Horizons Newsletter – week 28 // 2019

Horizons is a bi-monthly Dasym Research initiative to show you how the Dasym themes have been in the news. We publish the Horizons on our website and as an email newsletter. If you wish to receive the email, please contact Investor Relations.
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Combatting counterfeit products
Sales of counterfeit goods reached $1.2 trillion in 2018 and are projected to rise to $1.8 trillion by 2020, according to Research&Markets. Luxury brands and mass-market brands producing a variety of consumer products are affected the most. With a combination of artificial intelligence and machine learning, platforms such as Amazon and Alibaba attempt to remove and prevent listings of counterfeit products. In addition, these platforms are providing brands with self-service tools to remove illegal listings. Other retailers are using authentication teams and/or technology from Entrupy to recognize fake products. Brands are also taking action. For instance, LVMH, the owner of Louis Vuitton and Christian Dior, turned to blockchain technology to authenticate their luxury goods. The combined efforts have resulted in fewer counterfeit products, but the remaining fakes have become so good that even brands have difficulty to distinguish them from the real thing. Moreover, these “superfakes” are moving to other (less strict) sales channels. Nevertheless, while the counterfeit battle is far from over, the recent decrease in overall counterfeits indicates a potential turning point.

The double-edged sword of digital technology
Digital technology holds the promise of freedom: it gives people the means to voice their ideas and share information freely. For example, thousands of Sudanese civilians used social media to organize pro-democracy protests that eventually led to the end of the 30-year regime of President al-Bashir. The Sudanese internet, however, has been shut down since, as protests continued. The same happened in the Middle East, where internet freedom has deteriorated since the Arab Spring. In general, internet shutdowns are on the rise, from 75 in 2016 to 188 last year, mostly in Asia and Africa. For many developing countries, the liberties delivered by digital technology turn out to be a double-edged sword: while it provides citizens new sources for prosperity and means to improve their lives, it also empowers them to become more critical of the regimes that govern them. As such, the freedom enabled by digital technology can turn into the opposite when governments respond by cracking down and regulating the internet, instead of using the digital revolution to improve the lives of their people.

Future-proof floating infrastructure
Due to climate change, multiple cities around the world are struggling with flooding, such as most recently Mumbai. Chances of flooding will only increase, since sea levels will at least rise 1 or 2 meters in the next hundred years, and possibly more if the global community fails to address climate change. Trying to keep the water out will no longer suffice: building higher dikes is costly and will become ineffective after the sea level rises to new heights. Moreover, it will not avoid the salination of groundwater and agricultural soil. While the Dutch are known for their water management in order to protect the land, entrepreneurs also are creating new ways of living and producing food on the water. For instance, a floating cow farm in Rotterdam prepares for a future in which farmland is increasingly unusable due to flooding, and Amsterdam’s Schoonschip is Europe’s first sustainable floating neighborhood. Instead of trying to keep the water out, these solutions point to more amphibious infrastructure in the face of rising sea levels.

Rare earth materials are none of Tencent’s and Alibaba’s business

Alibaba and Tencent are not investing inraw materials. As far as Alibaba is concerned, the comparison ends with the 4,456 ‘raw earth metals’that can be found for shopping on Alibaba.com.

The implementation of 5G is important for the upgrade of Alibaba & Tencent’s services

5G is the next generation of ultra-fast wireless technology, offering faster data rates, reduced latency, energy savings, cost reductions, higher system capacity, and massive device connectivity. It is expected to power industrial applications such as smarty city infrastructure and the industrial internet, but can also impact consumer services. For example, 5G will enable Tencent’s gamers to seamlessly stream PC and console-quality games on their smartphones without sacrificing processing power or battery life. For Alibaba’s short-video platform Youku, a 5G connection would mean that users can send high-resolution 4K video within a few seconds.

In fear of dependency on Western hardware, Alibaba has set up a semiconductor division

Resembling the States’concern, both Ma’s have outspoken their fear of western depencency when it comes to core technologies:

Alibaba’s Ma:

If we do not master the core technologies, we will be building roofs on other people’s walls and planting vegetables in other people’s yards.

Tencent’s Ma:

[China]’s digital economy will be a high-rise built on sand and hard to sustain if we don’t continue to work hard on basic research and key knowledge, not to mention the transformation from old to new forms of drivers or high-quality development.

In reaction, Alibaba’s R&D arm DAMO (Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum, and Outlook) has set up its own semiconductor manufacturing business and unveiled its chip in July 2019. The chip is designed to process AI tasks such as image, video and voice analysis and will be used for tasks such as autonomous driving, smart cities and smart logistics.