AWS adds Superapp Grab's Asia-centric maps to its cloudy location service

PLUS ServiceNow makes Japan a discrete region; Alibaba Cloud’s Singapore hub; US snipes at Korean network policy; and more

Asia In Brief Singapore-based superapp Grab has a client for its maps-as-a-service venture, GrabMaps: Amazon Web Services.

The cloud colossus has added GrabMaps as an option to the Amazon Location Service that allows developers to add geospatial data and location functionality to applications.

"Amazon Location Service adds a new data source in Southeast Asia, GrabMaps, offering maps, search, and routing," said AWS. "Developers building applications in Southeast Asia can display their data on local up-to-date maps, use search boxes to locate end-user addresses and points of interest, and calculate routes using real-time traffic conditions."

According to the Amazon Location Service developer guide the maps are only available in the Asia Pacific (Singapore) Region and cover eight countries: Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

The maps of the eight countries offer routing for cars and motorcycles. Seven cities within the countries also have bicycle and walking routes.

Grab credits the success of its food and grocery delivery services to its documentation of the last mile of a journey, which in Southeast Asia is often most easily achieved on two wheels instead of four. Grab announced last June that it would share its mapping efforts with others – for a fee of course.

At the time the company said it would license map data with places, roads, traffic and imagery, and offer a suite of AI-powered map making services described as an "end-to-end stack that enterprise companies can leverage to build their own apps." Grab said by 2023 APIs and mobile software development kits (SDKs) would be available for developers.

The company has been quiet since the reveal about potential or committed customers, only saying it was being trialled by "several of the largest technology companies."

Now we know AWS was one of those companies.

Alibaba Cloud picks Singapore for first offshore innovation hub

Alibaba Cloud last week announced an "international product innovation center and partner management center" in Singapore.

The innovation facility is its first overseas effort of this kind.

"The new Product Innovation Center will help facilitate future roadmaps for developing more market-specific solutions, and will oversee the management of product upgrades based on ongoing global customer demands," the biz declared in a canned statement.

The partner management center will "delve into local collaborations to deepen the sharing of leading technologies and domain expertise amongst partners."

While those quotes are anodyne corp-speak, they are significant for revealing that Alibaba Cloud's growth ambitions have seen it invest in localizsation of products and services. The hyperscaler is rated the APAC region's third-most-used cloud behind AWS and Azure – status it enjoys in no other region.

It appears it's investing to cement that status, and to give it the capabilities to better serve more markets outside China.

- Simon Sharwood

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ServiceNow removes Japan from Asia

SaaS-y workflow vendor ServiceNow has removed Japan from its Asian region and promoted it to an independent entity reporting directly to US headquarters.

ServiceNow said Japan has become one of its most important growth markets, and that managing the nation on as an independent entity rather than as part of its Asia Pacific region will "help accelerate the adoption of ServiceNow across both domestic companies and local governments."

Masatoshi Suzuki was announced as executive officer and president of the Japan operation.

ServiceNow chief commercial officer Paul Smith said "The vast and diverse Asia Pacific region is still an attractive market with significant room for growth for ServiceNow" and the change strengthens the vendor across the territory.

- Simon Sharwood

US State Department seemingly swipes at Korea's plans to make Big Tech pay for network access

Jose W Fernandez, the US undersecretary for economic growth, energy, and the environment, visited South Korea last week and marked his visit with a contentious tweet.

The tweet is almost certainly a reference to South Korea seeking network access fees from major sources of traffic on its mobile networks.

Fernandez's tweet mentions that he met Netflix while in South Korea. That matters, because the streaming service is one of the most vocal opponents of network access fees. Court cases to determine the legality or otherwise of the fees are in train.

Fernadez appears to have articulated US policy on the matter.

- Simon Sharwood

Hong Kong deletes data gathered by COVID tracking app

In keeping with global "live with COVID" trends from governments, Hong Kong has announced it's no longer holding the data gathered by its LeaveHomeSafe COVID tracking app.

Hong Kong required residents to check in to premises using the app to read a QR code, then tracked movements and warned when visitors may have encountered someone infected with COVID-19.

QR code checkins were ended in December 2022 and the territory's government has decided the app will receive no further updates and promised the data it collected has been deleted.

The app will still function, and can be used to register for COVID tests, but the regional government will migrate those functions to its iAM Smart digital services app.

- Simon Sharwood

Amazon India summoned to Labour Commission to discuss layoffs

Amazon India has been summoned to appear before the Pune Labour Commission on January 17 to discuss its mass sackings of workers. A statement seen by The Registerand issued by Pune District assistant labour commissioner G S Shinde directs the company's representatives to prepare associated documents, records and power of attorney.

Also summoned to the meeting are representatives of the IT labour union, Nascent Information Technology Employees Senate (NITES), which has filed a complaint alleging layoffs were conducted illegally.

Amazon India offered a Voluntary Separation Program (VSP) to employees on the subcontinent which has been criticized as less voluntary than presented.

Over the weekend, reports emerged of over 1,000 layoffs on the subcontinent by the e-commerce giant that were not made under the VSP.

Mass layoffs were first announced in November and affect both freshers and old timers across various departments.

In other news

Our regional coverage from last week included news that China's appliance giant HiSense announced a deal with Microsoft to bake Teams into Android-powered commercial displays.

Pakistan's government issued a warning to its agencies regarding the use of the dark web.

Global insurer Aflac's Japanese branch apologized for a leak of three million cancer insurance customers, which it says is the responsibility of a US-based contractor.

Japanese tech giant Fujitsu revealed its plan for large-sale acquisitions.

Microsoft has fumbled a zero trust upgrade for some of its Asian customers.

Jack Ma is no longer the big boss at Alibaba's financial arm Ant Group after the conglomerate announced "corporate governance optimization" changes.

China's Mars Rover is still in hibernation, leading to speculation that it may have broken during the Martian winter.

A Beijing official said that China's regulatory crackdown on Big Tech is "basically completed" in an interview with state-sponsored media.

A report from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) concluded Big Tech is not digitizing fast enough to avoid a productivity growth slow down.

Hong Kong officials have failed in efforts to have Google produce accurate results when users search for the Special Administrative Region of China's national anthem. The Region's government will instead turn its efforts towards improving search engine optimization for its site that lists national emblems.

A passenger's USB power bank caught fire as a plane taxied towards the runway on a flight from Taiwan to Singapore, causing passengers to panic and the vehicle to return to its gate.

Twitter's Singapore landlord told The Registerthe social network is still a tenant at its swank Asia Pacific (APAC) headquarters, as rumors suggested Elon's expensive plaything had been evicted for non-payment of rent and staff told to work from home indefinitely. ®

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