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NTU partners with Lushang to spearhead new world of u-commerce research
25 August 2012
Nanyang Technological University
Joint laboratory will be part of a new research centre at NTU to advance age-friendly ubiquitous technologies and services that narrow digital divide
Mr Elder, a senior living on his own, is going through a difficult period and has no appetite. Fortunately, a personalised virtual companion in his smart phone detects the problem and notifies his daughter, Alice, who is currently travelling overseas. Alice calls and is able to cheer up her father. The virtual companion detects Mr Elder’s change in mood and immediately places an order online for his favourite food from the local restaurant. Shortly after, the food is delivered just as Mr Elder feels ready to enjoy his meal.
This scenario illustrates how technologies can be developed to make e-commerce very age-friendly by enabling its use to be almost transparent.
Taking the lead in the development of such new age-friendly ubiquitous commerce (u-commerce) technologies and services is a new Joint Research Lab in Ubiquitous Commerce at Nanyang Technological University (NTU).
The Shandong Commercial Group, also known as Lushang Group, a large state-owned enterprise with retail, pharmacy and real estate among its core businesses, and one of China’s top retail companies, is establishing the joint research lab with NTU. Lushang and NTU will combine their research expertise and resources, and come up with innovative Interactive Digital Media (IDM) solutions, particularly in the area of next-generation context-aware ubiquitous computing (u-computing) and personalised u-commerce technologies, making online and offline shopping a breeze. An agreement will be signed in Jinan, the capital of Shandong, China, next week to formalise the partnership.
The laboratory will be part of a new research centre at NTU focused on age-friendly computing, design, technologies and services. The research centre, a joint collaboration between NTU, Lushang Group, the University of British Columbia (UBC) Canada, and the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), will be launched by the end of this year.
Industry watchers estimate that by 2018, the 50+ market will represent over 35 per cent of the population of most developed countries in the Asia-Pacific. The spending power of the retired (65+) population in the region will exceed US$2 trillion by 2015.
NTU President, Professor Bertil Andersson said, “Like many other countries, Singapore will see a massive increase in its silver population in the coming decade. To turn this silver consumer market into gold, forward thinking countries have to work with businesses to think of how to develop and promote the adoption of innovative technologies that will enable the 50+ consumer market to flourish. The joint laboratory and research centre will be at the forefront of these pioneering efforts by tapping on the diverse multi-disciplinary talents within NTU and the industry. The centre will add another dimension to NTU’s research focus in new media and future healthcare, and bring together the best of knowledge from the East and West.”
Lushang Chairman, Dr Ji Xiangqi said, "China has an estimated 200 million online shoppers, more than any other country. Online retail generated $121 billion in sales in China last year, up 66% from 2010. The size of China’s e-commerce market is expected to more than triple over the next three years, with sales reaching $420 billion by 2015. This joint lab is Lushang's first overseas R&D lab and represents an important element of Lushang's internationalisation strategy."
The joint laboratory will contribute to Singapore’s aspirations to become a leading global hub for age-friendly design, technologies and services. Leveraging the research talents within NTU and the university’s partners, the state-of-the-art innovation lab will support local spin-offs and businesses in their product development and connect them to the international market place.
NTU Chief of Staff, Professor Lam Khin Yong, who was instrumental in the establishment of the laboratory and research centre, said, “We are delighted to be partnering with Lushang on this initiative. NTU's technological research expertise, coupled with Lushang's extensive experience as one of China's top retail companies, will enable us to develop innovative and personalised u-commerce solutions for the silver market. This will help to create a more friendly and inclusive environment for seniors not only in Singapore, but also across Asia and the rest of the world.”
Prof Lam’s point of view is shared by Dr John W. Hepburn, Vice President (Research & International) of UBC. Dr Hepburn said, “The establishment of the research centre is important and timely. Many countries are facing the challenges of a rapidly aging population and it is evident that most current healthcare models for the elderly are economically unsustainable. The potential benefits to the elderly and society-at-large of technologies to support active living are immense.”
The NTU-Lushang partnership and establishment of the joint laboratory has been welcomed by the multi-agency Interactive Digital Media (IDM) R&D Programme Office (IDMPO). Hosted by the Media Development Authority of Singapore (MDA), the IDMPO spearheads the growth and development of Singapore’s IDM sector, and coordinates a cross-disciplinary effort to deepen Singapore’s research capacity in IDM.
Mr Michael Yap, Executive Director of IDMPO, said, “While the silver-haired generation may not have been commonly associated with interactive digital media (IDM), there is great potential in uplifting the quality of life as well as offering new business opportunities. It has the power to foster greater connectivity with families and society. IDM can help to meet communication needs, bridge distances and make information and services much more accessible.
We are heartened that NTU’s IDM research is attracting global interest from industry partners such as Lushang Group, which will work together with the best minds in Singapore in addressing this growing demand.”
Driving the daily operations of the laboratory and research centre will be Associate Professor Miao Chunyan, Director of the Emerging Research Lab at NTU’s School of Computer Engineering and Professor Cyril Leung, Associate Dean for Research at UBC’s Faculty of Applied Science and a Visiting Professor at NTU.