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China seeks space cargo launches well below prices NASA pays SpaceX

Plus: ChatGPT hallucinates Japan's PM; Infosys scores huge BP deal; Grab on the way to becoming a bank; and more

Asia In Brief The China Manned Space Agency (CMSE) last week put out a call for low-cost cargo haulage services to its space station.

The announcement said Beijing wants cheap transportation to Tiangong to foster commercial space activity and enhance the space station's activities.

The deadline for applications is July 15, so there's not much time left to sketch out the required spacecraft, launch vehicles and launch support.

According to an accompanying technical guide, Beijing has set the price it's willing to pay at $17.1 million per metric ton of cargo.

That's far less than the commercial services used by NASA to service the International Space Station: SpaceX's resupply missions between 2012 and 2017, for example, carried an average 2,200kg at $152 million per launch – about $69 million per metric ton. SpaceX also offers launches at $5,500 per kg ($5.5 million per ton), for payloads on shared missions.

China wants private providers to dock with Tiangong and stay in place for at least three months. CMSE is unfussed about what happens to the vehicle after it delivers to Tiangong.

ChatGPT promotes Japan's tech minister to PM

AI advocate and Japanese minister of digital affairs, Taro Kono, said he's been misidentified by ChatGPT as the country's prime minister.

"I asked ChatGPT who Kono Taro is and he came back with the wrong answer," Kono told Bloomberg Television last week.

"So you need to be careful," he warned.

Kono has led the charge to bring Japan – where floppy disks have only recently been banned – into the modern digital era. While the tech minister has polled well as a candidate for PM, he does not hold the role.

The current prime minister of Japan is Fumio Kishida.

Grab's fintech business booms

Asia's top ride-hailing service Grab reported on Thursday that its financial services revenue for the quarter grew 233 percent year on year to $38 million from $11 million.

In September 2022, the superapp told investors that it pre-approves personal loans to drivers, and 30 percent of drivers have an active loan.

Grab, in partnership with telecom Singtel, also promised investors it will launch its Digibank service in six months. CFO Peter Oey said the biz has a "very clear target" to break even over the next three years for the segment. Digibanks are completely online operated bank entities – providing accounts, deposits and debit and credit cards.

The Grab-Singtel consortium received the green light to open its Digibank from the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) in December 2020.

Oey also detailed that Grab was "in the early days of exploring AI productivity tools," which it believes will "have the potential to unlock further efficiencies and reduce costs in our business over time."

COO Alex Hungate said that "One of the key sources of uncertainty in the region over many years has been the regulation around the gig economy as it has been in other regions."

But however difficult it may be to work with varying regulatory bodies across Southeast Asia, it seems Grab should be doing well enough in business to settle such matters – at least by the looks of its latest quarterly report.

Q1 2023 revenue grew 130 percent year on year to $525 million, while losses for the period improved by 43 percent year on year to $250 million.

Alibaba Cloud and IBM create joint security solution

Alibaba Cloud last week announced it's teamed with IBM to develop a security offering.

The announcement explains that the Chinese cloud champ will offer IBM's QRadar Security information and event management tools, and Qradar SOAR incident investigation suite.

Alibaba Cloud's announcement states Big Blue's products will power "multiple services, including instant reporting and centralized visibility into the cloud environment to detect ransomware, insider threats and security risks such as cloud attacks."

IBM has a very substantial security business, but tends not to consider or discuss it as a discrete entity. Alibaba Cloud has other partnerships with major global tech vendors, but this deal with IBM is a rare example of a co-developed product.

Alibaba Cloud is China's number one, by revenue, and is a top three player in some Asian markets. The operation has a global footprint, but geopolitical concerns make it a tough sell to many customers. Working with IBM on security might ease some prospects' worries.

– Simon Sharwood

Huge bet on Philippines datacenter

Filipino conglomerate Ayala Corporation and Singapore's ST Telemedia Global Data Centres will use their Filipino joint venture STT GDC Philippines to create a datacenter in Quezon City – the largest local government area in Manila.

The "STT Fairview" campus will comprise over 83,000 square meters of gross floor area across four buildings, with up to 124 megawatts of IT load capacity once complete.

STT GDC Philippines already operates five datacenters with a total IT capacity of 22MW. The bet on almost five times that capacity is fuelled by predictions of 25 percent CAGR for datacenters in the Philippines through 2027.

In other regional datacenter news, AWS last week announced a second region in India. – Simon Sharwood

India dangles $2 billion subsidies to PC, tablet, and server manufacturers

India's Union Cabinet approved last week a $2 billion (Rs. 17,000 crore) production-linked incentive scheme for IT hardware.

The scheme covers laptops, tablets, all-in-one PCs, servers and ultra small form factor devices with a tenure of six years.

India's cabinet said electronics manufacturing in India had grown 17 percent CAGR in the past eight years, crossing a major benchmark in production of $105 billion. Additionally, India has become the world's second-largest manufacturer of mobile phones, with $11 billion of exports this year.

This is the second round of subsidies India has offered to manufacturers of such equipment. Its last effort lured Foxconn and Dell to expand activities on Indian soil.

Philippine aviation tech upgrade succeeds

Filipino airspace was shut down last week in order to upgrade an uninterruptible power supply (UPS) at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

In addition to replacing the UPS, technicians also repaired the Automatic Voltage Regulator (AVR), and upgraded the Air Traffic Management System (ATMS) A/B power supply.

The shutdown was originally ordered for six hours before being reduced to two. In the end, the necessary works required just one hour and thirteen minutes.

One Cebu Pacific flight was delayed and six AirAsia flights were cancelled in preparation for the shutdown.

Infosys and BP re-energize their relationship

Indian tech services giant last week signed a colossal deal with energy concern BP.

The Register understands the five-year deal is worth $1.5 billion, making it one of the biggest services deals to drop – for any firm, anywhere – in recent years.

The deal will see Infosys become BP's "primary partner for end-to-end application services, including development, modernization, management and maintenance."

Apple online store comes to Vietnam

Apple has expanded its online store into Vietnam, it announced Thursday, thus opening up direct sales to a previously under-served market.

In other news …

Our regional coverage from last week included news that the PMs of Japan and the UK met and signed the Hiroshima Accord – a global strategic partnership that focuses on keeping the semiconductors flowing and security in the Indo-Pacific.

Micron Technology, Kyocera and reportedly Samsung pledged billions to build and expand chip plants in Japan. Meanwhile Fujifilm is spending $110 million to build facilities in Taiwan.

Asia's emerging megacities claim preference for two-wheeled vehicles over four. Here's a look at the tech behind them.

Asia's top rideshare outfit, Grab, continued a years-long dust up with the Philippine Competition Commission which has ordered the superapp to pay an amount that totals over $1 million for allegedly failing to reimburse customers and misrepresenting that it already had.

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) announced charges against four people on technology theft – including a former Apple engineer who fled with autonomous vehicle source code to China.

China cracked down on fake AI-generated content and news anchors.

At the Black Hat Asia 2023 infosec conference, two researchers detailed how to modify voltage on a Supermicro motherboard and remotely brick machines.

Also at Black Hat Asia 2023, researchers demonstrated a side-attack on TrustZone-enabled Cortex-M based systems that Arm declared are "not a failure of the protection offered by the architecture."

Baidu reckons it has a leg up when it comes to AI as it understands how to best comply with Beijing's censorship expectations.

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un showcased the nation's first surveillance satellite, but remained slim on details.

Twitter Australia ghosted government requests to understand how it will mod content now that its staff is gone, according to communications minister Michelle Rowland.

PWC's Australian arm is in trouble after offering advice on how to get around tax rules its people learned of in supposed confidence. ®

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