GulfNews Technology

Watch: Singapore launches new self-driving bus trial

Technology|Asia|: Singapore has moved a step closer to a driverless public transport network with the launch of a new trial of self-driving buses. Orderly and high-tech, the Asian city-state has become a testbed for self-driving vehicles and has developed home-grown technology while inviting foreign companies to trial their own. In a three-month trial launched this week, passengers can book a bus ride through an app that takes them around Singapore's Science Park, a high-tech business hub, during off-peak hours. The charge is just Sg$0.20 ($0.15). It is not the first self-driving bus trial in the city but is the first to charge a fee. Singapore's first trial of self-driving buses came in 2015, while a trial of driverless road sweepers was launched earlier this year. Despite the technology on the buses, a driver is still at the wheel to take control if necessary and must drive the bus manually along part of the route. Khor Jing Qian, a 23-year-old student who took the bus to attend a scholarship interview on Wednesday, said the journey, which took about 10 minutes, was "convenient and easy". "It was unnatural to see the bus driver not driving, but I've heard of these kinds of technologies, I've seen them before, so I think this is quite an innovative thing and definitely the way forward," he told AFP. The shuttles are also operating in another area of the city on a fixed schedule as part of the same trial, according to a statement from the Ministry of Trade and Industry.

GulfNews Technology

Samsung profit spikes on pandemic-driven demand

Companies|Business|: Seoul: Samsung Electronics, the world’s biggest smartphone and memory chip maker, on Thursday reported a 26-per cent rise in fourth-quarter net profits year-on-year, with pandemic-driven working from home boosting demand for devices powered by its chips. The firm said profits in October to December rose 26.4 per cent year-on-year to 6.61 trillion won ($5.97 billion). Operating profit rose 26.4 per cent to 9.05 trillion won, while sales were also up 2.8 per cent at 61.55 trillion won. The coronavirus has wreaked havoc with the world economy, with intensive lockdowns and travel bans imposed around the globe for many months. But the pandemic — which has killed more than two million people worldwide — has also seen many tech companies boom, including Samsung. Samsung Electronics is crucial to the South’s economic health — its overall turnover is equivalent to a fifth of the national gross domestic product. It is the flagship subsidiary of the giant Samsung group, by far the largest of the family-controlled conglomerates known as chaebols that dominate business in the world’s 12th-largest economy. “With consumers spending more time at home, it led the growth of premium appliances such as large TVs and fridges,” said James Kang, senior research analyst at Euromonitor International. The figures come just days after the firm’s de facto leader Lee Jae-yong was sentenced to two and a half years in jail in a retrial over a sprawling corruption scandal brought down former president Park Geun-hye. That ruling cast further uncertainty over Samsung after the burial of late chairman Lee Kun-hee, who turned Samsung Electronics into a global powerhouse, in October. For the full year, net profit jumped 21.5 per cent to 26.41 trillion won, on sales of 236.81 trillion won, up 2.8 per cent.

GulfNews Technology

Facebook beats revenue estimates, users rise 12%

Companies|Business|: Facebook Inc soundly beat quarterly revenue estimates on Wednesday after heavy holiday advertising by e-commerce retailers, but it warned Apple’s impending privacy changes could hurt revenue by interfering with ad targeting. The world’s biggest social media company said in its outlook that it expected to face “significant ad targeting headwinds in 2021.” Facebook forecast that Apple’s update of its iPhone operating system to iOS 14 could start biting into revenues as early as the end of the first quarter. Shares were flat after hours following an initial drop. The fourth-quarter results validated the company’s focus on making it easier for retailers to sell to Facebook users, who frequently were stuck at home last year during the COVID-19 pandemic. For example, Facebook launched tools like Facebook Pay and Facebook Shops that enable consumers to make purchases from stores without leaving the company’s apps. The coronavirus surge in e-commerce buoyed revenue growth for Facebook, which has been cooling steadily as its business matures. Analysts said Facebook was less likely to feel the pinch from Apple’s privacy updates than other ad-supported companies with less access to first-party user data. “In the end, I don’t think Facebook will be impacted as much as others as Facebook can provide workarounds for ad targeting,” said analyst Jonathan Kees of Summit Insights Group. Monthly active users rose 12 per cent to 2.80 billion, above the 2.75 billion expected by analysts. Total revenue, which consists primarily of advertising revenue, rose to $28.07 billion in the fourth quarter ended December 31 from $21.08 billion, a year earlier. Analysts on average estimated quarterly revenue of $26.44 billion, according to IBES data from Refinitiv. Net income came in at $11.22 billion, or $3.88 per share, compared with $7.35 billion, or $2.56 per share, a year earlier.