions used within the department and the Australian Border Force for the collection of biometrics and enrolment and verification. Generally, each capability is constrained in its functionality e.g., it is limited to either enrolment or verification.
Apple iPhones with portable fingerprint scanners is one such solution used by frontline officers to check the identities of overseas travellers of interest at airports. The devices, which have been used since 2017, verify fingerprints against immigration and law enforcement records in near real-time.
Laptops and scanners mounted on mobile trolleys are another portable solution used by officers to enrol both fingerprints and facial images in both an online or offline mode. However, as these solutions reach end-of-life, the department is now looking for a “flexible” single device that officers can use to enrol and verify biometrics with an in-house Windows-based application.
A new Windows-based web-application for biometric enrolments is being developed which presents an opportunity to combine the existing mobile capabilities into one new hardware platform. This will provide both enrolment and verification within one device.
According to a request for information, Home Affairs is after up to 200 devices with an in-built camera that can be used in both an online and offline environment, as its existing solutions. The devices will also need to integrate with its existing identity and biometric systems, as well as have the ability to “incorporate a passport reader”.
“A new capability also aims to reduce the number of systems that ABF and the department’s officers need to use for biometric enrolment and verification,” Home Affairs said. The department plans to begin testing possible devices from June 2021.
Border biometrics strategies planned through EU consultation
According to another article, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) has held a meeting with a global consultancy firm to discuss how emerging biometric technologies can facilitate smooth processes at the EU’s external borders.
The meeting saw the discussion and commission of a research study that will be led by the firm and its three subcontracted partners. The project was initially commissioned in December 2020 as part of an open procurement procedure for the provision of a Technology Foresight Research Study on Biometrics for the Future of Travel.
Started in late-January 2021, the project is expected to last up to eight months. During the online meeting, the research team discussed project plans, activities, and expected outcomes, including the development of a tailored foresight methodology and supporting tools, together with a biometrics taxonomy, and experts’ consultation activities.
Following the end of the project, the ensuing technologies will be deployed by Frontex operators, as well as additional partners interested in the application of new biometric tools.
When COVID-19 broke out in some localities, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc asked the National Steering Committee on COVID-19 Prevention and Control, ministries and branches, and provincial and municipal authorities to implement urgent measures to prevent and fight the virus.
He said it was necessary to ask people to install the Bluezone app on their phones and follow the 5K principle: Khau trang (facemasks), Khu khuan (disinfection), Khoang cach (distance), Khong tu tap (no gathering), and Khai bao y te (health declaration).
Bluezone is a Bluetooth, low-energy solution that can be installed on smartphones. The platform, developed by government-owned military group Viettel, can provide services like remote medical consultation, remote surgery consultation, remote training, and remote tech transfers, among others. All Bluezone users are anonymous to others. Only competent health authorities know those who are infected and those who are suspected of infection.
Bluezone will alert a user if they have had close contact with people who have COVID-19, thereby minimising the spread of the virus to the community, helping people return to their normal lives. When there is a new case of infection, the user can learn whether they had close contact with this case or not, simply by accessing Bluezone.
As per a press release, over the past year, the government has emphasised the need to apply technology to effectively deal with the pandemic. The Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC) has applied many informational measures to persuade agencies and units to use Bluezone in the fight against COVID-19, saying that the app, together with other medical declaration apps available in Vietnam, will form an ecosystem that helps to effectively trace the origins of infection.
According to MIC’s Authority of Information Technology Application, as of mid-February this year, there had been more than 29 million installations of Bluezone. The number has increased by 5.5 million compared with late January, the time when a COVID-19 community-transmitted resurgence occurred.
The release noted that Vietnam had not reported any COVID-19 case for around two months until the third outbreak. As a result, many Bluezone users uninstalled the app as they thought they no longer needed it. However, as the virus has reoccurred, the government has said it is necessary to download the app again. Bluezone has helped trace thousands of suspected infection cases. Experts estimate that Bluezone will offer the highest possible effect if 60% of Vietnamese adults use it. They think that it is necessary to require people to install and use Bluezone as a compulsory app at this time to prevent the spread of the virus.
In some localities, people think Bluezone is only a supporting measure to help trace suspected cases that are used with traditional measures. Agencies have complained that they are facing difficulties in tracing sources of infection as many patients remain uncooperative.
The reliance on traditional traceability measures costs money and time and also creates holes in management, increasing the risk of spreading the virus. Experts believe that instead of using Bluezone as only a supportive measure, it should be used as a major solution.
The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) and the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to form a strategic partnership in driving the adoption of emerging technologies in Hong Kong on 22 Feb 2021.
Under the two-year arrangement, HKPC and HKCS will collaborate on talent development, education and promotion for emerging technologies to support the industry demand with a focus in the areas of 5G, artificial intelligence (AI), cloud computing, cybersecurity, data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and robotics.
This collaboration also signals HKPC’s relentless drive to invest in and build technologies that matter for Hong Kong in areas including reindustrialisation, SME and start-up support, intelligent manufacturing, digitalisation and cybersecurity, FutureSkills and smart and green living. HKCS members and local IT professionals will benefit from this collaboration.
The Executive Director of HKPC stated that as an expert in Industry 4.0 and Enterprise 4.0, HKPC has a team of technical professionals with a good grasp of technology research and development and advanced technologies such as IoT, big data analytics, AI and robotics, smart manufacturing. Their professional knowledge and acute technology sense will certainly help achieve more effective use of this collaboration.
The President of HKCS stated that with the continuous expansion of emerging technologies such as 5G and AI, coupled with the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, many enterprises need to accelerate digital transformation to meet actual situation needs.
The signing of the MoU will further strengthen collaboration between both parties, especially in the promotion of the application of emerging technologies. HKPC will set out a framework with HKCS to promote technology training courses organised by HKPC to its members and offer its government funding advisory support through SME ReachOut. HKCS, in turn, will recognise the relevant technology training courses offered by HKPC as continuing professional development activities and share the insights of the skills demand from the industries for HKPC to design training courses.
To mark the launch of the new collaboration, a webinar was held on 22 February 2021 with HKPC and HKCS experts sharing their insights of the Agile approach, intelligent automation and how they could enable enterprises to accelerate digital transformation.
The Hong Kong Productivity Council (HKPC) is a multi-disciplinary organisation established by statute in 1967, to promote productivity excellence through integrated advanced technologies and innovative service offerings to support Hong Kong enterprises.
HKPC is the champion and expert in facilitating Hong Kong’s reindustrialisation empowered by i4.0 and e4.0 – focusing on R&D, IoT, big data analytics, AI and Robotic technology development, digital manufacturing, etc., to help enterprises and industries upgrade their business performance, lower operating costs, increase productivity and enhance competitiveness.
The Council is a trusted partner with comprehensive innovative solutions for Hong Kong industries and enterprises, enabling them to achieve resources and productivity utilisation, effectiveness and cost reduction, and enhanced competitiveness in both local and international marketplace. It offers SMEs and start-ups immediate and timely assistance in coping with the ever-changing business environment, accompanying them on their innovation and transformation journey.
In addition, HKPC partners and collaborates with local industries and enterprises to develop applied technology solutions for value creation. It also benefits a variety of sectors through product innovation and technology transfer, with the commercialisation of multiple market-driven patents and technologies, bringing enormous opportunities abound for licensing and technology transfer, both locally and internationally.
Founded in 1970, the Hong Kong Computer Society (HKCS) is a recognised non-profit professional organisation focused on developing Hong Kong’s Information Technology (IT) profession and industry. Their members come from a broad spectrum of Hong Kong’s IT community, from corporations to like-minded individuals, all coming together to raise the profile and standards of the IT profession and industry.
As a well-established IT professional body, the Society is committed to professional and industry development as well as community services to ensure the IT sector continues to make a positive impact on peoples’ lives with three main goals, namely:
One of the many issues of motor vehicle inspection centres in the Philippines is their difficulty to connect to the online portal of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) which is the Land Transportation Management System (LTMS), according to the set rules by the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and LTO.
Considering this, an international automotive tech company introduced modern equipment that is LTMS or online ready. After a quick test of a car’s vitals, the results are readily transmitted to the LTMS system where it records a pass or fails a result of the examination. A welcome sight for the government’s transportation agency.
This connectivity allows the tech company and LTO speedy resolution of a vehicle testing and drastically reduces the time needed for a motor vehicle inspection online and real-time without human intervention. Much other equipment used by other motor vehicle testing centres does not have this ability to communicate with the LTMS directly resulting in errors. The tech manufacturer has been manufacturing precision measuring equipment for OEM car manufacturers and automotive workshops worldwide for over 100-years. Along with the core competencies of wheel alignment, brake testing, test lanes and headlight testers, the company also offers tire changers, wheel balancers, A/C service equipment, tire diagnosis and lifts.
On the other hand, with the government’s continuous digitalisation efforts, applying for a driver’s licence and registering a car or paying fees in the country is now possible through online procedures. The LTO launched its new website. The portal provides fast and 24/7 access to the agency’s services via computer, tablet or smartphone.
Especially with COVID-19 and the resulting limitations on freedom of movement, the new system presents a significant benefit. After registering, users can apply for their driver’s licence, register their car or make an appointment at one of the LTO branches. Cashless payment, for all fines and fees, is also possible online. This is time and money-saving; the portal’s launch means that many fees will no longer apply.
The new online portal of LTO is combined with LTMS. It includes an Automated Biometric Identification System (ABIS), also from a German tech firm, with face and fingerprint identification, which prevents false or double identities. The new system allows easy integration of services of other government agencies in the country.
To implement LTO’s extensive digital modernisation, the German company also built a complete state-of-the-art data centre in Manila with the capacity of more than 5 petabytes and more than 1 million transactions per day. Accordingly, LTO-Davao is also adopting the latest digital technology, this time in apprehending erring motorists, which is seen as an efficient anti-corruption tool.
LTO-Davao just unveiled a handheld device that will enable traffic enforcers to check the validity of a licence and verify the client with face recognition or fingerprints. LTO-Davao said the device will be distributed to LTO personnel and other deputised agents from different offices such as the City Transport and Traffic Management Office (CTTMO), Highway Patrol Group (HPG), and the Philippine National Police (PNP). Upon apprehension, enforcers will ask the driver for their licence and will scan its unique code, thus making this a convenient tool for both the violators and the enforcers as the violation can be legally settled right away.
He further added that the programme is mandated by the President, instructing all government agencies to have their payment systems online, as stated under Republic Act (RA) 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.
Enterprise Singapore (ESG), Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) and the SG Digital Office (SDO) announced that 10,000 stallholders – more than half of Singapore’s stallholders – have adopted e-payments. 10,000 hawkers using e-payments, with transactions growing four times since June 2020
Transactions volume and value for January 2021 also crossed the 1.2 million and S$14 million mark respectively for the first time. This is a four times increase compared to June 2020, when the Hawkers Go Digital programme first launched. More than 7,400 stallholders have also since received the e-Payment Bonus.
The Hawkers Go Digital programme, launched in June 2020, aims to reach out to and encourage 18,000 stallholders to adopt the Unified e-Payment Solution by June 2021. Stallholders will receive a $300 E-payment Bonus for up to five months, for every month which they achieve at least 20 transactions.
The Government first rolled out the unified e-payment solution for hawker centres (cooked food and market stalls), coffeeshops and industrial canteens operating in government-owned (HDB, JTC and NEA) premises in June 2019. The initiative provides a single, interoperable system, lower merchant discount rate and quicker transaction of credit for stallholders.
The multi-agency effort to drive e-payment adoption among hawkers and stallholders nationwide is led by ESG and IMDA, supported by SDO’s Digital Ambassadors, Housing and Development Board (HDB), JTC Corporation (JTC) and National Environment Agency (NEA).
Extended e-payment bonus
To provide more time for those who have not adopted e-payment to make use of the E-Payment Bonus, the eligibility period has been extended from 31 December 2020 to 31 May 2021.
The bonus complements the government’s efforts to help stallholders adopt e-payment solutions to improve their productivity and to encourage the sustained use of e-payment.
Stallholders will get monthly instalments of $300, if they fulfil at least 20 transactions (of at least $1) each month by 31 May 2021. All applicable bonus will still be paid by 30 June 2021.
Lucky draw campaign extended to encourage more consumers to use e-payments at hawkers
The Hawkers Go Digital “Scan Pay Win” lucky draw campaign that was launched on 1 November 2020 has been extended to 30 April 2021 to encourage more consumers to support stallholders by using e-payment for their purchases.
Safeguarding against fraudulent transactions
IMDA and SDO have collaborated with NETS to enhance the features of the NETSBiz app to make it easier for stallholders to track their payment transactions.
The improvements, to be rolled out progressively from March 2021, will include a bigger font size to make it easier for hawkers to see the transaction from a distance, the use of colour to highlight the latest transaction and a distinct audio alert for incoming transactions that will be loud enough to be heard in a hawker environment.
Even before Covid-19, nations were witnessing a shift in many supply chains, in response to the growing fragmentation of the global system. With the pandemic, countries can expect further reorganisation through reshoring and diversification, to adapt to the rapid advancements in technology and digitalisation.
In this context, having enough engineers and research and development talent will help a nation like Singapore and other neighbouring countries weather the storm whipped by the pandemic. To fill this need, a tech giant officially launched a US$50 million (SG$66 million) research and development centre in Singapore that will drive innovation in computing near where data is located.
The R&D centre, a Global Innovation Hub and one of several in the world, will focus on making advances in digital transformation and experiences. The firm’s investment in the hub, located in International Business Park in Jurong East and Changi Business Park, will also create more than 160 jobs – mostly for Singaporeans – in emerging tech, including for designers, developers and strategists.
While the tech giant has other innovation hubs globally, the Singapore one is the first outside the United States to have an Experience Innovation Group that does R&D to improve user experiences, including conceptualising and developing futuristic concept products and solutions.
One of their flagship techs is called edge computing and is expected to take advantage of the roll-out of 5G mobile networks in the country. Such technology can involve computers or devices like sensors analysing data they collect before uploading selected information or results to a network, called the cloud, to be accessed by users in another location.
The tech company’s President for the Asia Pacific and Japan and Global Digital Cities noted that in the next decade, edge computing is going to dwarf cloud computing or the delivery of computer services and applications over networks. When edge computing becomes more mainstream in the next three to five years, R&D in this space will be driven from Singapore.
Moreover, edge computing will become important in future, especially for smart cities, which the country is also looking to build more on. Among other things, be cheaper to process reams of data where it is being collected and then upload the results. Another area is cloud-native architecture, or software and systems designed specifically to be deployed over a network, which can be used to support building smart nations and to help modernise a workforce. This contrasts with uploading all the collected data to be analysed elsewhere, which can also be difficult if there is a poor or limited network connection.
Besides edge computing, the hub’s R&D areas include augmented reality (AR) to enhance customer experiences, cybersecurity to monitor threats and prevent security incidents, digital analytics, and enhancing user experiences.
Minister for Trade and Industry Chan Chun Sing, who launched the Singapore hub at International Business Park, said that the opening is timely, as it complements Singapore’s efforts to emerge stronger from the Covid-19 pandemic.
He noted that as the pandemic disrupted supply chains globally, the tech firm’s artificial intelligence and analytics team modelled historical demand data from past pandemic events and ramped up consumer hardware supply. This helped them to move stock quickly to fulfil orders for consumers.
While the tech company did not disclose if it received co-funding from the Government, it said the Singapore Global Innovation Hub is supported by Digital Industry Singapore, a joint office of the Economic Development Board, Enterprise Singapore and Infocomm Media Development Authority that engages with the tech sector.
Accordingly, Deputy Prime Minister Heng Swee Keat said that innovative ventures sprouting across the corporate landscape will provide crucial support to the country’s economic recovery. He also added that the challenge is to find creative ways to find synergies between the capabilities of these large corporates with the fresh and creative ideas of start-ups to create successful new ventures for the country.
Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) collaborated with the Hospital Authority (HA) for the first time to organise the AI Challenge to provide innovators with a co-creation opportunity to develop AI-related solutions to address industry needs.
Under the theme of “Identifying Surgical Instrument”, contestants were required to devise machine learning models to identify, locate and count surgical instruments going into and out of hospitals’ operating theatres in the competition.
The performance of different AI models was evaluated according to the pre-defined Performance Metrics. This contest attracted more than 50 entries from local and overseas tech companies, of which 11 finalists were selected to submit their AI models. On top of receiving multi-cloud credits, the top teams were connected with HA to explore collaboration opportunities in the development of smart hospital solutions to enhance the quality of medical services in Hong Kong.
The winner of the event was a member of HKSTP’s Science and Technology Entrepreneur (STEP) Programme and AI PLUG. They beat other finalists to be crowned the overall champion and the winner in ‘Localisation Accuracy’ and ‘Classification Accuracy’.
Meanwhile, Dr Crystal Fok, Director at the AIR Platform and Precision Engineering, HKSTP presented a certificate to an IT support services provider in Hong Kong which got the overall first runner-up in the Challenge. Another member of HKSTP’s Incu-Tech Programme and AI PLUG was the overall second runner-up and came first in ‘Counting Accuracy’.
According to recent market research, Artificial intelligence (AI) in the drug discovery market is expected to gain market growth in the forecast period of 2020 to 2027. Research by a leading market analysis firm found that the sector is expected to account to US$3,932.87 million by 2027 growing at a CAGR of 40.5% in the above-mentioned forecast period.
The growing awareness amongst physicians and patients regarding the benefits of Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been directly impacting the growth of the market.
Increasing need to reduce cost and drug discovery along with reducing time, growth of pharmaceutical industries by collaborations with other industries, adoption of cloud-based services and applications, delay in patent expiry are some of the factors that will enhance the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery market in the forecast period of 2020-2027.
On the other hand, the expansion of biotechnology industries will further create new and ample opportunities for the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in the drug discovery market in the above-mentioned forecast period. Unavailability of skilled labour and lack of data sets are acting as market challenges for the growth of artificial intelligence (AI) in drug discovery in the above-mentioned forecast period.
Another article noted that the hunt for new medicines has often been more like a game of roulette than high-end science. But now the pharmaceutical sector is on the cusp of a transformation, as it delves into cutting-edge technology to come up with new treatments for diseases such as cancer, rheumatoid arthritis and Alzheimer’s.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is set to improve the industry’s success rates and speed up drug discovery, potentially saving it billions of dollars, according to a recent survey by a global analytics firm. AI topped a list of technologies seen as having the greatest impact on the sector this year. Almost 100 partnerships have been struck between AI specialists and large pharma companies for drug discovery since 2015.
The Director of the Centre for Health Solutions at a leading accounting and consultancy group stated that drug discovery is being transformed through the use of AI, which is reducing the time it takes to mine the vast amounts of scientific data to enable a better understanding of disease mechanisms and identify new potential drug candidates.