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NTT DOCOMO starts 5G trials in Japan; Vodafone to launch NB-IoT networks in ANZ

S&P Global Market Intelligence provides a biweekly roundup of the latest developments in technology in the Asia-Pacific region.

TOP STORIES

* Nokia Corp., NTT DOCOMO Inc and Intel Corp. will work together in conducting trials of 5G technology in Japan via the 4.5 GHz band, according to a May 24 news release. The tests will be done on key tourist, shopping and business locations across the Tokyo metropolitan area throughout the year, as well as at NTT DOCOMO-hosted events.

* Vodafone Group Plc is rolling out live narrowband internet of things networks in Australia, New Zealand and Germany in the second half, following the launch of its NB-IoT network throughout six cities in Spain in January, ZDNet reported May 24.

CLOUD

* South Korean internet company Naver Corp.'s subsidiary Naver Business Platform Corp. plans to launch seven new products in its Naver Cloud Platform lineup in late May, including an application program interface for IP-based geolocation services, ZDNet Korea reported May 26. The company is also opening a cloud center for Hong Kong, and plans to add Germany and Japan in the second half of the year to support global companies.

* Australia-based Linius Technologies Ltd. is collaborating with IBM on a project that would see the creation of the Linius Video Virtualization Engine onto IBM's cloud platform Bluemix, as announced May 22. The video virtualization service will offer ad solutions for broadcasters, video security, search engine monetization and security service applications.

5G AND THE internet of things

* Japan's NEC Corp. said May 16 that it is teaming up with telco KDDI Corp. and construction company Obayashi Corp. to trial 5G remote construction technologies. The tests aim to confirm the quality of 5G high-definition video in remote control of construction machinery.

* Malaysia-based telco Celcom Axiata Berhad and Ericsson AB conducted a trial of a 5G mobile network in Malaysia, The Edge Markets reported May 18.

* Hitachi Ltd. and Okuma Corp. are partnering to develop a high-efficiency mass-production model using the internet of things, according to a May 16 press release. The companies plan to set up the experimental model at Okuma's new plant Dream Site2.

* Malaysian ICT solutions provider Microlink Solutions Bhd. launched three internet of things applications, namely Smart Environmental Management System, Smart Energy Management System, and Smart Plantation System, Bernama reported May 15. According to Microlink CEO Chia Yong Wei, various industries are still lacking effective IoT-based solutions to resolve their issues.

VIRTUAL REALITY AND ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE

* SK Telecom Co Ltd said May 25 that is introducing a voice recognition artificial intelligence technology to its mobile navigation service T-Map. The company plans to launch the new AI-applied navigation service as early as the third quarter.

* SK Broadband is developing a set-top box equipped with SK Telecom's artificial intelligence personal assistant service Nugu, Chosun Biz reported May 25. CJ Group's cable TV unit Hello Vision also established a consortium with domestic AI and robot tech companies to develop an AI set top box and a portable AI robot.

* KT Corp. has set up a dedicated team for its artificial intelligence TV service GiGA Genie, Yonhap News Agency reported May 23. The company plans to expand the team this year to promote the company's AI TV service and explore partnership opportunities.

* NTT Communications Corp. said May 18 that it will launch an AI-based automated chat service to facilitate financial institution customer services through the LINE messaging app. It was developed with Sumitomo Mitsui Financial Group and SMBC Nikko Securities Inc. for SMBC Nikko's contact center. Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corp. is the parent company of NTT Communications.

* Alphabet Inc. unit Google Inc.'s AI-based personal assistant service Google Assistant will start providing its service in Korean this year, intensifying competition in the local AI personal assistant market that already sees offerings from Samsung Group's Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Naver, Apple Inc. and LG Electronics Inc., Financial News reported May 18. SK Telecom Co. Ltd. is also working toward moving its home AI assistant service Nugu to a mobile app service.

* SK Telecom said May 18 that it will release its AR and VR platform "T real VR Studio" at Google I/O 2017. The telco said the new platform is an upgraded version of its previous "T real" converged with Google's VR platform Daydream. Through this platform, users can create VR content on their mobiles and collaborate with other users.

* At the same event, LG Electronics also showcased its smart home appliance linked with Google's AI speaker Google Home, Electronic Times reported May 18. LG Corp.'s electronics unit linked its premium LG Signature humidifier and air purifier with Google's AI technology. The company plans to expand such application to other LG signature appliances including refrigerators and washing machines.

* China set up an AI lab at the China University of Science and Technology in Hefei city in Eastern Anhui province to develop brain-like intelligence technology aiming to mimic the human brain's ability to sort and quantify information, Xinhua News reported May 14. Fudan University, Shenyan Institute of Automation of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, and Baidu Inc. are participating in the project.

VEHICLES AND DEVICES

* Sony Corp. CEO Kazuo Hirai told The Nikkei, in an interview cited in a May 25 report, that medical technology will become a major part of Sony's business in the next decade, although electronics, entertainment and finance will continue as core drivers of growth. He says Sony's turnaround is only partly complete, and a full recovery depends on developing innovative products.

* Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. plans to deploy 1 million smart logistics vehicles, co-manufactured with car companies including Dongfeng Motor Corp and SAIC Motor Corp, in its logistic arm Cainiao Network to meet the increasing demand of deliveries, the South China Morning Post reported May 23. The smart cars, now part of a trial in Shenzhen and Chengdu, will decide on the best routes for deliveries using big data and algorithms.

* Ericsson AB said May 19 that it signed a memorandum of agreement with China Mobile Limited and Mobike to join a smart travel partnership under the Chinese "Belt and Road" framework. The tie-up will work on improving smart travel services and developing the bicycle-sharing industry.

* JD.com Inc. is developing heavy-duty drones capable of delivering goods weighing one ton or more, The Wall Street Journal reported May 22.

* Google is making its smart speaker Google Home available in Australia around mid-year, The Sydney Morning Herald reported May 18. The voice-controlled device enables users to access online services, listen to music and control smart home appliances.