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Banks need to strike the right balance for digital transformation

MIT Technology Review

Every financial institution is looking to digital transformation to meet rising customer expectations for speed and convenience, lower its operating cost, and fend off competition, including from tech companies moving into financial services. Some are spending over 10% of yearly revenue on technology investments, according to Bloomberg. "This is a huge investment and most financial institutions cannot support this for the long term," says Michael Fei, SME banking CEO at OneConnect Financial Technology, an associate of Ping An Insurance. The covid-19 pandemic has revealed how even financial institutions that considered themselves digitally advanced are, in reality, still wedded to analog processes along the chain of processing. "For many financial institutions, this has been a wake-up call," says Fei. "In the past, many had thought that if they have an online portal and a mobile application then that's enough. But now they've realized it's not. Some banks have online portals and mobile apps where you can apply for loans, but they still need to send items to the customer and carry out on-site inspection before they can process the loans, which hasn't been possible during covid. Banks have had to reshape and redesign the whole process of their lending products."


Quantum internet signals beamed between drones a kilometre apart

New Scientist

Entangled photons have been sent between two drones hovering a kilometre apart, demonstrating technology that could form the building blocks of a quantum internet. When a pair of photons are quantum entangled, you can instantly deduce the state of one by measuring the other, regardless of the distance separating them. This phenomenon, which Albert Einstein dismissively called "spooky action at a distance", is the basis of quantum encryption – using entangled particles to ensure communications are secret. Quantum networks are far more secure than the existing internet because any attempt to eavesdrop changes the state of the photons, alerting the recipient to foul play. Entangled photons have been transported more than 1000 kilometres in tests between a satellite and ground stations before, but now Zhenda Xie at Nanjing University in China and his colleagues have shown that links can be made over shorter distances with relatively inexpensive hardware.


One, two, tree: how AI helped find millions of trees in the Sahara

The Guardian

When a team of international scientists set out to count every tree in a large swathe of west Africa using AI, satellite images and one of the world's most powerful supercomputers, their expectations were modest. Previously, the area had registered as having little or no tree cover. The biggest surprise, says Martin Brandt, assistant professor of geography at the University of Copenhagen, is that the part of the Sahara that the study covered, roughly 10%, "where no one would expect to find many trees", actually had "quite a few hundred million". Trees are crucial to our long-term survival, as they absorb and store the carbon dioxide emissions that cause global heating. But we still do not know how many there are.


Transmission heterogeneities, kinetics, and controllability of SARS-CoV-2

Science

A minority of people infected with severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) transmit most infections. How does this happen? Sun et al. reconstructed transmission in Hunan, China, up to April 2020. Such detailed data can be used to separate out the relative contribution of transmission control measures aimed at isolating individuals relative to population-level distancing measures. The authors found that most of the secondary transmissions could be traced back to a minority of infected individuals, and well over half of transmission occurred in the presymptomatic phase. Furthermore, the duration of exposure to an infected person combined with closeness and number of household contacts constituted the greatest risks for transmission, particularly when lockdown conditions prevailed. These findings could help in the design of infection control policies that have the potential to minimize both virus transmission and economic strain. Science , this issue p. [eabe2424][1] ### INTRODUCTION The role of transmission heterogeneities in severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) dynamics remains unclear, particularly those heterogeneities driven by demography, behavior, and interventions. To understand individual heterogeneities and their effect on disease control, we analyze detailed contact-tracing data from Hunan, a province in China adjacent to Hubei and one of the first regions to experience a SARS-CoV-2 outbreak in January to March 2020. The Hunan outbreak was swiftly brought under control by March 2020 through a combination of nonpharmaceutical interventions including population-level mobility restriction (i.e., lockdown), traveler screening, case isolation, contact tracing, and quarantine. In parallel, highly detailed epidemiological information on SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals and their close contacts was collected by the Hunan Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention. ### RATIONALE Contact-tracing data provide information to reconstruct transmission chains and understand outbreak dynamics. These data can in turn generate valuable intelligence on key epidemiological parameters and risk factors for transmission, which paves the way for more-targeted and cost-effective interventions. ### RESULTS On the basis of epidemiological information and exposure diaries on 1178 SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals and their 15,648 close contacts, we developed a series of statistical and computational models to stochastically reconstruct transmission chains, identify risk factors for transmission, and infer the infectiousness profile over the course of a typical infection. We observe overdispersion in the distribution of secondary infections, with 80% of secondary cases traced back to 15% of infections, which indicates substantial transmission heterogeneities. We find that SARS-CoV-2 transmission risk scales positively with the duration of exposure and the closeness of social interactions, with the highest per-contact risk estimated in the household. Lockdown interventions increase transmission risk in families and households, whereas the timely isolation of infected individuals reduces risk across all types of contacts. There is a gradient of increasing susceptibility with age but no significant difference in infectivity by age or clinical severity. Early isolation of SARS-CoV-2–infected individuals drastically alters transmission kinetics, leading to shorter generation and serial intervals and a higher fraction of presymptomatic transmission. After adjusting for the censoring effects of isolation, we find that the infectiousness profile of a typical SARS-CoV-2 patient peaks just before symptom onset, with 53% of transmission occurring in the presymptomatic phase in an uncontrolled setting. We then use these results to evaluate the effectiveness of individual-based strategies (case isolation and contact quarantine) both alone and in combination with population-level contact reductions. We find that a plausible parameter space for SARS-CoV-2 control is restricted to scenarios where interventions are synergistically combined, owing to the particular transmission kinetics of this virus. ### CONCLUSION There is considerable heterogeneity in SARS-CoV-2 transmission owing to individual differences in biology and contacts that is modulated by the effects of interventions. We estimate that about half of secondary transmission events occur in the presymptomatic phase of a primary case in uncontrolled outbreaks. Achieving epidemic control requires that isolation and contact-tracing interventions are layered with population-level approaches, such as mask wearing, increased teleworking, and restrictions on large gatherings. Our study also demonstrates the value of conducting high-quality contact-tracing investigations to advance our understanding of the transmission dynamics of an emerging pathogen. ![Figure][2] Transmission chains, contact patterns, and transmission kinetics of SARS-CoV-2 in Hunan, China, based on case and contact-tracing data from Hunan, China. (Top left) One realization of the reconstructed transmission chains, with a histogram representing overdispersion in the distribution of secondary infections. (Top right) Contact matrices of community, social, extended family, and household contacts reveal distinct age profiles. (Bottom) Earlier isolation of primary infections shortens the generation and serial intervals while increasing the relative contribution of transmission in the presymptomatic phase. A long-standing question in infectious disease dynamics concerns the role of transmission heterogeneities, which are driven by demography, behavior, and interventions. On the basis of detailed patient and contact-tracing data in Hunan, China, we find that 80% of secondary infections traced back to 15% of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) primary infections, which indicates substantial transmission heterogeneities. Transmission risk scales positively with the duration of exposure and the closeness of social interactions and is modulated by demographic and clinical factors. The lockdown period increases transmission risk in the family and households, whereas isolation and quarantine reduce risks across all types of contacts. The reconstructed infectiousness profile of a typical SARS-CoV-2 patient peaks just before symptom presentation. Modeling indicates that SARS-CoV-2 control requires the synergistic efforts of case isolation, contact quarantine, and population-level interventions because of the specific transmission kinetics of this virus. [1]: /lookup/doi/10.1126/science.abe2424 [2]: pending:yes


Samsung launches new flagship Galaxy S21 range

Daily Mail - Science & tech

Samsung has unveiled its latest range of flagship smartphones, with three models ranging in price from £769 ($799) to £1,149 ($1,199). The S21 range from the South Korean tech giant features an entry-level model, the mid-range Plus, and the Ultra – which is the first S Series phone to be compatible with the Samsung's S-Pen stylus. The stand-out feature on all three devices is the upgraded rear camera system, which was heavily leaked ahead of today's announcement and features night and portrait mode as well as its 100x'space zoom'. Pre-orders of the handsets open today, and the phones will be available as of January 29. The Ultra also comes with S-pen compatibility, the first Galaxy device to do so.


These five AI developments will shape 2021 and beyond

MIT Technology Review

The year 2020 was profoundly challenging for citizens, companies, and governments around the world. As covid-19 spread, requiring far-reaching health and safety restrictions, artificial intelligence (AI) applications played a crucial role in saving lives and fostering economic resilience. Research and development (R&D) to enhance core AI capabilities, from autonomous driving and natural language processing to quantum computing, continued unabated. Baidu was at the forefront of many important AI breakthroughs in 2020. This article outlines five significant advances with implications for combating covid-19 as well as transforming the future of our economies and society.


Archive review – anyone for a posthuman wife? She comes with an off switch

The Guardian

British illustrator and visual-effects director Gavin Rothery makes his feature debut with this artificial intelligence thriller: a tale of love, death and robotics that has some nicely creepy moments. Set in 2038, it centres on lonely computer scientist George Almore (Divergent's Theo James), who is holed up in a remote research facility in Japan secretly working on an android version of his wife Jules (Stacy Martin); she has died in a car crash. His prototype, J3 (also played by Martin), is his closest yet to the real thing: a highly advanced humanoid with spookily pale skin who looks like she might be the ghost of his dead wife. Poor old J1 and J2, his earlier, clunkier prototypes: they look on bitterly as the newer, sleeker model gets all George's attention. The movie opens with sweeping helicopter shots over a snowy forest.


PC Giant Lenovo Plans China Listing, Sending Stock Soaring

WSJ.com: WSJD - Technology

Lenovo Group Ltd. is capitalizing on two booming markets, Chinese stocks and the global PC industry, to list in Shanghai. The company is the world's largest maker of personal computers and is well-known for acquiring IBM's ThinkPad unit and the Motorola Mobility smartphone business. The news that Lenovo would join the STAR Market, China's answer to the Nasdaq, boosted its Hong Kong-traded shares, which on Wednesday hit their highest level since 2015. A series of Chinese technology companies have recently listed in mainland China or in Hong Kong, amid heightened tensions with the U.S. Beijing has also encouraged companies to join the fledgling STAR Market, also known as the Science and Technology Innovation Board, by introducing more relaxed listing rules and other requirements compared with other Chinese markets. Lenovo and Megvii Technology Ltd., an artificial-intelligence startup specializing in facial recognition, will be among the first companies to make use of a structure known as a Chinese depositary receipt to raise funds.


M1 to tap Nokia in 5G standalone network deployment

ZDNet

M1 will roll Nokia's Core platform as it prepares to launch its 5G standalone network later this year. The move is touted to provide machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities that will enable the Singapore telco to tailor its 5G services for industrial use cases. This could include applications such as unmanned aerial or road vehicles, wireless e-health, digital banking, and smart manufacturing, said Nokia in a statement Wednesday. The Finnish network equipment vendor added that its "cloud-native" Core software would deliver the scalability and flexibility M1 needed to deliver 5G network services, such as online games and immersive experience applications. Third-party application developers also would be able to connect to M1's 5G standalone network to improve 5G roaming services.


Japan considers vehicle-mounted laser to ward off drone attacks

The Japan Times

The Defense Ministry will begin research on ways to ward off drone attacks by using vehicle-mounted laser, according to informed sources. By mounting laser equipment on vehicles, the ministry aims to raise the mobility of the system. The ministry included ¥2.8 billion in research spending in its budget for fiscal 2021. It aims to establish related technology as early as fiscal 2024 and put it into practical use at an early date. In fiscal 2018, the ministry started research on using high-energy laser to destroy drones.