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  • Jack Lau

We are touring California

As we are taking a small break and touring around California, of course, we are paying attention to the various technology developments.

  1. Parking in San Francisco

Oh, cool. In San Francisco, once you have found a parking spot, how do you pay? Well, fun. If you time is expiring, you can use your phone app to pay. The PayByPhone app will also send you a reminder when the time is expiring.

Seems logical and simple…

But, for all of you proud people in Hong Kong, do you know that your parking meter is ummm, not exactly state of the art to begin with. They were installed in 2003, and are completely isolated (not connected to the network). Smart city? Yeah, right…. Yes, in 2003, Hong Kong was supposed to be already one of the most connected cities in the world with fast network. But,…..

Transport department is testing NEW parking meter so they will take credit card. And, by 2020, they will replace all 9800 parking meters in Hong Kong. But, seriously… you think we are still going to physically tap (thank goodness, not sliding) a credit card to pay a meter? Fintech, guys, can you please talk to the Transport department! (

You know, wouldn't it make sense to be internet connected?

And, we hate to admit. In 2004, Croatia is already using these kind of systems for parking. Yes, Croatia. Is 9800 meters a huge number to change in a shorter time? That we cannot comment.

2. Voice/Amazon Alexa for Seniors

We are a big fan of voice recognition technologies. Free version of voice already exists for Google android phone and Apple iPhone (Siri). And, if you want something independent, good and really inexpensive, you can get an Amazon Alexa Dot. It is about HK$300 to $400 each. It is quite amazing.

One application catches our eyes. That is the use of voice to help seniors. As a grown up, frankly, what is on my mind is mostly how to take care of our parents, the ones who love, care, and literally devote their lives to raise us. Work, traveling, time constraint, and small housing mostly force us to spend very little contact hours with them. Yet, we worry constantly. Teaching them the new tech such as an iPhone is really not a fair game. Try learning how to play the latest Playstation Final Fantasy game from a teenager, and you know what we mean. Most likely, the teenager will think that you should go right to the historical museum and be mummified! How you manipulate the green triangle, red square, colorless X, and nearly ten other buttons moving in all sort of directions and stare at the TV screen at the same time? Hur! Just be mummified or sip your Earl Grey tea in the kitchen, Mr. Too-Old-To-Play Middle Age People!

But, speaking with voice and asking for information or help is a universal skill for everyone. Plus the voice gadget can also give you reminders or even help you connect to real person!

There is a young Boston startup called Ortbia doing just that for the small Amazon Alexa machine. Orbita has raised about US$3.5 million. They program allows seniors to receive reminders for medication, and literally call for help (by simply talking out load), if they need help. Really cool… Imagine in the old days, if you are a senior, and you are afraid that you would , say, fall, and need help, what would you do? You would be given a panic button,and you would literally wear it around your neck or something like that. But, now, with excellent 3 dimensional micro-machined microphones (don't be scared by this term, it is just small advanced microphone that allows good reception any angle you are away from the mic), all you need to do, is shout out your request or help!

We really love technologies when they are truly enabling humankind. Way to go. We will continue monitoring tech stuff like these.

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