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The Smart-Tech Revolution

Humphrey Leung 

Dr Humphrey Leung,
Group CEO of Solomon Systech Ltd

 
Despite increasing challenges to the global economy, the IT industry seems to be successfully battling the trend, with technology taking it in new directions and enabling the development of a constant stream of innovative gadgets that appeal to consumers. 

The change, according to Dr Humphrey Leung, Group CEO of Solomon Systech Ltd, is fuelled by four factors: connectivity, computing power, the development of sensor devices and the creation of new applications, at a time when price points for new technology are falling steeply. According to Dr Leung, these factors have come together simultaneously, making it much easier to create innovative new products.

“The global economy is not promising, but we are seeing major technological change,” said Dr Leung. “More than that, it is technology that is driving people to use it. It used to be that only technocrats could have access to smart technology. But now it is the housewife. The user has changed, which has caused another 100 per cent increase in their numbers. They have different product requirements. That has increased another big group market.” 

Sensing devices have limited use without connectivity. Connectivity and large bandwidth, enhanced by the growing computing power in mobile devices such as smartphones and tablet computers, have led to the creation of apps. Together, they have helped drive the semiconductor industry to outperform almost all other segments in 2010, recording annual revenue growth estimated at 30 per cent to 35 per cent across the industry. “These are not new technology,” Dr Leung said. “But with new sensing devices, that helps you determine a lot, in terms of understanding your environment.” 

App Masters

 With all the accessible new technology, smart gadgets have become part of daily life
 

With all the accessible new technology, smart gadgets have become part of daily life
(photo: EyePress)

That is where many of Hong Kong’s 130,000-odd electronics manufacturers come in, Dr Leung said. Many electronics manufacturers are masters at coming up with apps. Dr Leung cited as an example the latest generation of mobile smartphones and their sensing devices, carried on platforms such as Google’s Android. With the first generation having featured a single camera, phones now have two, one facing each way, allowing users to take part in conference calls. The technology is now so cheap that new phones will have three cameras, which will enable 3-D imaging, Mr Leung said. 

Many of those applications involve near-field communication (NFC), which can potentially introduce myriad new uses, and which could revolutionise the credit industry, eliminating the plastic in the consumer’s wallet. It involves wireless communications between two devices without touching. Radio-frequency identification (RFID) is typically used as a tag incorporated into a product – or even an animal or person – for the purpose of identification and tracking through the use of radio waves. 

NFC allows consumers who store their credit card information in NFC smartphones to merely wave the phone near a pickup device, perhaps located near a cash register, to pay for items. As NFC becomes more widespread, it is expected to be used in everything from paying transport fares and buying movie tickets, to cashless vending and distributing promotional coupons to consumers. Developed by Sony and NXP Semiconductors nearly a decade ago, it is expected to become widely used as a payment system in the United States. Google has already developed an app called Google Wallet, which allows for the storage of all credit card information. With a range of just a few centimetres, encryption is not necessary to keep information from being stolen. 

Driving Connectivity

The introduction of near field technology in smartphones could allow for myriad new uses and revolut 

The introduction of near field technology in smartphones could allow for myriad new uses and revolutionise the credit industry (photo: EyePress)

 
Sensing devices offer a wide range of other uses, including temperature and location monitoring. An app has even been developed that allows a cook to track the temperature of a roast in the oven. 

“These are built in,” Dr Leung said. “If connectivity exists, along with large bandwidth, everybody can enjoy them. This used to be very innovative, expensive technology. Now it is available to everyone.” 

The tablet and the smartphone – actually mobile computing programmes – are helping fuel the trend. Because of the explosion of new applications and the widening range of uses, most of them focus on consumer products. “If you can align yourself with these changes and go along, you are doing well,” Dr Leung said, adding that new companies have been born building around these platforms. 

Innovating Devices

The smartphone is not just a smartphone,” according to Dr Leung. “It is going to be constantly changing; new applications are going to come into existence. These are the growth platforms,” Dr Leung said. “If it involves a smartphone, a lot of Hong Kong SMEs can build around these platforms; using sensing devices, motion sensors, home-control systems, you can monitor energy saving, passing all of this information to your smartphone.” 

There are many opportunities for Hong Kong SMEs to supply associated devices, he said, noting that creating them is much cheaper and easier than it has been historically. “Before, it was difficult for small companies to do it. But now all of this information is shared. Companies can access databases. Even for small companies, you can access the international electronic map of the platform. You can put your energy into innovating devices rather than trying to link databases together,” Dr Leung said. “I am very excited about the coming changes, the products that Hong Kong’s companies can produce.” 

Related Link
Solomon Systech Ltd

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