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Vlog: Discovering the latest innovations at the World Intelligence Congress

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Photo: Shutterstock

22-May-2021

By Guo Meiping, Zeng Hongen

What are the latest innovations in the intelligent industry? How could they change our lives? Let’s find out the answers at the fifth World Intelligence Congress (WIC).

Held from May 20 to 23 in the northern city of Tianjin, the WIC consists of a series of conferences, exhibitions and competitions.

One of the highlights of WIC is the “Intelligent Technology Exhibition” in which over 200 enterprises, universities, and research institutes demonstrate their works of intelligent technology.

A special pavilion was set up at the exhibition, which demonstrates innovations from universities in Tianjin.

A neuro-controlled mechanical exoskeleton developed by the Tianjin University. /CGTN

Developed by the Tianjin University, an exoskeleton called “Shen Jia” attracted a crowd.

“This is a neuro-controlled mechanical exoskeleton,” Liu Yuan, a Tianjin University’s Neural Engineering Team member, told CGTN. “What distinguishes us from other exoskeleton systems is our electroencephalogram (EEG) cap.”

Captured by the EEG cap, patients’ willingness to walk drive the exoskeleton to move accordingly, Liu added.

The Integrated Procedures Trainer developed by the Civil Aviation University of China. /CGTN

At the exhibition, the audience can get the chance to be a “pilot” with a simulator developed by the Civil Aviation University of China.

The simulator, or an Integrated Procedures Trainer, is used for training in airplane maintenance and flight procedures, explained Zhang Wenlin, lecturer of Civil Aviation University of China. He added that the simulator has already been adopted by many airlines in China for relevant training.

Some of the demonstrations of intelligent technology at the WIC are closer to our lives.

Exercise equipment at the smart exercise yard can track users’ motion. /CGTN

A smart exercise yard was set up at the exhibition. Before exercise, users can scan a QR code at the entrance and filled in physical information such as height, weight, and medical history to register.

After the registration, users can scan their faces before using each exercise equipment, so the equipment can track their motion and show them information such as the number of their movements and how many calories they’ve burned.

A robotic barista demonstrated at the fifth World Intelligence Congress. /CGTN

If the audience needs a cup of coffee in the middle of their tour, a robotic barista was at their service. 

Click here to watch the re-broadcast of CGTN’s tour at the exhibition.

Tianjin is a city full of tech and science features.

The Tianjin port is an important shipping hub in north China. /CFP

The Tianjin port is an important shipping hub in north China and has continuously been a “smart port”. It has introduced a variety of technological innovations to bolster efficiency including the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System, self-driving electric vehicles and 5G.

Moreover, experts from research institutes and universities based in Tianjin have participated in the research and development, and manufacture of China’s Long March-5 rocket and the Chang’e-5 lunar probe.

(Cover image by Gao Hongmei)

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The race for artificial intelligence – Can Europe compete? | DW Documentary

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Artificial intelligence (AI) is transforming industries and society – and a global race has taken off for who will create the most cutting-edge technology. The outcome could reshape the global balance of powers. At the moment, the United States and China stand as the leading contenders. Europe, meanwhile, finds itself lagging behind. But the continent is eager to catch up, and it has a plan: Officials hope that a strong emphasis on transparency and fairness in AI development will set European AI apart and provide an edge in the years to come. However, the question remains: Can these European initiatives compete with the vast resources that Big Tech companies pour into AI research? And will the EU’s ethics-first approach to AI become a competitive advantage in the global race for AI – or will it set Europe even further behind?

0:00 The race for AI supremacy

0:51 Using AI to make cities more liveable

4:19 Can AI help cure cancer?

7:49 How the EU plans to govern AI

9:10 Transforming societies with big data

11:02 Will strict AI rules set Europe back?

15:11 Fighting cyber attacks and brain drain with AI

19:46 Europe: Winner or loser in the race for AI?

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Business

Mergers and Acquisitions in African Fintech

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By ERIC OSIAKWAN 

May 4, 2021

On 1st of April, as I was publishing my Uniconization of African Fintech piece, Mastercard was busy announcing their $100 million investment into Airtel Money (Airtel Africa’s mobile money subsidiary) to acquire a minority position – half what TPG Capital did. Even though I had gotten wind of the transaction knowing that Mastercard was already in bed with Airtel Money – some part of me thought of it as an April fools joke….

On the 12th of April 2021, Mobile Telecom Network (MTN) announced the valuation of their mobile money business at $5 billion making it the 7th African fintech unicorn with plans to bring in minority shareholders before going public. Given that Visa is already in bed with MPESA (Vodacom and Safaricom’s mobile money business), it is a matter of time before Visa also invests.

The unicornization of African fintech is the first trend but the second, topic of today, are the mergers and acquisitions in the sector. Mergers and acquisitions are slowly taking shape in the African fintech sector but, unlike the uniconization, they are manifesting on two interrelated tracks that may or may not eventually converge. The first track is maturing fintechs are acquiring smaller and earlier stage ones to grow their market share and establish territorial presence as Andrew Takyi-Appiah, CEO of Zeepay, told me. On the 28th of April 2021, two headlines made the news; AZA bought Exchange4Free whiles Ajua acquired Wayawaya. Zeepay had earlier acquired Zambia’s Mangwee Mobile Money and MSF Africa had acquired Beyonic last year. In 2018, Emergent Technology acquired Interpay Africa in Ghana and back in 2016, Interswitch acquired Vanso – the infographic below gives you more details. The second interrelated and accelerating track that has the African banks at the center of it. Some of the big banks in Africa have realized that if they are not careful, African fintechs would take over what used to be the domain of banking.

This has led some of them to establish ways to gain visibility into the market so that they can make snap acquisitions and strategic investments to protect their interests. The first evidence of that came through on the 24th of March 2021 when First National Bank (FNB), South Africa’s most innovative bank acquired 100% of local fintech firm Selpal to gain access to their community and township based “mom and pop” businesses.

With FNB leading the charge other South African banks are following whiles the phenomenon is slowly crawling up to Eastern and West African banks. Standard Bank setup a corporate venturing arm and also backed Founders Factory to cultivate ventures for them to invest in. Nedbank has a VC team that has made eight investments so far. Amalgamated Banks of South Africa (ABSA) made their first investment in 2019 followed by the second one in 2020. Rand Merchant Bank (RMB) has their own accelerator, Alphacode that is incubating startups. Ecobank Group has their fintech challenge which annually selects startups that have strategic fit for integration. Equity Group which owns Equity Bank has also launched the Equity Investment Bank (EIB) to back early-stage funds that would back startups. A totally different approach but with the same ramifications.

Then we have those banks that seem to be late to the party or have still not come to terms with the changing landscape and continue to lobby regulators not to allow fintechs into their space. That came to a head on last month in Nigeria when the lenders kicked MTN Mobile Money (MoMo) off their shared platform because MTN MoMo halved it commission charged on the banking channels to 2.5%. The regulator had to intervene to restore MTN MoMo to the platform and reinstated the commission to 4.5% for the purchase of airtime via the banks. Whilst this may look trivial; it is really about the banks that are not on the fintech wagon realizing that fintechs are putting their business and margins at a significant risk. For example, in Ghana, MTN MoMo has about 15 million active accounts whilst all the 23 banks collectively have about 5 million bank accounts – that is a 3:1 ratio. In Nigeria, the Central Bank is yet to approve payment-service licenses to MTN Nigeria and Airtel Africa after two years of them putting in their application which would allow them to provide most banking functions except lending and taking foreign-currency deposits. Whiles that seems to be a showstopper, Nigeria’s recent open banking regulations have forced the banks to share their data with the fintechs. This levels the playing field to some degree but begs the question whether the banks would change their strategy and start looking to acquire the fintechs or whether the fintechs like Flutterwave, Interswitch, Fawry, Airtel Money, MTN MoMo or MPESA which are all worth more than a billion dollars might turn around and start acquiring the banks.  Whichever way it goes, M&A is going to characterize the African fintech space as the second major trend after unicornization for the foreseeable future.

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Vital to integrate youths in economy development: Old Mutual CE

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By Newsday News

May 18, 2021

BY WINSTONE ANTONIO

Financial services provider Old Mutual Zimbabwe chief executive, Samuel Matsekete says it is vital to integrate the youth in the development of the economy.

Matsekete’s made the remarks as Eight2Five Innovation Hub powered by Old Mutual Zimbabwe in partnership with British Council Zimbabwe invites young Zimbabwean entrepreneurs aged between 18 to 45 to apply for participation in the Value Creation Challenge (VCC) 2021 edition.

The VCC was launched last year with the aim of supporting businesses and start-ups that provide innovative and sustainable solutions to Zimbabwe’s socio-economic and environmental challenges.

“The Value Creation Challenge is not only an opportunity to explore the role that financial services can play in helping young people make a successful transition into their most productive years. It is also an opportunity to link young people to real opportunities that exist both in the local and the regional markets,” he said.

Scenes at the Eight2Five Innovation Hub powered by Old Mutual Zimbabwe in partnership with British Council Zimbabwe

“At this phase of development in Africa the continent’s growth relies on agile businesses that are powered at the core by innovation. We at Old Mutual consider it vital to integrate the youth in the development of our economy. The Value Creation Challenge seeks to demonstrate this thrust, and to assist the youths and young entrepreneurs on this journey.”

Matsekete said this year’s VCC program will be offered both online and in person, providing holistic business management while addressing some of the challenges that have been a result of Covid-19.

“This Value Creation Challenge presents an opportunity for the youth’s innovative solutions to socio economic and environmental challenges through young and funky ventures, digital content creation, data analytics, climate action, and emerging technologies to be amplified for the good of the nation as a whole,” he said.

Matsekete said applications are to be submitted through the online portal URL: https://eight2five.co.zw/apply after reading and understanding the terms and conditions before the 14 of June 2021.

“Eligible businesses and start-ups are encouraged to apply before the 14th of June 2021, after which shortlisted applicants will be invited for interviews. The targets for this challenge are young businesses and start-ups that fall under the following pillars, data analytics, emerging technology, digital content creation, climate action young and funky,” he said.

Matsekete said at least four ambitious start-ups will proceed to this year’s accelerator program which comes with seed capital, mentorship, and capacity building.

“Eight2Five Innovation Hub believes that over the long-term, creating shared values within societies is the most sustainable way to improve livelihoods. This journey starts with transformation of how we do business through digital solutions, accessing skills, and technically assisting each other in our communities,” he said.

Country Director Zimbabwe and Southern Africa Lead · ‎British Council Roland Davies; “Recognising and acknowledging the role young people play in economic and social development is key hence this particular programme is much more streamlined with specific targets in areas or sectors in which young people have passion and interest in developing their businesses.”

We encourage female led businesses to apply, as our cultural relations work aims to bring diverse people together to learn, create and fulfil ambitions. British Council will continue to nurture creativity, innovation and flexibility by engaging a diversity of perspectives and spot new opportunities to work with partners like Old Mutual to achieve greater reach and impact.”

  • Follow Winstone on Twitter @widzoanto

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