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With Pig Parades and Youth Camps, Taiwan’s Ailing Kuomintang Tries a Revamp

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan’s main opposition party, once a widely feared political force, now parades through the streets in a pink pickup truck decked out with pig’s ears and a snout. It brings life-size pig models to rallies. On the floor of the island’s legislature, its members recently flung pig intestines at rival lawmakers.The garishly porcine displays by the party, the Kuomintang, are meant to highlight one of its pet issues, the importation of American pork containing a controversial additive. But in the eyes of critics, the antics signal the identity crisis that the party, once Asia’ …

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China Sends Warplanes to Taiwan Strait in a Show of Force to Biden

HONG KONG — China sent warplanes into the Taiwan Strait over the weekend, a show of force to the Biden administration that signals Beijing’s plans to maintain pressure on Taiwan even as it calls for a reset with the United States.Taiwan’s military said that four Chinese fighter jets, eight bombers and one anti-submarine aircraft entered its southwestern air defense identification zone and crossed the midline that divides the Taiwan Strait on Saturday. That was followed by 12 fighters, two anti-submarine aircraft and a reconnaissance plane on Sunday.While such drills have been common and sometimes larger in recent years, …

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YC-backed Blabla raises $1.5M to teach English through short videos

Short, snappy, entertaining videos have become an increasingly common way for young people to receive information. Why not learn English through TikTok-like videos too? That was what prompted Angelo Huang to launch Blabla.
Originally from Taiwan, Huang relocated to Shanghai in 2019 to start Blabla after working in Silicon Valley for over a decade. A year later, Blabla was chosen as part of Y Combinator’s 2020 summer cohort. The coronavirus had begun to spread in the U.S. at the time, keeping millions at home, and interest in remote learning was reviving.
“It was my eighth time applying to YC,” Huang, …

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Yo-Kai Express introduces Takumi, a smart home cooking appliance

Yo-Kai Express is known for autonomous restaurant technology for venues like office campuses, malls and hotels. As people continue staying home because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the company is introducing a smart home cooking appliance with multiple functions. Called Takumi, it includes a coffee maker, high induction cooktop and a steamer for sanitizing utensils and baby bottles. Takumi is connected by RFID to an app with preprogrammed recipes, which also sends alert when its water container is running low.
The company is currently presenting Takumi at CES’ Taiwan Tech Arena.
Yo-Kai Express’ smart home cooking appliance Takumi
If you live …

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Numbers Protocol’s blockchain camera Capture App safeguards the integrity of photos

The spread of misinformation and fake news online has a dangerous impact on public well-being. Misinformation is difficult to fight, and 73% of Americans surveyed by Pew Research ahead of the presidential election expressed little or no confidence in the ability of major tech companies to keep their platforms from being misused. The open-source Starling Framework for Data Integrity was launched to protect the veracity of online content using blockchain technology, creating “birth certificates” for photos and videos and tracking any changes made to them. Numbers Protocol, a Taipei, Taiwan-based startup, founded by Startling Framework collaborators, is now commercializing its tech …

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Meet the 7 winners of the Taiwan Excellence awards, presented by ShowStoppers and TAITRA

Taiwan is known for being a tech powerhouse, the headquarter of companies like Foxconn, Pegatron, TSMC, Acer and Asus. But while Taiwan’s tech industry is defined by well-established players, it is also home to a growing startup scene. Ahead of the official start of CES, the Taiwan Excellence awards were announced by non-profit trade promotion group Taiwan External Trade Development Council (known as TAITRA) and ShowStoppers, giving a preview of what its startups offer. Awards went to seven startups, while eleven other companies also presented. They cover a wide range of sectors, ranging from fitness and health to industrial …

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Known for 5G mmWave testing solutions, Taiwan’s TMYTEK sets its sights on base stations

TMYTEK recently raised a Series A+ round of about $10 million for products that make it easier to test 5G millimeter wave equipment. So far, the company’s clients include KDDI, NTT DoCoMo and research institutions. But the Taiwanese startup has aspirations to sell its own base stations, too, competing with well-established players like Nokia, Ericsson, Samsung and Huawei. TMYTEK plans to use its expertise, gleaned from helping other researchers develop 5G infrastructure, to create what its chief executive officer describes as a “complete 5G industrial chain.”
Its latest funding round was led by TMYTEK’s manufacturing partner Inventec, one of …

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Apple Suspends iPhone Maker Pegatron Over China Labor Abuses

Apple said on Monday that it had placed a key assembler of its iPhones on probation after the Taiwanese company was found to have concealed violations of labor rules for students employed at its factories in China.

For years, Apple has worked, and at times struggled, to uphold labor standards across its vast electronics supply chain in China. The company said it had made the decision because the Taiwanese company, Pegatron, had violated its code of conduct by allowing student laborers to work night shifts and overtime and do work unrelated to their fields of study, and had then falsified documents to cover it up.

“The individuals at Pegatron responsible for the violations went to extraordinary lengths to evade our oversight mechanisms,” Apple said in a statement.

To meet grueling deadlines, factories in China sometimes recruit labor from local technical schools. Strict guidelines are supposed to limit how long and when such employees can work, but in practice, rules are often ignored and other abuses are common. In some cases, students have said they were forced to do monotonous assembly work rather than the more technical tasks they were studying.

Pegatron, a major assembler of the iPhone that has factories across China, has been accused of a number of labor and environmental abuses over the years. Apple said it would not give the contractor any new business until it took corrective measures, and noted that a Pegatron executive in charge of the student employment program had already been fired.

The rebuke, rare for such a high-profile supplier, underscored a challenge facing Apple as it seeks to address abuses in its supply chain, which sprawls across hundreds of factories across China and increasingly the world. While Apple can make or break the smaller companies that make the innards of its iPhones and put them together, few have the scale to assemble large numbers of phones quickly, leaving Apple reliant on assemblers like Pegatron and its larger Taiwanese rival, Foxconn.

Apple occasionally drops suppliers or puts them on probation. In its 2019 supplier responsibility report, the company said it had removed 20 manufacturing facilities from its supply chain because of violations over the years. In general, however, it said it works with suppliers for 90 days to ensure corrective actions are taken.

In a statement, a Pegatron spokeswoman said that upon discovering the violations, the company immediately removed the student workers from production lines and worked to “make appropriate arrangements for them to return to their homes or schools with proper compensation alongside all necessary support and care.”

She added that the company was undertaking an audit to ensure its labor standards were upheld.

The probation, which will not affect current production of the iPhone, comes at a busy time for Apple suppliers, who regularly add staff and increase worker hours to meet huge orders of iPhones ahead of the product’s annual holiday release schedule. While workers once sought out the relatively well-paid shift jobs at the citysize factories that produce the iPhone, new employment opportunities closer to home, like jobs in food and package delivery, have made it harder to attract short-term workers during times of high labor demand.

In the past, worker shortages have led companies like Pegatron and Foxconn to break rules to ensure they have enough staff. Foxconn has used child labor, while Pegatron relied on ruthless agents who hold workers’ salaries and sometimes their identification cards, preventing them from leaving the factories. Wider concern about the harsh conditions in Apple’s supply chain spread in 2010, when a rash of suicides at Foxconn’s plants prompted Apple to institute further checks and oversight.

The suspension for Pegatron, while probably temporary, could further open the door for Luxshare, a smaller Chinese manufacturer that has been working to expand its role in the Apple supply chain. This year, Luxshare bought an iPhone production factory in China from the Taiwanese company Wistron, which was widely read as an attempt to elbow into the business dominated by Foxconn and Pegatron.

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Microsoft announces its first Azure data center region in Taiwan

After announcing its latest data center region in Austria earlier this month and an expansion of its footprint in Brazil, Microsoft today unveiled its plans to open a new region in Taiwan. This new region will augment its existing presence in East Asia, where the company already runs data centers in China (operated by 21Vianet), Hong Kong, Japan and Korea. This new region will bring Microsoft’s total presence around the world to 66 cloud regions.

Similar to its recent expansion in Brazil, Microsoft also pledged to provide digital skilling for over 200,000 people in Taiwan by 2024 and it is growing its Taiwan Azure Hardware Systems and Infrastructure engineering group, too. That’s in addition to investments in its IoT and AI research efforts in Taiwan and the startup accelerator it runs there.

“Our new investment in Taiwan reflects our faith in its strong heritage of hardware and software integration,” said Jean-Phillippe Courtois, Executive Vice President and President, Microsoft Global Sales, Marketing and Operations. “With Taiwan’s expertise in hardware manufacturing and the new datacenter region, we look forward to greater transformation, advancing what is possible with 5G, AI and IoT capabilities spanning the intelligent cloud and intelligent edge.”

Image Credits: Microsoft

The new region will offer access to the core Microsoft Azure services. Support for Microsoft 365, Dynamics 365 and Power Platform. That’s pretty much Microsoft’s playbook for launching all of its new regions these days. Like virtually all of Microsoft’s new data center region, this one will also offer multiple availability zones.

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