Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) – MAPFRE, China Re Signs MoU

MAPFRE (Stock: MAP.BMAD) and China Re (Stock: 1508.HK)have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on insuring investments related to the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), a massive infrastructure plan launched by the Chinese government in 2013 to connect China with the world’s major economies.

Source: MAPFRE

As part of the agreement signed between the two companies, MAPFRE will offer insurance and reinsurance support to Chinese interests in Latin American and European countries where it has a local presence. MAPFRE will also act as cedant for China Re on projects of interest to both parties.

China Re is the largest reinsurer in China and Asia, and the owner of China Continent, one of the five largest insurers in the Chinese market. MAPFRE and China Re have been collaborating for a number of years, in both reinsurance transactions between both, and in roadside assistance, through their respective subsidiaries, Road China Assistance and China Continent.

The BRI is a long-term intercontinental project that includes the construction of roads, railways, ports, airports, oil and gas pipelines and power plants, but also includes other projects, such as educational programs and the construction and development of special economic zones. China and 131 other countries are currently BRI members, together accounting for 30% of global GDP, 62% of the world’s population and 75% of known energy reserves.

Crypto.com Launches MCO VISA Card for US Citizens

Crypto.com, Hong Kong-based Blockchain startup, has announced new MCO VISA pre-paid card for the US Citizens. The U.S. card launch in partnership with Metropolitan Commercial Bank has been set to July 14, 2019. The new US card also comes with new design. Crypto.com has also added in Frost Rose Gold card in their portfolio of pre-paid cards.

The MCO Visa Card is a prepaid card that features high-end metal cards with no annual or monthly fees, up to 5% back on all spending, unlimited airport lounge access and subscription rebates for popular streaming services such as Netflix and Spotify based on the number of MCO staked. The new design prominently features the Crypto.com brand icon, the Ethereum Lion.

2019 is the year for cryptocurrency. Facebook announced their own currency – Libra. Shortly after Facebook’s announcement, Bitcoin has rallied and crossed the USD 10,000 mark. Ever since Crypto.com’s announcement on their entry to US market, their MCO coin has jumped more than 20% within a day.

Reservations for the MCO Visa Card are made using the Crypto.com App which includes a three-minute customer onboarding process including ID verification. Using the App, customers are able to manage their card usage, move funds between crypto and fiat, and freeze or unfreeze their card with a single tap. The App also allows users to securely buy, sell, store, send, and track cryptocurrencies.

All MCO Visa Card transactions are denominated in fiat currency. All cryptocurrency exchanges to fiat currency take place before users may load their MCO Visa Card for use on the Visa network.

Bonus – If any of you guys want to earn some additional income other than the return from your cryptocurrency investment, you could use my referral code [8iym0srez5] upon sign-up ( alternatively, you could just click on this link https://platinum.crypto.com/r/8iym0srez5 ). Upon successful sign-up, you could also start earning commission from the users that you have successfully referred. For details, please read https://help.crypto.com/articles/2472277-platinum-referral-rewards-program

Garmin Singapore Releases New Vívoactive 3 Element

Singapore,  25  June  2019  –  Garmin  Singapore  today  announced  the  vívoactive  3  Element,  a  fuss-free  companion  that  has  the  essentials  that  you  need  to  stay  active  and  achieve  more  fitness  goals  with   over   ten   preloaded  GPS   and  indoor  sports   apps   including   yoga,   running   and   more.     

The vívoactive 3 Element is available in three colors – Grey, Cerise and Azure . Image – Garmin Singapore

The  vívoactive  3  Element  features  an  always-­on  high-­resolution  Garmin  ChromaTM  display  for  great  readability  in  all  lighting  conditions. 

With  thousands  of  different  watch  faces,  widgets,  data  fields  and  apps  available  to  download  for  free  from  the  Garmin  Connect  IQ  app,  users  can  customise  and  personalise  your  vívoactive  3  Element  to  complement  your  mood,  or  style  for  the  day.   

The vívoactive 3 Element is available in three colors – Grey, Cerise and Azure from today at a recommended retail price of SGD 329 at all authorised retailers.

Should You Still Buy Huawei Phones?

Despite the assurance from Android that Google Services will still work on the existing Huawei phones in the market, consumers are still fearful to put Huawei phone into their shopping cart. Bloomberg has reported that Huawei is preparing for a drop in international smartphone shipments of 40 million to 60 million during this trade war.   

Thing isn’t pretty in Singapore. Mobile phone shops are lowering the price to attract more sales. In the secondary market, it is not hard to find Huawei smartphones selling at huge discount on the Popular consumer-to-consumer marketplace Carousell. A quick check – it is not hard to find Huawei P30 Pro selling at about SGD 600 (approx. USD 440). 

Sound like a good time to snap the good deal if you are considering buying a new phone huh. Is it? Weeks ago, I gave my opinion during a Chinese TV interview about US boycott on Huawei. Although there are new developments since then, I believe whatever I have said still hold till now. I understand that some of my international readers may not understand so I am providing a translated transcript here. I have also embedded the video below. 

Q1. Google is not going to support Android update for Huawei phones. To a Huawei phone owner, does that mean the phone is not longer “usable”?

My answer: Android is an open system i.e. to say, it is available to all phone manufacturers including Huawei. The situation arises when Google is not providing any technical supports to Huawei for the future Android updates of its phones. Huawei will have to provide the updates by its own but that does not mean the phone becomes “un-usable”. Current Huawei phone owners could still use their phones without the latest Android version.

Q2. What will happen to Google Services Application without those updates?  

My answer: Google has been clear that future Huawei phones will not come with Google Services including YouTube, Google Maps, Gmail and etc. However, Android has commented that this will not affect the current Huawei phone models in the market. In other words, current Huawei owners could still enjoy their YouTube video even though the YouTube app is not running the latest version.

Q3. Will the security be compromised for Huawei phone owners?

My answer: Indeed, it is a risk for the Huawei users. Huawei is offering another solution – to release its own proprietary operating system. However, it is still too early to tell. 

Q4. What’s the challenge that Huawei faces in developing their new OS?

My answer: Developing its own OS makes strategic senses. However, to build an entirely new ecosystem that could be as good as Android’s, I believe it is going to take a couple of years.

Back to the discussion, should you still buy a Huawei phone? Huawei has been very clear in their positioning – camera. Indeed, the Huawei P30 and P30 Pro have received very good critique (for the camera). If you are a camera-person, I believe you should take the advantage to buy the Huawei P30 or Mate 20 at a discount (Just make sure the one you bought from the e-commerce sites is 100% original and comes with local warranty).

A few days ago, Huawei Singapore has also rolled up EMUI 9.1 update for its Mate, P and NOVA series. I believe that gives more assurance to the current Huawei phone owners. Local electronic giant retailer Challenger has also shown their support to Huawei by giving 100% money-back warranty if you buy Huawei’s devices from Challenger from now till 31st August 2019. The warranty which is not given by Huawei Singapore guarantee Huawei users of 2 year protection of Google Apps.

To end off, I just want to tell current Huawei phone owners that they need not have to worry that much. To potential Huawei consumers out there, you might have been over-reacting. A good smartphone should be able to last you for the next 2 years. By the time is up, you probably would want to get a new one. Personally, I am still using an old Xiaomi phone (as a spare phone in the office) that goes without updates for the last 2 years! By the way, it is still functioning!

The future of Huawei phones that come after the P30 series is very unpredictable. However, the ones you see in the market now should be still “use-able” in the next 1 ½ year.

Energizer Undergoes Rebranding

Energizer (stock quote: ENR), the maker of world’s longest-lasting AA battery, announced a rebranding campaign, including new packaging, in-store displays, logo and advertising for its battery product lines, as well as an even more prominent role for Mr. Energizer , the brand’s beloved charismatic character. The new visual treatments, to be introduced in Singapore in June, will provide a contemporary look with a lighter, brighter presentation and a helpful new approach, with distinct colors deployed to help consumers more easily and intuitively find the best product to suit their needs. Whether it’s the world’s longest-lasting Energizer® Ultimate Lithium™ AA battery, a lithium coin battery or an Energizer Recharge® rechargeable battery, the new packaging and color schemes will help consumers quickly identify the right choice

New Packaging for the Energizer AA Batteries

This is the first major rebranding exercise since 2008, a year after the very first iPhone was launched. Market has evolved for the past 10 years. This year, Energizer surprised all at MWC with their gigantic P18K smartphone that featured 18,000 mAH battery ( you could continuously watch video on this device for 2 days!). Avenir Telecom has even started a Indiegogo project hoping to raise USD 1.2 million to develop the product.

Models show off the new packages at the launch

You will get to see the new packaging hitting the stores this month.

Why YouTrip Mastercard is a hype?

In the hope of maintaining Singapore as the regional financial hub, the government has been encouraging Singapore banks to adopt technology in improving business operations. Ever since Singapore Prime Minister Mr Lee Hsien Loong highlighted that banks should adopt blockchain technology in bank settlements in 2015, fintech  start-ups from all around the world flew into Singapore. In 2018, YouTrip, an e-wallet start-up, left its home ground – Hong Kong – one of the world’s largest financial hubs to launch their venture in Singapore.

YouTrip positioned itself as a multicurrency e-wallet for travellers. It has developed technical infrastructure for multicurrency exchanges with a network of FX providers. The uniqueness of its technology is to offer FX exchanges to individual at a competitive rate that banks cannot provide. However, that itself is not going to give YouTrip an edge against the traditional money changers as their rates are almost the same. Furthermore, storing money digitally in the e-wallet is useless if travellers can’t use that to make payment in stores.

As such, YouTrip partners Mastercard (stock quote:MA) . Intuitively, this makes the YouTrip card more “useable” as users could make their payment if the respective merchants accept Mastercard. The strategy works. Months after their launch, number of users has surpassed 50,000. That caught investors’ attention. In May 2019, YouTrip raised USD 25.5M in Pre-Series A funding which is quite impressive for a Singapore-based company that is barely a year old.

YouTrip is a Bank Disruptor?  

The recent capital injection is useful in helping YouTrip to improve their technology infrastructure which is the backbone for all financial institutions. In fact, this is the challenge that YouTrip must overcome. Normal people deposit money digitally in their saving accounts with the belief that the bank’s technology could safeguard their savings. Let’s extend the idea further. When we top up money in YouTrip e-wallet, can we expect from them the same security level that bank is offering? If you have read my earlier blog post, YouTrip is trying to assure the public that they have the same level of technology that bank has in terms of risk management and anti-money laundering capability. However, building up the infrastructure equates to building faith among users which takes time. By and large, YouTrip, as a company, is still too young for the public to put their trust (saving) with them.

To succeed in the fintech space, a fintech start-up has to offer the same level of services (or even better) that the bank is offering. As a matter of fact, that’s the value that fintech start-up is offering to the market. YouTrip has identified that digitalizing the existing business model of money changer is the way to enter the market which undeniably, they have succeeded and even convince major payment solution company like Mastercard and locally, Ezlink to participate in their growth stories.

They have great partners and now, it is for them to shape the market behaviour.  

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Friends have been asking me about @youtripsg MasterCard. My reply is always the same it is a good for travel. You get better exchange rate and for some major currencies, you could even buy and keep them in the E-wallet and that’s good for traveller who like to plan their trip ahead to capture the best possible rates. Travellers should give this a try. Now you could even get an additional $10 if you sign up and do your first top up via my referral link http://bit.do/youtrip-weewu P.s. it is also a #ezlink card if that matters to you. #instatravel #travelphotography #travelgram #instalifestyle #mastercard #youtrip #instafinance #discountcodes #discount #referralcode #reward #instareward #singapore #fintech #startup #ewallet

A post shared by Neo Wee Wu 梁威武 (@weewu) on

E-wallet business – More Than Just a Debit Card

E-wallet, as the name suggested, should work like a WALLET. It should be able to keep fiat currencies, credit cards and reward cards etc.  YouTrip positioned themselves as a wallet for travellers only provides the entry to the market but personally, I don’t think it is going to be sustainable. Singaporeans love travels but their time are mostly spent in Singapore. Although YouTrip card holders could use their cards to pay for public transports, there are other players rolling up similar services that gives better discounts. In short, the YouTrip card has not much use in Singapore given so many other options available.

There must be strong enough reasons for users to continue keeping YouTrip card in their wallet

Where are the merchants?

Banks refuses to lower rates as it hurts profitability. Offering low fees is a good penetration strategy but that is not going to be the barrier for new entrants. YouTrip needs to bring in more partners into their ecosystem. For a start, they should just be focusing on bringing more values to travellers. For instance, a reward system in the form of discount for travel insurance or hotel booking for heavy YouTrip users (frequent travellers) that will encourage card usage.

Basically, virtual money is only useful in 2 ways – One, I can use that to buy into services or products at greater discount. Two, I can grow it so that I could use that in the future. In principle, any fintech company that can achieve both can basically be called a bank. ANT Financial is one classic example. However, most fintech start-ups are only able to deliver services or products at greater discount than credit cards companies (which is exactly what YouTrip is trying to do!). However, keeping up with this in a longer term costs money and it may not be sustainable. YouTrip has to “engineer” a new form users’ reliance to your services to keep themselves afloat in the competitive fintech business. In my opinion, better forex rate?Nah!

Grab, a South-East Asian fintech and transport services company, has established a strong network of merchants in the region. Grab Pay, e-wallet services by Grab, can be used to pay for any goods in their marketplace and delivered to users’ doorsteps. Outside Singapore, you could even use Grab to pay off your transportation in other South East Asia countries. Grab is also following footsteps of ANT Financial. They are hiring consultant and it is rumoured that they are preparing to be a virtual bank in the event that Singapore is issuing virtual bank license like what Hong Kong did

Getting merchants into ecosystem is crucial in developing use cases and I am sure there are a lot more to be explored. Grab’s way of linking transportation and merchant seems to be working in South East Asia market. YouTrip is not Grab. They have to offer use cases that are different from what their counterparts are offering. They could study what their closest competitor, Singtel Dash is doing. For a start, why not just tap on existing e-commerce players? That might be faster for YouTrip.

In short, YouTrip has a good start but it is still a hype that I am doubtful it could sustain as a travel card. As of now, I am keeping my YouTrip card in my drawer.

ConnecTechAsia Returns This Year – IMDA is positive of Singapore 5G rollout.

Huawei 5G saga with US Commerce Department is a global concern. Asia market has reignited the interest of cyber security and 5G connectivity. This year, 5G takes the centre of the stage of this year’s ConnecTechAsia.

Mr Tan Kiat How, Chief Executive, Infocomm Media Development Authority, is present to give the opening address for the launch of the event. Bringing connectivity to all is Singapore’s primary goal. Currently, Singapore is able to deliver the 4G mobile services to all Singaporean at SGD29.99/month (approx. USD 21.90)

The incoming 5G technology will create a competitive mobile market that will eventually bring more values to the customers. Consumers are not the only one benefits from the technology. Enterprises and government could also reap benefits from the deployment of 5G technology.

It is more than high speed delivery. Singapore envisions 5G as an enabler to support development of new applications and services in this new digital economy. Low-latency and high bandwidth support massive number of connected devices and that will bring Singapore closer to smart nation initiatives.

5G as a standalone network architecture is crucial to Singapore development. To do so, IMDA is allocating 3.5Ghz to two nationwide networks through call for proposals. IMDA also assures that that more spectrum availability to be deployed in the coming years.

Commenting about global economy uncertainty, Mr Tan opined that despite this trade tension, technology advancement will continue. However, he stressed the importance of collaboration between public and private sectors. In his opening address, he further elaborated, “This is why platforms like ConnecTechAsia are important. Such platforms bring together industry leaders, solution providers, entrepreneurs and policy makers to focus our minds on the key issues of the day.”   

You may watch his speech at ConnecTechAsia via my facebook post below

ConnecTechAsia, comprising BroadcastAsia, CommunicAsia and NXTAsia officially opens on 18th June at Marina Bay Sands and Suntec Singapore. Held from 18-20 June 2019, the three-day event showcases the latest smart technologies and trends that are shaping Asia’s digital future.

Gamers, Protect Your Eyes With Eyesafe®

DELL Alienware m17 Gaming Laptop

By now, urban dwellers who are glued to their smartphones all-day should know the harmfulness of Blue Light also known as High Energy Visible Light (HEV) Light. Under prolonged exposure, the HEV light can produce negative eye health consequences, including digital vision syndrome, melatonin suppression, and long-term effects on the retina that could lead to potential increases in age-related macular degeneration and cataracts.

Thankfully, there are companies out there trying to develop solutions to circumvent the problem without compromising our current city lifestyle. Eyesafe® works with display manufacturers in developing standard on measurement of exposure of Blue Light as well as providing solutions to minimize the user’s Blue Light exposure. For instance, Eyesafe® has worked with ZAGG (stock quote: ZAGG), a mobile accessory maker, in developing screen protector which could filter blue light emitted from the mobile phones and laptops.   

At the recent Computex, Taipei, Eyesafe® has launched their latest solution – Eyesafe® Display in conjunction with DELL’s (stock quote: DELL) latest laptop series. The partnership with DELL allows Eyesafe® to use both hardware and software to manage Blue Light at the source. As such, the display disperses the Blue Light across the spectrum without comprising the color integrity. Striking a good balance of RGB, the display maintains vivid color accuracy.

Currently, DELL is the first OEM to integrate this technology to their new Dell G7 17” and Alienware m17. Dell plans to expand Eyesafe® display across the entire Alienware portfolio in coming months.

Singapore IoT Startup KaHa Raised USD 6.2M in Series B

KaHa, a Singapore-based end-to-end IoT platform startup for smart wearables, has raised US$6.2 million in Series B funding to accelerate its growth in Asia. The funding round was led by ICT Fund, a specialized deep-tech venture capital fund and an existing strategic investor from Europe.

KaHa will be expanding its presence in Singapore as well as play a more significant role in the country’s IoT ecosystem. For instance, KaHa collaborates with Tex Line and A*STAR SIMTech to create the first made-in-Singapore Smart Fitness T-shirt. The smart-T, which was tested at the one-north Run 2018, monitors live ECG, live heart rate, heart rate variance, V02 Max and other health parameters.

Beyond smart wearables, KaHa, together with A*STAR Institute of Microelectronics or IME, developed an extravasation detection proof of concept designed to detect the degrees of swelling during infusions. Being able to detect varying degrees of swelling, the sensor patch and monitoring system will help improve patient safety by assisting in the early detection of complication to ensure immediate care be given to patients, particularly babies and children.

“As a company with a mission to create a better and safer environment, it is important to us to bring innovative and relevant technologies into a consumer’s everyday life. Apart from helping us expand our product line, this new round of funding will allow KaHa to discover more breakthrough products that can support the health and wellness, sports and fitness, safety and digital payments needs, as well as increase the COVE platform’s availability internationally and improve our accessibility and affordability,” said Pawan Gandhi, founder and CEO of KaHa.  “With the continued support of our existing strategic investor and new partner ICT Fund, we are strategically positioned to make our mission possible.”

Brijesh Pande, founder and managing partner of ICT Fund said: “We are delighted to partner with KaHa, which is well placed to capitalize on the fast-growing market opportunity in smart wearables. Consumer product brands will increasingly need to offer ‘smart’ products to maintain leadership and KaHa, with its innovative end-to-end platform, is a perfect partner for global brands.”

“We are very pleased with KaHa’s progress and track record and it’s been clear that its platform can be scaled across various brands.  We are excited about increasing our investment in KaHa on this next phase as it continues to drive scale and growth in the wearable tech and IoT space,” said Andy Raswork, board member of existing strategic investor.

KaHa expects the number of devices powered by its platform to exceed two million by the end of 2019.  The company also aims to increase manpower in its Singapore headquarters and offices in China, India and Switzerland within the next two years, as part of the expansion plans.

Sudio Tolv Review – A Good Attempt By Sudio

Last year, I reviewed the Sudio Nivå and I am rather impressed by its quality sound packed into a compact size. If you have read my review, you would have known about my water test on the Nivå. Despite it is not certified water-resistance, it survives the water test. Sudio is a young player in the audio lifestyle business but they have been catching up fast. The Nivå is impressive if you compare it with other incumbent brands at similar price range. 

This year, I am exceptionally looking forward to their new product. The new Sudio Tolv promises to have longer battery life and better sound quality than Sudio Nivå. Let’s see whether it can deliver what it promised.

Battery Life

Tolv’s battery size is bigger than Niva. In fact, it is twice as much as its predecessor. The official number given by Sudio – the Tolv earbud has a battery life of 7 hours whereas the Nivå has only 3.5 hours.

Unlike the Nivå, the Tolv is armed with Bluetooth 5.0. With Bluetooth 5.0 technology, the battery life of Tolv may even last longer when paired with smartphone which similarly equipped with Bluetooth 5.0 technology.

Like the Nivå, the Tolv comes with portable charging-cum-storage case. This will give 4 extra charges to the Tolv. In another words, you could get extra 28 hours of battery life on the go. Nivå’s case, on the other hand, has a battery capacity of approx. 14hours which is half of what Tolv is providing. 

We have been using the device in a normal circumstance like listening to Spotify while on the train to work and back home. A fully charged Tolv has proven to last almost five days.       

Sound quality  

This is the most difficult part of the entire review. When comes to sound quality, we kind of have equal liking on both Nivå and Tolv. However, each has its own style. Nivå has a very balanced bass-and-treble and that makes it a very good travel companion to listen to a very wide genre of music. This time, Sudio has included graphene driver on their new Tolv which audio quality is perceived to be better. Is it true that it sounds better? Personally, I think it depends on the music you are listening.

It is a different kind of experience. we tested the same music on both Tolv and Nivå. Tolv can bring up the clarity of string instrument. When listened to vocal, especially at high note, the contrast is more evident. Vocal is more “airy” and that adds more “life” to the music. We are not implying that the Tolv can’t deliver clear sound quality; just that the soundstage is different for the Tolv and Nivå. Upon further testing on more concert videos on YouTube, we tend to prefer the Tolv to Nivå.  

Verdict

Clearly, the Tolv is a good attempt by Sudio. We love the soundstage and at that price point of SGD 189, it could be an attractive headphone-alternative for audiophiles who might be looking for something small and yet, it still delivers. I am surprised given its small size (unlike headphones, wireless earbud has limited number of drivers), the product is impressive in trying to create that kind of live concert experience.

I am looking forward to the future development of Sudio’s new range of headphones.

Should you buy?

In general, the Tolv is very small and compact. More importantly, the battery life is impressive; you will never run-up of juice while listening to your Spotify.

If you are addicted to instrumental and vocal music, this product could be of your likings. At that price of SGD 189, you are getting a wireless earbud that is lighter and more comfortable to wear than the pricier headphones.

There is a summer promotion from now till 31 July 2019. Sudio will be giving free Sudio tote bag with every earphone/headphone purchased at Sudio’s website.

Furthermore, we are bringing in more discount to the readers. Apply my TND promocode “neodimensiontolv” on Sudio’s Singapore online store, you will get 15% discount. On top of that, you get free shipping and one-year warranty from Sudio.