Asia: A Hotbed of Innovation
Sep 30, 2018

Asia continues to deliver technological innovations par excellence to the global community. Such is the unprecedented growth of Asian enterprise that more people are moving to cities, effectively expanding one metropolis after another. This has the effect of rapid and widespread urbanization with an estimated 50% + of Asian people now living in cities. No other continent on the planet boasts as many megacities as Asia, at 17 and growing fast. The implications of this urbanization are unprecedented.

For starters, the paradigm shift from rural to urban has spawned a new economic class of people, and its affecting every facet of Asian life. A thriving cultural milieu now embraces Asia, and it is expanding outwards at a rate of knots. This means that Asian enterprise and innovation are deeply entrenched in the psyche of countries across the region. This spans China, Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, Taiwan, India, Philippines and well beyond. The mass migration of people into urban areas brings with it a myriad of opportunities for new concepts, exciting ideas, and cultural growth.

This type of change comes with many challenges. Existing infrastructures are being placed under immense pressure to accommodate ever-growing numbers of people. Power grids, sanitation systems, roads and highways, housing markets, transportation facilities and so forth must grow rapidly to keep pace with these changes. Asian imaginative flair is up to the challenge, with a series of featured innovations designed to foster growth, support massive urbanization, and enhance productivity like never before. The indomitable Asian enterprises – the juggernauts of global commerce – are able to extract the best from their employees, thanks to participative styles of management, innovative idea generation through top-tier open innovation platforms, and greater efficiency across the board. Such is the broad mindedness of Asian enterprise that many exciting new processes, systems, and innovations are now available. In 2016, Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) launched its Watt A Box idea. This was a limited-edition concept designed to help users with mobile phone charging. The KFC box doubles as a take-out box and a phone charger replete with USB cable and lithium-ion battery. It was released in Mumbai and Delhi in India, and proved to be a resounding success at the time.

Safety first in Asia

Chinese on-demand taxi company Didi Chuxing has always operated on the cutting edge, much like Uber and Lyft. 2 years ago, this company launched a safety feature known as an SOS button via its app. With so much congestion in Asia, and so much demand for transportation, drivers tend to rush all over the place, endangering their passengers. To prevent such reckless activity, this ride service placed another consumer-friendly feature on the app. The company gets alerted every time a rider feels at risk. Much like its US-based counterpart Uber, Didi Chuxing also allows riders to share their itinerary with friends and family who can then monitor the trip in real time. The security measures came about after a female passenger was murdered by one of the drivers.

Safety is a big issue across Asia, and for good reason. Thailand is home to many reported incidents of violence against women. However, one makeup company – Oriental Princess – is having none of it. It perfected a product known as Lip Rescue. The lipstick dovetails as an alert system when the user blows into it. It emits a 120 dB high pitched sound which can be heard within a radius of 100 m. With an estimated 3 attacks against women every minute, Thailand certainly benefits from this innovation.

Making Space in Densely Populated Cities

Cities like Tokyo, Singapore, Beijing, Mumbai and others face a major problem when it comes to space. People live on top of one another in high-rise apartments, often in pokey apartments. To combat this problem, companies across Japan and beyond have pooled their collective talents to conjure up workable solutions. One such company, Yves Behar in tandem with MIT Media Lab has crafted robotic furniture for micro--sized apartments. Known as Ori, this smart furniture features units that dovetail as bookshelves, beds, tables and the like. They are all fully programmable via an app, and allow for maximum space utilization. Tokyo is not alone in this, other major cities like Singapore have partnered with major multinational enterprises like 3M to create noise cancelling construction materials. These initiatives are but a handful of the many exciting innovations currently underway across Asia.