SoftBank boss says 'artificial superintelligence' could be three years away

Plus: Huawei closer to divorcing Android; India probes Amazon warehouses; Singapore gets autonomous street sweepers

Asia In Brief SoftBank CEO Masayoshi Son last week told investors he believes an "artificial superintelligence" that has 10,000 times the intelligence of humans could arrive in as little as three years.

Speaking at his biz's annual general meeting, he suggested the superintelligence could arrive in three or five years, but predicted that within a decade it will profoundly change society – citing replacement of logistics by robots as one obvious change.

The CEO assured investors AI won't disrupt SoftBank, which will adapt to use it and develop technologies that power it.

He told them chip design firm Arm – of which SoftBank is majority shareholder – will cash in on artificial intelligence, and continue to progress in cloud computing after already scoring most major hyperscalers as customers.

Huawei closer to divorcing Android

Huawei last Friday announced HarmonyOS Next – a mobile OS it has previously touted as containing no Android code and incapable of running apps written for the Google-curated OS.

The Chinese giant used its annual developer conference to announce the OS has reached beta status, and that a stable version of the software will appear in some of its smartphones, tablet computers, smartwatches, smart glasses, and earbuds late in 2024.

The launch was accompanied by much talk of Huawei building its own application and OS ecosystem, and a call for developers to work across those platforms.

As such, the announcement is significant as it suggests Huawei – re-ascendant as China's leading smartphone vendor and now enjoying greater domestic market share than Apple according to analyst firm Counterpoint Research – has broken from Android after leaning on that OS for previous cuts of HarmonyOS.

China is currently emphasizing the importance of homegrown tech to the exclusion of imported product. If HarmonyOS takes off, it could represent realization of the "splinternet" – a concept used to describe the development of distinct and perhaps not interoperable tech stacks by rival geopolitical blocs.

Amazon India's labor practices attract government scrutiny

India's Human Rights Commission has called on the nation's government to compile a report on's local warehouse operations.

The Commission last week announced it was sufficiently concerned by a news report about the e-commerce giant's ops to order the report. The report on which the Commission relied claimed one female employee "reportedly stated that no restroom facilities are available on the working sites" and that they were required to unload six trucks without a break – despite it being impossible to unload more than four trucks during a full shift.

Singapore allows autonomous street sweepers

Chinese autonomous vehicle company WeRide has won approval to operate fully autonomous street cleaning robots operating at Level 4 autonomy on Singaporean streets.

WeRide told The Register the units will operate on open roads – not in a geofenced area, as is often the case with Level 4 vehicles.

"The WeRide Robosweepers use advanced sensors, AI, and mapping capabilities to navigate roads safely with zero human intervention required," a company statement proclaimed.

India seeks local quantum crypto

India's Telcom Technology Development Fund last week issued a call for proposals in pursuit of a Quantum Encryption Algorithm (QEA).

The Fund wants "an India-specific Quantum Encryption Algorithm that will represent a cutting-edge approach to securing digital communication channels by leveraging the principles of quantum mechanics. The algorithm should ensure Unparalleled Security; Advanced Encryption Capabilities; Ultrafast and Efficient Encryption etc."

Proposals are welcome from companies, start-ups, R&D institutions, and academic institutions, with the latter preferred to make submissions with commercial partners to so it's clear how their ideas can be commercialized. "The focus is on R&D in telecom products and technologies that lead to telecom IP creation (both implementational and standards-essential types) and/or telecom products at high Technology Readiness Levels (TRLs)," explains the call for proposals.

APAC Dealbook

Deals, alliances, and partnerships we spotted around the region last week included:

  • Investment firm KKR and Singaporean telco giant Singtel announced a S$1.75 billion investment in ST Telemedia Global Data Centres. ST CEO Stephen Miller said the deal "marks another important milestone" that will "enhance" his company's growth strategy.
  • Cisco announced it would open a cyber security center in Taiwan, to help government authorities improve their defenses and capabilities.
  • India's Computer Emergency Response Team and Mastercard have signed a memorandum of agreement to improve infosec in the nation's financial sector. Mastercard and CERT-In will hold training programs and workshops to enhance cyber security of financial sector organizations. The two entities will also share relevant cyber threat trends, technical information, threat intelligence, and vulnerability reports to strengthen the financial sector information security of India.
  • Chinese telco kit vendor ZTE has completed a network modernization project at Kazakhstan telco Beeline. Customers in the Akmola and Turkestan regions – home to a quarter of Kazakhstan's population – now enjoy networks running massive MIMO technology, resulting in substantial 4G throughput growth and enhanced service quality for subscribers.


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