Digitalisation is being rapidly accelerated across different all sectors of industry and comprehensively across business operations, including marketing, sales, logistics, and customer service. Organisations are now more open than ever to the use of innovative technologies to achieve their strategic business goals post-pandemic.
New Zealand is no exception to this trend and, in many cases, is leading it. While the COVID-induced recession initially derailed the nation’s economic recovery, New Zealand has managed to rebound sharply from its biggest economic slump and is set to make an entry into 2021 on a strong footing. The government believes that the economy has weathered the virus storm better than expected despite a GDP contraction of 12.2% in the June quarter.
A recently conducted survey of 608 business leaders of small to medium-sized (SME) companies in the country gave deeper insights into this phenomena.
Businesses experienced increased digital interaction with 72% seeing increased website traffic since the start of the crisis. Close to three-quarters of businesses from the survey said they have registered significant website traffic from new regions. Virtual platforms and solutions have led to a more diverse customer base, with 74% of businesses reporting that 50% or more of new traffic comes from areas or nations where they had not operated earlier.
This insight supports data from the New Zealand Post in a study of eCommerce trends. Among a range of statistics showing increases in eCommerce activity, it was found that much of this growth came from regional anomalous regions.
New Zealand Post acknowledged that 2020 started strong for online retailers, with constant sales growth in the first quarter even in the face of concern around the pandemic. A small decline at the start of lockdown was reversed with overall online sales witnessing a massive increase during Alert Levels 4 and 3. By May 2020, nearly 1.5m Kiwis were shopping online, 28% more than in May 2019. Interestingly many of these shoppers came from regional areas like Taranaki, Northland and Gisborne: areas that have traditionally been slower to embrace online shopping.
Businesses are progressively relying on tech to remain sustainable and achieve meet both short and long-term goals. While overall 89% of businesses believe they have been successful transitioning to digital environments, particularly when it comes to using social media and websites to interact with customers, they have also encountered challenges along the way. Only just over a quarter of businesses showed they have been “very successful” engaging with their customers digitally, while 62% feel “somewhat successful” in doing so. However, respondents also said there were challenges while moving their businesses away from traditional models to digital platforms.
The top struggles were upgrading and implementing new software (73%) and training employees to use it (72%). Additionally, 73% of local businesses found software implementation to be a major challenge in their digital transformation journey. Fewer than half of businesses (45%) feel that they would have failed without a pandemic-driven investment in digital technologies. But looking ahead to the future, 70% of organisations said they need to keep investing in digital systems to keep up with their competitors.
While there are several areas of focus in the transformation journey, the top five areas where digital upskilling was seen most critical were in the next six months were:
- Website and app development (44%)
- Project management (39%)
- Social media marketing (35%)
- Cybersecurity (32%)
- Business intelligence/Data analytics (29%)
Seven intelligent robots have been installed in the wards of Yishun Community Hospital (YCH) to welcome patients and bring supplies to the bedside. These brand-new Temi Robots, known as Angel, were introduced to support nursing care so that nurses could focus their time and energy on clinical tasks while still giving patients a personal and meaningful touch.
These robots are loaded with patient education materials that patients and their caregivers can easily access, in addition to providing announcements and reminders throughout the day in all four major languages.
They also have a variety of features like games and entertainment, teleconference tools, and translation capabilities. YCH hopes to further improve patient engagement and satisfaction in its wards with the new addition.
A pilot project using Nao Robots was also used by YCH in previous years to assist dementia patients in their rehabilitation. Robot Therapy, which was started by the staff at YCH in 2018, is now a part of the therapy-related services offered there.
YCH, which is conceived of as a healing space for patients, offers intermediate care for recovering patients who do not require the intensive care services of an acute-care hospital. With rehabilitation and therapy at the heart of the hospital’s mission, the team was eager to investigate the potential of the innovation, Robot Therapy.
Because they can perform a wide range of tasks with little to no value added, hospital robots offer a reliable solution, freeing up doctors, nurses, and surgeons to focus on more high-value work. Robots have become an integral part of the healthcare industry, with many hospitals now using them to perform both surgical and administrative tasks.
In addition, prior to the arrival of Nao Robots in Singapore, a few local nursing homes used Paro, a robot that mimics the appearance, movement, and sounds of a baby seal. The therapeutic robot seal’s use is like animal therapy in that the robot helps to calm elderly people who have dementia or a loss of cognitive function.
The Nao robot, on the other hand, came with higher expectations: it can express emotions like laughter or sadness during interactions; it can interact and communicate with patients in different languages; and it has optic, audio, and impact sensors and motors to detect surroundings, interpret detection, and activate programmed responses.
Various interaction and language modes can be programmed into the Nao robot. The YCH Robot Therapy team took advantage of this by incorporating the robot into specific therapy sessions. This increased efficiency freed up nursing time, which could then be used for other care activities. Nao robot therapy sessions were trialled with 48 patients from the Dementia ward in October 2018.
Patients with Behavioural and Psychological Symptoms of Dementia (BPSD) require more care and attention, so this was chosen as the pilot ward. By introducing the Nao robot, YCH has increased patient engagement, motivate them to engage in social activities, and shorten the time required for social activities so that caregivers could concentrate on other care-related tasks.
The implementation process was divided into three stages: training staff, selecting suitable patients and assessing seniors who participated in the Robot Therapy programme using the Observed Emotion Rating Scale.
Singhealth asserts that the COVID-19 pandemic, which hastened the adoption of these solutions and accelerated the digital transformation of healthcare systems globally, has sparked a tremendous interest in digital technology and virtual health solutions.
A group of clinician innovators from SingHealth sought to ascertain whether digital interventions are more affordable and provide patients with greater value and benefits in anticipation of this continuing upward trend, and they discovered that this may not always be the case for some eye conditions.
Officially launched on 29 November 2022, the ANU School of Cybernetics provides unrivalled teaching and research that pioneers a new approach to engineering and technology design. School Director, ANU Distinguished Professor Genevieve Bell, noted that the School nurtures and trains a new generation of critical thinkers and practitioners who can navigate an increasingly complex world and who are committed to ensuring safe, sustainable, and responsible technology futures.
She said the new School’s leadership is working hard to help transform the way society engages with technology. Their aim is to help ensure that everyone can participate in building the future. And they are working to find new ways to think about and talk about the role of technology in our lives. The ANU School of Cybernetics is dedicated to helping lead and enrich this vital conversation.
The School and its curriculum draw on the rich history of cybernetics globally and reimagine it for the 21st-century challenges. The goal is to make sure major societal transformations can be successfully navigated.
The ANU School of Cybernetics offers the Master of Applied Cybernetics, a PhD program that recruits students as a cohort, and a series of microlearning experiences for organisations, communities, and individuals.
The School’s research program investigates how emerging cyber-physical, technological systems – such as robotics, digital voice assistants, and autonomous systems – operate across a range of settings and sectors including the creative industries, marine sciences, agriculture, and climate change research.
Distinguished Professor Bell said another key focus of the School was examining who is building and managing our AI-enabled future. There is a need to develop the ability to respond quickly to changing situations and complex systems and many, diverse voices must be involved in making those decisions and building new knowledge, she said.
The last few years have shown that better stories about the future need to be told; stories that are more equitable, fair, and just, and that, equally, more work needs to be present to make those stories not just possible but true.
To help launch the School, an inaugural curated exhibition featuring more than 100 historical and contemporary pieces is on display until 2 December in the award-winning Birch Building on the ANU campus.
From the world’s first computer graphics, animations, special effects, and electronic music, Australian Cybernetic: a point through time explores 50 years of technology and creativity in computing that have influenced the technology, cinema, gaming, and television we know today.
The collection of interactive, immersive, and provocative creations also includes an Emmy Award-winning virtual reality film; an acclaimed installation examining the resources, human labour, and algorithmic processing of a virtual assistant technology system; and a kinetic sculpture named ‘Albert’ that has been delighting audiences for 54 years, among many other displays.
The cybernetic futures lead at the School said the exhibition speaks firmly to the School’s approach of observing the past to help shape a course for the role of technologies in today’s world. He noted that for the first time, historic, contemporary, and conceptual cybernetic works are being brought together in a unique exhibition. People are invited to take a tour through time and learn about the history of technology and art and how this contributed to cybernetics and the multimedia, tech and music enjoyed today.
The Indian Space Research Organisation’s (ISRO) Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) has launched nine satellites, including eight nanosatellites, into space from the first launch pad at the Satish Dhawan Space Centre in Andhra Pradesh.
The 44-metre-long rocket’s primary payload is the Earth Observation Satellite-6 (EOS-6) or Oceansat-3, a third-generation satellite to monitor oceans. It is a follow up to OceanSat-1 or IRS-P4 and OceanSat-2 launched in 1999 and 2009, respectively. Oceansat-3 will provide data about ocean colour, sea surface temperature, and wind vector data for oceanography, climatology, and meteorological applications.
The Oceansat-3 was placed in the polar orbit at a height of about 740 kilometres above sea level. While it weighs approximately 1,100 kilogrammes, which is only slightly heavier than Oceansat-1, for the first time in this series, it houses three ocean observing sensors. These include an Ocean Colour Monitor (OCM-3), Sea Surface Temperature Monitor (SSTM), and Ku-Band scatterometer (SCAT-3). There is also an ARGOS payload, a press release mentioned.
The OCM-3, with a high signal-to-noise ratio, is expected to improve accuracy in the daily monitoring of phytoplankton. This has a wide range of operational and research applications including fishery resource management, ocean carbon uptake, harmful algal bloom alerts, and climate studies. The SSTM will provide ocean surface temperature, which is a critical ocean parameter to provide various forecasts ranging from fish aggregation to cyclone genesis and movement. Temperature is a key parameter required to monitor the health of the coral reefs, and if needed, to provide coral bleaching alerts. The Ku-Band Pencil beam scatterometre will provide a high-resolution wind vector (speed and direction) at the ocean surface, which will be useful for seafarers, including fishermen and shipping companies. Data regarding temperature and wind is also particularly important for ocean and weather models to improve their forecast accuracies.
ARGOS is a communication payload jointly developed with France and it is used for low-power (energy-efficient) communications including marine robotic floats (Argo floats), fish-tags, drifters, and distress alert devices valuable in search and rescue operations.
The Minister of State (Independent Charge) for Science and Technology, Jitendra Singh, stated that ISRO will continue to maintain the orbit of the satellite and its standard procedures for data reception and archiving. Major operational users of this satellite include Ministry of Earth Sciences (MoEs) institutions such as the Indian National Centre for Ocean Information Services (INCOIS) and the National Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasting (NCMRWF).
INCOIS has also established a state-of-the-art satellite data reception ground station within its campus with technical support from the National Remote Sensing Centre (ISRO-NRSC). Singh asserted that ocean observations such as this will serve as a solid foundation for India’s blue economy and polar region policies. A representative from MoES noted that the launch of Oceansat-3 is significant as it is the first major ocean satellite launch from India since the initiation of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (UNDOSSD, 2021-2030).
The Indian Space Research Organisation is the national space agency of India, headquartered in Bengaluru. It operates under the Department of Space, which is overseen by the country’s Prime Minister.
Astronomers from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) have completely automated the classification of 1,000 supernovae using a machine-learning (ML) algorithm. The Zwicky Transient Facility, or ZTF, a sky survey instrument located at Caltech’s Palomar Observatory, collected data that the algorithm was then used to analyse.
“We needed a helping hand, and we knew that once we trained our computers to do the job, they would take a big load off our backs,” says Christoffer Fremling, a staff astronomer at Caltech and the mastermind behind the new algorithm tagged as SNIascore.
A year and a half after SNIascore classified its first supernova in April 2021, they are approaching the pleasant milestone of 1,000 supernovae. Every night, ZTF scans the night sky for alterations known as transient events. This covers everything, from asteroids in motion to recently devoured stars by black holes to exploding stars known as supernovae.
ZTF notifies astronomers worldwide of these transient events by sending out hundreds of thousands of alerts each night. Other telescopes are then used by astronomers to monitor and learn more about the nature of the shifting objects. Thousands of supernovae have so far been found thanks to ZTF data.
Members of the ZTF team cannot organise all the data on their own due to the constant flow of data that comes in every night. According to Matthew Graham, project scientist for ZTF and research professor of astronomy at Caltech, “the traditional notion of an astronomer sitting at the observatory and sieving through telescope images carries a lot of romanticism but is drifting away from reality.”
Instead, to help with the searches, the team has created ML algorithms. SNIascore was created to categorise potential supernovae. There are two main categories of supernovae: Type I and Type II. In contrast to Type II supernovae, Type I supernovae are devoid of hydrogen.
When material from a companion star flows onto a white dwarf star, causing a thermonuclear explosion, a Type I supernova is produced. When a massive star collapses due to its own gravity, a Type II supernova happens. Type Ia supernovae, or the “standard candles” in the sky, can be classified by SNIascore. These are dying stars that explode with a steady-state thermonuclear blast.
Astronomers can gauge the universe’s expansion rate thanks to Type Ia supernovae. Fremling and colleagues are currently expanding the algorithm’s capabilities to classify additional types of supernovae soon.
Every night, after ZTF has recorded sky flashes that may be supernovae, it sends the data to the SEDM spectrograph at Palomar, which is in a dome a short distance away (Spectral Energy Distribution Machine).
To determine which supernovae are likely Type Ias, SNIascore collaborates with SEDM. As a result, the ZTF team is working quickly to compile a more trustworthy data set of supernovae that will allow astronomers to conduct additional research and, ultimately, learn more about the physics of the potent stellar explosions.
“SNIascore is incredibly precise. We have observed the performance of the algorithm in the real world after 1,000 supernovae” says Fremling. Since the initial launch in April 2021, they have found no clearly misclassified events, and they are now planning to implement the same algorithm with other observing facilities.
According to Ashish Mahabal, who oversees ZTF’s machine learning initiatives and is the centre’s lead computational and data scientist at Caltech, their work demonstrates how ML applications are maturing in near real-time astronomy.
The SNIascore was created as part of the ZTF’s Bright Transient Survey (BTS), which is currently the most comprehensive supernova survey available to the astronomical community. The entire BTS dataset contains nearly 7000 supernovae, 90 per cent of which were discovered and classified by ZTF while the remaining 10 per cent were contributed by other groups and facilities.
A Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU) collaborative research team has synthesised a nanoparticle named TRZD that can perform the dual function of diagnosing and treating glioma in the brain. It emits persistent luminescence for the diagnostic imaging of glioma tissues in vivo and inhibits the growth of tumour cells by aiding the targeted delivery of chemotherapy drugs.
The nanoparticle offers hope for the early diagnosis and treatment of glioma, especially cerebellar glioma, which is even harder to detect and cure with existing methods. The research results have been published in Science Advances, an international scientific journal.
Limitations of existing diagnostic and therapeutic approaches
Glioma is the most common form of malignant primary brain tumour, accounting for roughly one-third of all brain tumours. While magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is commonly used to diagnose glioma, the technology lacks sensitivity. Cerebellar glioma, a relatively rare brain tumour, is even harder to detect with MRI. To facilitate early detection and treatment, an alternative method with improved sensitivity and precision is needed to diagnose glioma.
A chemotherapy agent called Doxorubicin is an effective treatment for glioma. However, its application may also damage normal cells, and it is associated with a range of side effects. To enhance doxorubicin’s clinical efficacy and minimise its side effects, a novel approach is needed to apply the drug to tumour cells in a more targeted manner.
In response to the diagnostic and therapeutic needs of glioma, a research team co-led by Dr Wang Yi, Assistant Professor of the Department of Chemistry at HKBU, and Professor Law Ga-lai, Professor of the Department of Applied Biology and Chemical Technology at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, has synthesised a novel near-infrared (NIR) persistent luminescence nanoparticle called TRZD, which can play a dual role in diagnostic imaging and as a drug carrier for glioma.
An imaging probe for glioma diagnosis
The research team evaluated the efficacy of TRZ (i.e., TRZD without doxorubicin) in diagnostic imaging for glioma with a mouse model. First, TRZ particles were excited by UV light to initiate luminescence. Mice with tumour tissues injected into their cerebrum and cerebellum were then treated with TRZ. Over the next 24 hours, TRZ luminescence was detected at the tumour sites of the mice.
However, when the same experiment was conducted with TRZ without T7 peptides, and TRZ without both the red blood cell membrane coating and T7 peptides, no luminescence was detected at the tumour sites of the mice. The results show that the red blood cell membrane coating can prolong the function of TRZ by stabilising the nanoparticle, and it can slow down its natural uptake by the human body.
The research team further evaluated the anti-tumour efficacy of TRZD using a group of mice who had had their cerebrum and cerebellum injected with tumour tissues.
After applying TRZD for 15 days, the average diameter of their tumours was reduced to 1 mm. They also survived 20 days longer on average compared to the control group, who had not received TRZD. Besides, cell death was observed in the tumour region but not in normal brain tissue.
The results indicate that TRZD’s therapeutic effect on glioma has good selectivity because doxorubicin is brought specifically to tumour cells due to T7 peptide’s strong affinity with tumour cells’ surface receptors and its ability to penetrate the blood-brain barrier. As a result, doxorubicin can be applied in a more targeted manner, and hopefully, its side effects can be minimised with reduced drug dosage.
The team concluded that the nanotechnology demonstrates promising potential, and it could be developed into a new generation of anti-glioma drugs that can perform the dual function of diagnosis and treatment. It also offers hope for the development of treatment protocols for other brain diseases.
The Vietnam Information Security Association (VNISA) surveyed 135 organisations and enterprises in Vietnam on ensuring information security. One out of every four organisations and businesses have had their systems interrupted or attacked in 2022, while 76% of organisations and businesses lack sufficient staff for information security.
The information was revealed by former Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Information and Communications (MIC), Nguyen Thanh Hung, who is chair of VNISA, during a plenary session at an international workshop during the Vietnam 2022 Information Security Day.
The survey found that 58% of organisations have doubts about technology and 47% about security holes. Around 68% of organisations and businesses said they still don’t have enough money to invest in information security annually. At the workshop, Tran Dang Khoa, the Deputy Head of the Authority of Information Security, said that in the last 11 months, the agency has recognised, warned, and instructed companies on how to handle 11,212 cyberattacks. The number of information systems in accordance with the new levels accounts for 54.8%. One of the key tasks of the agency in 2023 is submitting information to the Prime Minister for the issuance of a directive on legal compliance and security.
The workshop was sponsored by MIC and organised by VNISA and MIC and addressed “safe” digital transformation. MIC’s Deputy Minister, Nguyen Huy Dung, stated that ensuring safety in cyberspace is the task of all agencies, units, and people. Dung stressed that digital transformation is a national long-term programme. It means bringing people’s and businesses’ activities into a digital environment. It is necessary to protect more than 3,000 information systems of the state’s agencies, as well as activities in cyberspace of nearly one million businesses, five million business households, 26 million households, and 100 million people.
Dung noted that ensuring safe cyberspace and safety for organisations and people in cyberspace is the responsibility of all agencies, organisations, and people, with the principle ‘like cyberspace, like the real world’. The agencies in charge of certain fields in real life will also be in charge of those fields in the virtual environment, he said.
In October, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh issued Directive No. 18/CT-TTg on accelerating the implementation of activities to respond to cybersecurity incidents in Vietnam. The directive states that the government will pay more attention to reviewing, detecting, and fixing vulnerabilities and weaknesses. It will proactively monitor and detect any network information insecurity risks to promptly handle incidents. It will strictly implement regulations on reporting online information security incidents.
As OpenGov Asia reported, the directive describes cybersecurity as an important, cross-cutting pillar in the creation of digital trust. Its promotion will protect the country’s prosperous development in the digital era as the country attempts comprehensive national digital transformation. Chinh urged stakeholders to thoroughly grasp the contents of the Directive and devise measures to address and timely handle cybersecurity incidents. Stakeholders include ministers and heads of ministerial-level agencies, among others.
At the recently held 3rd Joint Implementation Committee (JIC) meeting, the Ministry of Communications and Information (MCI) and Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA) announced the signing of eight (8) Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) and unveiled fourteen (14) new joint projects underneath the Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative (SCI).
The Singapore-China (Shenzhen) Smart City Initiative, inaugurated in 2019, has strengthened the digital and commercial ties between Singapore and Shenzhen, according to Joseph Leong, co-chair of the JIC and Permanent Secretary for Communications and Information. Both parties have worked hard to improve SCI as a powerful platform for digital innovation, smart city collaboration, and business and people exchanges during the past three years, despite the challenges of the epidemic.
Singapore and Shenzhen will actively create a suitable business environment for enterprises to innovate and undertake cross-border transactions safely and smoothly as they build economic recovery and resilience. As the SCI enters its third year of implementation, the meeting reported doubling the number of new cooperative initiatives compared to the prior year.
These new initiatives will strengthen the existing Singapore-Shenzhen partnership in fostering digital transformation and policy innovation and open new commercial and employment prospects in the fields of research and innovation, trade, sustainability, and talent development. In the past year, one of the most important areas of collaboration has been the ease of digital trade using electronic Bills of Lading (eBLs).
After evaluating the outcomes of successful technical trade trials over the previous year, IMDA and Shenzhen’s Bureau of Commerce are prepared to extend IMDA’s TradeTrust pilot with actual business transactions involving banks, shippers, and other partners. This would open the door for the complete digitalization of the trade supply chain and benefit the ecosystem by enabling quicker and more secure digital trade transactions.
IMDA has also expanded its relationship with TusStar, a major Chinese technological incubator with a network of over 10,000 enterprises. TusStar will develop its network in the fields of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality, and sensor technologies in the next phase, as well as strengthen its regional presence in Southeast Asia by instituting hub operations in Singapore. This collaboration will introduce technology start-ups from Singapore, Shenzhen, and other Chinese cities to new markets in the region.
The 14 new cooperative projects demonstrate digital technologies’ revolutionary significance throughout the SCI’s key areas of digital connection, talent exchange and development, innovation, and entrepreneurship.
Notable initiatives include the application of sophisticated technology and artificial intelligence (AI) for the green economy and sustainability, such as lowering carbon dioxide emissions and improving battery management for electric vehicles.
SCI has so far begun 29 projects and signed 21 memorandums of understanding. This strong momentum in the SCI partnership demonstrates Singapore and Shenzhen’s leadership in digital economy development, as well as the possibility for SCI’s innovative projects to be scaled to more cities in the Greater Bay Area and Southeast Asia.
By creating a thriving digital economy and an inclusive digital society, IMDA guides Singapore’s digital transformation. As the “Architects of Singapore’s Digital Future,” the agency works to make Singapore a digital metropolis by promoting growth in the Infocomm technology and media industries alongside progressive policies, utilising cutting-edge technologies, and building local talent and digital infrastructure ecosystems.