LED pioneer honoured

June 30, 2009

When the history of technological development in the late 20th Century is written, the name of Dr. Isamu Akasaki is sure to figure prominently. Everyone who relies on modern communication technology owes a great debt of gratitude to this elderly Japanese professor, and yet publically, he remains a little-known. But hopefully, that may be about to change thanks to an award honouring Dr. Akasaki’s achievements.

What was Dr. Akasaki’s contribution to our modern world? Simply, he was the man that made the blue LED possible. Thanks in large part to his work, we now have high-speed internet communications, high-density data storage (hence the trade name “Blu-Ray”), and a cornucopia of other technological marvels – not to mention today’s full-colour LED screens.

The Inamori Foundation has announced that Dr. Isamu Akasaki will be awarded the Kyoto Prize in Advanced Technology for 2009. Celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, the annual Kyoto Prize is an international award honouring “significant contributions to the scientific, cultural and spiritual betterment of mankind.” The award is presented on November 10 each year in three categories.

Dr. Akasaki, 80, will receive the award for his pioneering work that led to the development of the blue LED. A semiconductor scientist, Dr. Akasaki serves both as a university professor at Nagoya University and professor at Meijo University in Japan.

The story of the development of the blue LED is the real stuff of legend: Once generally regarded as impossible, Dr. Akasaki persisted in his research for decades – long after others had given-up, and was eventually rewarded with success; his GaN-based positive-negative (p-n) junctions, making the blue LED practically possible for the first time. This achievement stimulated research on blue LEDs worldwide, and served as the first step toward their eventual commercialisation in the 1990s.

According to the Kyoto Prize press release, Dr. Akasaki’s pioneering research has not only led to numerous and diverse new applications in electronic equipment, but also offers great promise for protecting the global environment as blue LEDs are adopted for general-purpose lighting with superior energy-conserving qualities.

LEDs Magazine – Isamu Akasaki awarded Kyoto Prize for LED work

Habitat apologises for ‘hashtag spam’

June 24, 2009

Today’s Daily Telegraph carries an interesting story illustrating just how badly wrong an ill-conceived Social Media marketing campaign can go. Up-market furniture store Habitat has apparently been caught adding inappropriate keywords – called hashtags –to its corporate Twitter feeds.

Tagging marketing messages with keywords like #Iranelection and#iPhone, the firm tried to ensure its messages achieved a much higher ranking in users’ searches than should have been the case. But, it appears the stunt has backfired badly, and the well-known chain has apparently been forced to issue an apology.

The Telegraph reports: 

Twitter users reacted with anger to the publicity stunt: “Just read about your hashtag abuses,” wrote Caramboo. “You utter scumbags, I’ll never visit your shop again”, while another user, Brownbare, tweeted: “Naughty, money-grabbing furniture outlet. Bad bad bad. Now I’m glad I can’t afford your overpriced Ikea replicas”.

What is very interesting is just how powerful the inherent democracy of social networks is, and how quickly it can bring the errant marketeer to heel once a breach of “Netiquette” (remember that term?) is collectively perceived. The sanction of this electronic plebiscite is swift and decisive. However Netiquette evolves to encompass Social Media, one thing is for sure; Habitat’s ham-fisted, spammy attempts at manipulation will be long-cited as how not to do it.

Habitat apologises for Twitter ‘hashtag spam’ – Telegraph

Hesitant signs of recovery for Japanese economy

June 22, 2009

According to some commentators, the Japanese economy is showing signs of turning the corner of recession. The Nikkei 225 stock index recently broke the 10,000 barrier for the first time in eight months, with steelmakers and financial stocks leading the trading.

News of the Nikkei breaching the “ichiman” mark comes after further news reports appear to show signs of recovery beginning. Earlier this month, the country revised its GDP forecast from a 4 per cent contraction to 3.8 per cent. Corporate capital spending in the first quarter fell by a smaller-than-expected 25.3 per cent while bankruptcies dropped last month for the first time in a year.

Data released earlier indicated that Japanese industrial production rose 5.2 per cent in April from the previous month, the fastest rise in more than half a century. The drop in exports also eased in April, falling 40.6 per cent year-on-year compared with a 46.5 per cent decline in March.

But despite the encouraging signs, trading remains difficult. Japanese machinery orders – a key indicator of manufacturing confidence – are still fluctuating, falling unexpectedly in April as manufacturers delay expansion plans because of continuing tough trading outside of Japan. News from China last week showed a larger-than-expected drop in May imports and exports.

The signs are positive, and while the economy still has a very long way to go, there is very real optimism that we are at least on the road to recovery. New technologies – and in particular, “Green” technologies – are looking to become very important contributors to the “new” Japanese economy and we are already seeing Japanese companies like Mitsubishi Electric achieving considerable international success in this field.

Further information can be found here

FT.com / Markets / Asia-Pacific – Nikkei breaches 10,000 level

Shot in the foot by Cupid’s arrow – a cautionary tale of Social Media marketing

June 17, 2009

It seems that the topic of Social Media is never far from the headlines of the business press. From Twitter to YouTube, debate rages back and forth amongst communications professionals as to the worth – or otherwise – of these sites as valid business communication channels.

Some of the more Ludditic (if there’s such a word) persuasion dismiss it all as a passing fad; others claim with equally unbridled passion that Twitter et al represents a new era of engagement and hyper-responsive communications.

Now – interestingly – a new dynamic has entered the debate in the shape of one Trent Reznor, singer with legendary industrial rock band Nine Inch Nails. Reznor, formerly an enthusiastic Tweeter and Internet music pioneer, has reportedly closed his Twitter account after his candid, heart-warming posts prompted negative reactions from some of his 600,000 followers.

Writing on Japan Inc, Michael Condon suggests this is an event of far greater significance than it may first appear.

Reznor’s departure from Twitter is interesting for two reasons. Firstly, Reznor is one of the more Web-savvy, forward thinking members of the music industry out there. It should be noted that Reznor was one of the first major artists to take advantage of changing distribution and promotional systems with the Nine Inch Nails release of "Ghosts I IV."  Reznor himself has been a prolific "tweeter" with, as mentioned before, over 600,000

Michael’s second, and most interesting conjecture is that even for die-hard fans of blogging and Social Media, there is a point where “engagement” and interaction becomes a bit too real. Specifically, when the candid reality of Tweeting starts to diverge from the perceived reality of the “brand”, it can only lead to trouble, as Reznor has apparently discovered to his cost.

It seems, among other things, a big problem was that Reznor was, well, in love. HERE are some of the tweets that infuriated angsty fans:
Reznor: "Now that I’m in love and gone all soft on you, can anyone recommend any romantic comedies? Got a weird urge."


Reznor: "I am missing someone. Boo hoo."


Reznor: "Wait – I’m in love and getting married! I’d give you all free tickets if I could. (hugs)"

All sweet and innocent, until you remember that these utterances come from the creator of albums such as "Pretty Hate Machine", "Broken" and "The Downward Spiral." And it seems this romantic epiphany has not gone down well with the band’s more moribund fans.

There were proclamations of "selling out," "going soft" and worlds being turned "upside down."
And so, in the end, Reznor got sick of it all and pulled the plug on his Twitter feed.

For some celebrities – and increasing numbers of corporate marketeers – Twitter is regarded merely as a marketing tool. Yet it was never intended as such. It was always supposed to be much more personal than that. Ironically, in using it as it was originally intended, Reznor appears to have unwittingly undone the marketing work of many years and many record company dollars – at least in the eyes of some fans.

And therein lies a sobering lesson for those considering Social Media as part of their marketing mix. Twitter feeds and Facebook pages might be fine in some circumstances, but not all, and they need to managed with particular care: Social Media is far from being the silver bullet of marketing; and it’s all too easy to get hit by those ricochets. 

You can read the original post on Creative Deconstruction here

China economic figures show further signs of recovery

June 16, 2009

By Myra P. Saefong & Chris Oliver, MarketWatch

TOKYO (MarketWatch) — Chinese economic data released Friday reinforced the growing perception of an economy picking up steam, with retail sales and industrial production for the month of May coming in stronger than expected, while new bank lending continued at a torrid clip.

Friday’s data capped a week of relatively robust news that dispelled some of the scepticism surrounding China’s recovery, with the world’s third-largest economy now on track to meet its growth targets this year, analysts said.

"Most likely industrial production growth will trend upward, supporting our 8% gross domestic product growth call for 2009," wrote Merrill Lynch economist Ting Lu in a research note Friday.

In March, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao also said the country would expand its economy 8% this year, although it’s not clear that a formal growth target has been set.

Industry reviving

Industrial output climbed 8.9% in May, the National Bureau of Statistics said Friday. The result was above expectations for a 7.8% rise, as reported by Dow Jones Newswires, but it matched exactly forecasts by the 21st Century Business Herald and Ming Pao newspapers, whose projections Merrill Lynch said appeared to be "whispered" leaks of the data. See full story on so-called ‘whispered numbers.’

The more upbeat figures follow a fall of 26.4% in China’s exports in May from a year earlier and an import decline of 25.2%, according to Statistics Bureau data released Thursday. Both figures marked their seventh-straight on-year decline. See story on Chinese trade.

"While improving this month, China’s industrial production growth data has been in contrast with expansion in the Purchasing Managers Index," said J.P. Morgan’s China equities chief, Jing Ulrich.

"China’s May PMI of 53.1 represented a third-successive month of expansion in the manufacturing sector, suggesting that managers are cautiously optimistic in their outlook," he said.

The Statistics Bureau also reported Friday that retail sales were up 15.2% in May, compared to a 14.8% rise in April.

Bank lending up

Separately, data from the People’s Bank of China reported that new yuan-denominated bank lending in China totalled 664.5 billion yuan ($97.2 billion) in May compared to 591.8 billion yuan in April.

Money supply, as measured by M2, climbed 25.74% at the end of May from a year earlier, roughly in line with a 25.9% rise anticipated by analysts as reported by Dow Jones Newswires.

"The stabilization in money supply is as expected, considering the record rate of growth at the beginning of the year," said Ulrich. "The rapid pace of credit creation in recent months has had a stirring impact on China’s corporate sector, housing and stock markets."

Myra P. Saefong is MarketWatch’s assistant global markets editor, based in Tokyo. Chris Oliver is MarketWatch’s Asia bureau chief, based in Hong Kong

China data show further signs of recovery – MarketWatch

Intel helps shape Japan’s WiMax future

June 15, 2009

From Businessweek

A Japanese company is planning to launch the world’s fastest wireless broadband services using WiMax technology. On June 7, Intel Capital said it plans to invest $43 million in Tokyo-based UQ Communications, which also has financial backing from Japan’s second-largest wireless operator, KDDI.

In recent months, UQ Communications has been building a network of WiMax transmitters in Tokyo and neighbouring cities of Kawasaki and Yokohama and aims to reach 90% of Japan’s population by 2012. Today, UQ and KDDI formally announced plans to start offering WiMax services to businesses from July 1.

The promise of WiMax isn’t that it offers another phone network for voice calls. Rather the network is expected make wireless e-mail and Internet-surfing available from more places. WiMax resembles Wi-Fi but WiMax can reach up to 30 miles compared to Wi-Fi’s far more limited range of a few hundred of feet. That means anyone with a laptop computer or other portable gizmo that comes with WiMax technology can tap into the Net wirelessly over a zippy wireless network without a Wi-Fi router or a cable connection. (Calls made over online telephony outfits such as Skype are possible but it’s still unclear whether UQ and other WiMax service providers will try to steer users to their own packaged services.)

UQ enters Japan’s market for wireless data-transmission services as manufacturers unleash an array of wireless gizmos: everything from touch-screen mobile phones resembling Apple’s iPhone to netbooks which are smaller than laptops but can tap cellular networks to do e-mail and Web searches. UQ Communications applied 18 months ago for a license to offer WiMax services.

The company won’t have the WiMax sector all to itself. Japan’s number one wireless carrier, NTT DoCoMo, will begin offering similar services—albeit at much slower speeds than UQ’s–in the coming months. UQ will also have to compete against a crop of other companies known as mobile virtual network operators, or MVNOs, that lease the major cellular networks to offer tailored data and voice services targeting specific kinds of users.

The first WiMax-enabled gizmos will be laptops. Three manufacturers–Toshiba, Panasonic and Onkyo—showed off laptops today that will run on Intel chips with WiMax capability when UQ’s services start. WiMax download speeds in Japan will be as fast as 40 Mbps, comparable to Wi-Fi connections already in use and faster than broadband Internet connections over a land-based line in most other countries. (Upload speeds are slower at 10 Mbps.)

Besides Intel and KDDI, other big-name supporters are behind UQ: Kyocera, railway operator JR East, Tokyo Mitsubishi Bank and Daiwa Securities. That should help in landing deals with businesses and perhaps even give UQ a chance to test new services in conjunction with JR East, which runs commuter and bullet trains from Tokyo to major Japanese cities.

Intel Helps Shape Japan’s WiMax Future – BusinessWeek

The giant screen technology of the future may be closer than we think

June 12, 2009

US company Nanolumens claims to be well-advanced in its plans to market a giant portable display system that will be less than one millimetre thick and weigh no more than 45kg.

As reported in InAVate magazine, John Wilson, president of the company said: “Nanolumens has a core technology that permits it to bring the best of display technology to a flexible format. We have a fairly extensive patent portfolio, almost 50 patents issued and filed that cover a very innovative set of technologies that allow us to bring flexibility to display technologies”.

The company has already built a number of prototypes based on the technology but plans to market a very large display within a year. Wilson confirms, “It will be very lightweight and large for markets primarily in out-of-home advertising, digital signage, control room and large format business-to-business applications.”

Wilson continues: “Our view is that much of the industry, particularly in the out-of-home advertising industry, is shifting to digital and there’s a great deal of that market that would be perfectly fine for a 42” or a 50” LCD display that is rigid and just put up on the wall.”

“But, there are an incredible number of applications where either a curved wall or a bend around a column or a very large space that is high up and needs a hanging screen. That is the market we are planning to pursue.”

A startling additional feature of the technology – apparently – is its ability to operate as a portable device. “The fact that it continues to operate and run as it’s transported from place to place because it’s actually a portable device is also significant so we’ve been able to share it with both customers and strategic partners.”

Wilson and CEO of Nanolumens, Richard Cope, have an impressive background between them, having run numerous research and development enterprises. “[Cope] was a programme manager for the Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency which is one of the premier research agencies in the world,” adds Wilson.

“We view the flexible display world as the start of a new emerging industry.” Wilson concludes. “There are a lot of companies working on the challenges of flexible imaging systems. Some working on small wearable devices or small clothing integrated devices. We chose the large format professional market as we felt was represented higher value and was immediately accessible”

AJ Comments: It may seem too far-fetched to be true, but flexible screen technology as described here is indeed a reality –at least in the lab. It may seem strange that it is a small and hitherto unknown US company that appears to be pioneering this technology as a commercial product, but stranger things have happened and it wouldn’t be the first time that a new technology has burst onto the pro-AV scene from left-field. Watch this space!

InAVate – Flexible screen is less than 1mm thick