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Bits + Bytes : A Miscellany of Technology


NEWS

Apple announces the M1 chip

Apple has announced the M1 chip, the first personal computer chip built using 5-nanometer process technology. This announcement follows Apple’s announcement in June that it will replace Intel processors used in Mac computers with chips designed in-house.

Packed with 16 billion transistors, the chip features the world’s fastest central processing unit core in low-power silicon.  Its graphics processing unit can handle extremely demanding tasks with ease, from smooth playback of multiple 4K video streams to rendering complex 3D scenes. 

The M1 chip also brings the Apple Neural Engine to the Mac, greatly accelerating machine learning (ML) tasks. The Neural Engine in M1 enables up to 15 times faster ML performance, improving executions of tasks such as video analysis, voice recognition and image processing. The M1 powers the new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini. 

The crowd goes wild

As testament to the strength of the crowd, local equity crowdfunding (ECF) player pitchIN announced that it hit RM100 million in total funds raised, as at late last week. pitchIN is the first ECF platform to reach the milestone in Malaysia.

Since its 2016 inception, pitchIN has successfully hosted 74 companies, which raised capital from nearly 5,000 investors.

Even more impressive is the fact that pitchIN raised nearly half of that RM100 million in 2020 alone – a year that by almost all measures has been exceptionally difficult for businesses. “It was a record-breaking year at pitchIN. We achieved our entire year’s target with one fiscal quarter to spare,” CEO Sam Shafie said in a statement.

The milestone, Sam added, was a ringing endorsement of the quality of deals hosted on pitchIN. “When the pandemic hit, we were as concerned as anyone else about the safety and well-being of Malaysians. However, it was clear to us that the disruption caused by the pandemic was bringing about a sea change in the economy. Companies that were digital, nimble and operating in the fast-growing tech-focused sectors saw sharply improved fortunes, and these are exactly the sorts of companies that pitchIN hosts.”

Going forward, the company is expecting to build on its leadership position in the alternative investments space. “The recently announced opening of applications for Initial Exchange Offering (IEO) and Digital Assets Custodian (DAC) licences will be further confirmation that the digital investments fintech space is going mainstream. pitchIN intends to apply for the new licences so that we can offer more products and services to our investor network.”

A new generation of start-ups

ScaleUp Malaysia has officially launched the second cohort of its ScaleUp Malaysia accelerator programme, in partnership with Singapore-headquartered venture capital outfit Quest Ventures.

The partnership, which was announced in early September, will see some US$1 million in foreign direct investment to develop and grow high-potential Malaysian start-ups. Quest Ventures is prepared to invest at least RM250,000 in up to 12 companies participating in the accelerator.

The 20 companies selected for the second cohort are Quadby, GenYouth, Hire.Seniors, ERTH, SMARTFUND, EzyOffice, Fefifo, Hatio, HAUZ, HOMA, Kiddocare, Load2Go, MMC, MyBump Media, POMEN, qijang, SUPERVISOR, tanalink, RECQA and Virtual X.

They were selected for their propensity to disrupt existing markets, in addition to developing solutions to take advantage of opportunities brought about by the present economic climate.

Start-ups looking to take part in ScaleUp Malaysia’s upcoming third cohort may register their interest at www.scaleup.my. Registration for the third cohort is officially open. 

Wellness start-up bags healthy investment

Sentuh.my, a local digital wellness platform that connects qualified wellness, beauty, physiotherapist centres, as well as mobile therapists to customers, recently closed a RM734,400 equity crowdfunding campaign on pitchIN. The investment was also supported by the Malaysia Co-Investment Fund (MYCIF) initiative.

Part of the funds will go towards finalising the Sentuh merchant app, which is set to feature a booking and management system. The system is in the final stages of development and the start-up is planning to launch the app in 1Q2021.

The app will allow merchants to manage their therapists from a personalised merchant app dashboard. With the merchant app, they will be able to see their therapists’ activities, bookings, as well as generate valuable data analytics and reporting.

 According to CEO and founder Ahmad Aizudin, the prolonged Conditional Movement Control Order (CMCO) period has brought about heightened awareness on general wellness – something he is keen to capitalise on.

 “We foresee increased demand for these services and are looking to grow our market by providing access to quality wellness and beauty services to more people. We invite merchants and service providers in the wellness and beauty verticals to explore our Sentuh merchant app,” he says.

PEOPLE MOVES

Yong (left) and Azizah have joined Microsoft Malaysia as director of solution sales and director of Small, Medium and Corporate Group respectively

Microsoft Malaysia appoints new additions to further strengthen customer digital growth

Azizah Ali has been appointed as the director of Small, Medium and Corporate (SMC) Group, while Millie Yong will lead as director of solution sales as Microsoft focuses on helping customers meet their digital needs.

Azizah was with Microsoft for more than two decades, taking on various leadership roles in  Asia-Pacific. Her prior role as director of Public Sector Group saw her kick-starting national initiatives such as Malaysia’s eGovernment project. In her new role, Azizah will focus on supporting SMCs in their digital transformation journey, by matching customer challenges with Microsoft solutions and leveraging Microsoft’s partner ecosystem.

Meanwhile, Yong’s position of director of solution sales is newly created. With more than 20 years of experience across industries including financial services, telecommunications, manufacturing and retail, Millie will provide sales and technical thought leadership to enable the acceleration of digital transformation among enterprise customers in Malaysia. She will also provide new and relevant cross-tech solutions for customers while helping them grow their digital capabilities.

Where (Southeast Asian) dreams are made

The Walt Disney Co Southeast Asia has appointed former CEO of Primeworks Studios Ahmad Izham Omar as its executive director of content and creative for Disney+. In his new role, Izham, based in Singapore, will be tasked with building “a world-class portfolio” of TV series and movies for Disney+ in Southeast Asia.

ACCELERATOR

Digital transformation 101: Applications are open

Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC) is calling all SMEs to embrace digital transformation and join its recently launched SME Digital Accelerator. The initiative is billed as a programme to help businesses adopt a structured, step-by-step approach to embracing digitalisation.

The accelerator is important because an earlier survey conducted by MDEC found that while a vast majority of the respondents knew that digital solutions would significantly improve overall productivity, many also found digital transformation a challenge. Some 60% of respondents cited the high cost of investment and maintenance, while just over 40% cited a lack of knowledge and digital tools as a hindrance.

“Through the SME Digital Accelerator, we offer SMEs a structured approach to implement the right digital solutions that can help transform their business in terms of their people, processes and, above all, mindset,” says MDEC CEO Surina Shukri.

She adds that MDEC hopes the programme will further catalyse the digital transformation taking place in the small business sector, which would ultimately benefit the broader economy.

Interested businesses can register via the agency’s Digital Xccelerator (DX) platform at www.dx.com.my.

WHILE YOU WERE WORKING (FROM HOME)

Quick hacks to upgrade your virtual meeting experiences

Generally speaking, a phone or laptop alone is all you will ever need to conduct any virtual meetings during the pandemic. However, noisy audio and washed-up video quality have been plaguing the internet for far too long.

Here are some quick ways to improve your virtual meeting experience without breaking the bank.

CHEAP EARBUDS

Ideally, a microphone should be placed as near your mouth as possible to capture crystalclear audio. A cheap pair of earbuds with built-in microphones is a simple way of placing the microphone nearer your mouth, and is a significant step-up from the in-built microphones found in laptops.

BLACK TAPE

We have heard of the horror stories of people unknowingly embarrassing themselves, such as undressing and changing clothes during a virtual meeting, not knowing that the camera was still switched on. Taping over your camera or using a webcam cover is a much more reliable way of protecting your privacy, compared with simply turning the camera off.

SELFIE RING LIGHT

In a virtual meeting, you have to take care of the visual and audio aspects, so presenting yourself in a good light  literally  is important in order to make a lasting impression. While sunlight is freely available and a great lighting tool, it can be unpredictable and non-existent in the night. A portable selfie ring light not only costs less than RM20, it can also be used for other purposes besides virtual meetings.

DIGITIONARY

Citizen developer

A citizen developer is a layman (that is, not a programmer) who creates applications without software expertise using no-code/low-code platforms. Although they are not software programmers per se, they are usually subject matter experts who have a better understanding of the challenges faced in their particular domain, and creative ways to solve them. As there are not enough programmers to go around, citizen developers with their common sense approach to automation and problem solving are expected to be the way forward for corporations intent on digital transformation.

PICTURE OF THE WEEK

Inside IKEA’s ‘click & collect’ operations

An employee prepares an order for the ‘click and collect’ service at the Ikea store in Croydon, the UK. Ikea saw a 45% surge in its online business from January to August this year, accounting for 15% of total retail sales.

EDITOR’S MUST-HAVE

Right now when you are working from home, it may not be that much of a problem but once you go back to work, chances are, your cat, used to your constant company, may be lonely again. Why not splurge on an EBO Pro Catpal? This nifty little robot can act as your proxy, delighting your pet with hours of fun. It wheels, rolls and spins to entertain your fastidious feline and, on top of that, allows you to interact and chat with him or her anytime, anywhere. It also takes photos and videos remotely. Of course, at US$330 (and that too, at a discount) it may be a little pricey, but if you are one of those who spend more on your pet than your education, this may be just the thing for you. And your cat.

TECH BOOKS

The Deep Learning Revolution by Terence J Sejnowski

The deep learning revolution has brought us driverless cars, the greatly improved Google Translate, fluent conversations with Siri and Alexa and enormous profits from automated trading on the New York Stock Exchange. Deep learning networks can play poker better than professional poker players and defeat a world champion at Go. In this book, Sejnowski explains how deep learning went from being an arcane academic field to a disruptive technology in the information economy.

“PSA: You cannot marry your PS5”

@PlayStationUK. This tweet was in response to a report of a surprising number of PS5 marriage proposals taking place. 

Twitter link: 

https://twitter.com/PlayStationUK/status/1328686543934992386





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