Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Indian Central Bank Buys IMF Gold


The Reserve Bank of India (RBI) has increased the quantity of its gold holdings. With a recent purchase of 200 tonnes of gold from the International Monetary Fund, the Indian Central Bank is now the ninth or tenth largest holder of gold globally.


Executed as a part of its foreign exchange reserves management, the RBI recently purchased $6.7 billion USD worth of the IMF's gold, from Oct. 19 to Oct. 30th 2009. Although the RBI does not officially discuss its diversification strategy, speculation is rampant that the purchase may be part of India's push for greater influence within the IMF itself. 


India, along with other emerging BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) is jockeying for greater bearing on the global economic stage, and this recent move may be a tactic of this strategy. The Indian economy has grown rapidly in recent years, and is now in aggregate, a $1.2 trillion USD economy. 


According to the latest data, of India’s total foreign reserves of $285.5 billion on Oct. 23, 2009, slightly more than $10 billion worth was in gold. The recent purchase has increased India’s percentage of gold holdings in its portfolio, from approximately 4 percent to approximately 6 percent. The purchase was one of the largest single purchases of gold by a Central Bank, in memory.


Portfolio-wise, Indian gold holdings are on average much less than most Central Banks of the developed world, but interestingly, Indian gold holdings are approximately four times the size of China's share. With this recent move, perhaps New Delhi may be trying to assert its strength in world economic affairs, relative to the other BRIC nations.


For gold markets in general, the picture is less clear. What does the RBI’s decision signal for the global gold market? Does India’s recent move potentially signify the beginning of a new bull market for bullion? Only time will tell.

Posted via web from Global Business News

Saturday, November 21, 2009

US and Asian GDP Return to Growth


American GDP is growing again.

After four consecutive quarters of GDP decline, the US Economy grew in the third quarter by 3.5%.  This ends the longest contraction in the US economy since the Great Depression. The 3.5 per cent growth figures were stronger than expected by some analysts, including Goldman Sachs, who had forecast only 2.7 per cent growth. 

Simultaneously, the IMF has doubled its forecast for Asian economic growth in 2010. 

The region’s prospects have improved dramatically over the past 6 months due to the concerted efforts of Asian Governments to nurse their economies back to health. China, South Korea, India, and Japan have taken the lead in this regard. The International Monetary Fund has forecast GDP growth of 2.8 per cent for 2009, and 5.8 per cent in 2010 for the region. 

The “Great Recession”, as it has come to be known, may be technically over according to the Economists, but it's been replaced by fears that this may only be a statistical recovery. The manifest growth in the US is literally underwritten by billions of dollars in US Federal government spending. Some economists posit that all of the government money in the US system will lead to an artificial and jobless recovery in America. Last month's US jobless rate was 9.8 per cent, its highest rate in 26 years. 

Nonetheless, third quarter figures indicate that 2010 will be a year of growth in the American economy, which is certainly reassuring news for the Global economy, as the US Economy is currently underperforming globally.

Posted via web from Global Business News

Monday, October 12, 2009

Taiwan lab develops panda robot

The world's first panda robot is taking shape at a cutting-edge lab in Taiwan where an ambitious group of scientists hope to add new dimensions to the island's reputation as a high-tech power. The Centre for Intelligent Robots Research aims to develop pandas that are friendlier and more artistically endowed than their endangered real-life counterparts.

"The panda robot will be very cute and more attracted to humans. Maybe the panda robot can be made to sing a panda song," said Jerry Lin, the centre's 52-year-old director. Day by day, the panda evolves on the centre's computer screens and, if funding permits, the robot will take its first steps by the end of the year.

"It's the first time we try to construct a quadrupedal robot. We need to consider the balance problem," said 28-year-old Jo Po-chia, a doctoral student who is in charge of the robot's design. The robo-panda is just one of many projects on the drawing board at the centre, which is attached to the National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, the island's version of Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

The Taipei-based centre also aims to build robots that look like popular singers, so exact replicas of world stars can perform in the comfort of their fans' homes. "It could be a Madonna robot. It will be a completely different experience from just listening to audio," said Lin.

Commercial value is what counts for Lin, who hopes to contribute to the Taiwan economy at a time when it has matured and no longer exhibits the stellar growth of the earlier take-off phase. "If I write 25 academic papers, I won't contribute anything. But if I create something people need, I will contribute to the Taiwan economy," he said. Lin and his team are also working on educational robots that can act as private tutors for children, teaching them vocabulary or telling them stories in foreign languages.

There is an obvious target market: China, with its tens of millions of middle-class parents doting on the one child they are allowed under strict population policies. "Asian parents are prepared to spend a lot of money to teach their children languages," said Lin.

Robots running amok are a fixture of popular literature but parents do not have to worry about leaving their children home alone with their artificial teachers, he said. "A robot may hit you like a car or a motorbike might hit you. But it won't suddenly lose control and get violent. Humans lose control, not robots. It's not like that."

Lin's long-term dream is to create a fully-functioning Robot Theatre of Taiwan, with an ensemble of life-like robots able to sing, dance and entertain. Two robotic pioneers, Thomas and Janet, appeared before an audience in Taiwan in December, performing scenes from the Phantom of the Opera, but that was just the beginning, Lin said.

"You can imagine a robot shooting down balloons, like in the wild west, using two revolvers, or three, but much faster than a person. Some things robots can do better than humans with the aid of technologies," Lin said.

His vision is to turn the show into an otherworldly experience where robots and humans mix seamlessly on stage, leaving the audience in doubt which is which. But the bottomline is the bottomline. Lin wants commercial viability, in the interest of his home island.

"I want to be able to go to an amusement park in the US and see a building where on top it says, 'Robot Theatre from Taiwan'. That's my lifetime goal," he said.

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China, Taipei, Robot panda, Robot Theatre of Taiwan, National Taiwan University of Science and Technology, Global IT News, The Centre for Intelligent Robots Research,

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Tuesday, September 22, 2009

World's Largest Yacht is Paparazzi Proof

Roman Abramovich's latest extravagance, Eclipse, probably so-called because it's almost big enough to block out the sun, is the world's largest mega-yacht. Measuring 557ft long, it boasts two swimming pools, two helipads and an onboard missile defence system. And, just in case any missiles do get through, it comes complete with an escape pod: its own submarine. Its most curious feature, however, defends it against an altogether more insidious weapon: the prying eyes of the paparazzi.

The boat's anti-paparazzi system, described in several reports as a "laser shield", is a little less science fiction than it sounds. The lasers – beams of infrared light – are used to detect the electronic light sensors that digital cameras use instead of film. The camera is then targeted with a focused beam of bright light that disrupts the potential photo, making any shots unusable. It's not so much a space-age Star Wars laser shield, then, as a big budget version of shining a torch in someone's face.

A similar technology is already available to all in the form of an anti-paparazzi purse, devised by New York University student Adam Harvey, which detects the flash of a camera and responds with a bright flash of its own, cloaking the intended target in a blob of white light. Nigel Atherton, editor of What Digital Camera, explains, "You couldn't stop them taking a picture but you could ruin the picture." Eclipse's anti-paparazzi defence grid, he suspects, "is essentially a large-scale version of that."

What makes Eclipse's system special is that it can detect any digital camera, whether it's using a flash or not, and before the first shot. But Abramovich's shield still has a serious weakness: it can't possibly detect the presence of an old-fashioned analogue or mechanical camera.

So for £724m, he's got himself a boat that digital-camera-wielding paparazzi can't photograph, say, falling over outside a nightclub at 3am. It's a shame really. That's exactly the sort of memory you'd want to capture.

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Roman Abramovich, Eclipse Yacht, Anti-Papparazzi system, lasers, New York University, Laser shield, escape pod, missile defense systems, Global Blog Network, Billionaire, paparazzi protection, flash photography,

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Delivering Data At Light Speed

You may not have heard of nanophotonics, but it may be the technology that puts Intel and Broadcom chips to shame.

Greg Young serves as president and CEO of Luxtera [full disclosure: My venture firm, Lux Capital, is an equity investor]. Prior to Luxtera, he was vice president and general manager of the High Speed Ethernet Controller and High Definition Media PC Video business units at Broadcom. While there, Greg led the growth of the Ethernet Controller business unit from concept to hundreds of millions in revenue and the No. 1 market share position. Prior to joining Broadcom, Greg was with Intel, where he held several engineering marketing and leadership positions.

Josh Wolfe: What career path led you to Luxtera?

Greg Young: After trying some startups out of school I joined Intel ( INTC - news -people ) in the mid-90s, beginning as an engineer and then transitioning over to marketing and running product lines. I worked at Intel until 1999, when I joined Broadcom ( BRCM - news - people ). I spent eight years at Broadcom helping to pioneer the company's participation in the Ethernet market for the network interface controller business. Ultimately, I helped grow that business to about $350 million dollars a year in semiconductor revenue. Most of my career has been spent building businesses off of advanced transceiver technology (devices that both transmit and receive information), so when I recognized the opportunity within Luxtera, it was easy for me to see how the technology could be built into a large-scale enterprise.

What excited you about the company?

First, some market backdrop here: It's getting harder and harder to send fast signals over copper wires. The world of optics has been sitting out there for a long time as the performance leader, but it has been a very expensive way to get the performance that you need for the same kind of input/output speeds. When I recognized that Luxtera had the ability to create a complete optical transceiver in CMOS technology to take performance to 10 gigabits and well beyond 10 gigabits at a cost point that was previously unachievable, I saw the same kind of opportunity I was given at both Intel and Broadcom.

Put it in perspective--how fast is 10 gigabits?

If you use a cable modem at home, that's about a 1 megabit connection--a million bits per second. We're talking about ultimately transitioning people to the point where they can readily transmit 10 billion bits a second. That's the equivalent of downloading more than 300 songs every second.

Why do photons trump electrons when it comes to broadcasting bits?

When you send an electronic signal over copper wires, there is a relationship between speed, distance, and signal integrity. As you get faster and faster over the same distance of wire, your signal integrity gets worse, and you see distortion in the signal that starts to dominate the signal quality at higher speeds. Because of that relationship, there is a natural limit for how fast and far you can push a signal over a copper wire.

At 10 gigabit speeds, electrical interconnects over copper wires really start to break down--it's hard to transmit the signal even 10 meters. Alternatively, you can send a burst of photonic energy down a low-cost fiber optic waveguide, and you can easily send a 10 gigabit signal over 10 kilometers. You can do it with less power, less complexity, and with Luxtera's technology--lower cost.

Why is transceiver technology important in this industry?

While at Intel and Broadcom, I saw two things: first, mixed signal circuitry (combined analog and digital circuitry) would enhance the communications signals between systems, and second, I realized that the rate at which you come out with new transceiver technology is really what controlled the cadence of the innovation in the industry. I first saw this at Intel.

The company was able to utilize its own technology to build transceivers for 100 megabit Ethernet. At the time, 3Com ( COMS - news - people) was the dominant player, but by leveraging the cost and performance benefits of having an integrated transceiver technology in CMOS, we were able to transition the market from 10 megabit to 100 megabit Ethernet and move Intel's position from a minority player to the market leader within the network interface controller business. That was a really interesting learning experience for me.

When I joined Broadcom in 1999, the company was the leader in mixed signal in CMOS and was just entering the Ethernet space, building up their business as an Ethernet transceiver vendor. What I was handed when I came into the company was a complete, single-chip gigabit Ethernet transceiver. At the time, no other company in the world knew how to build a single-chip transceiver for 1 gigabit data rates, and by having that technology I was able to facilitate a very similar transition to what I had been involved with at Intel--driving the market from 100 megabit Ethernet to 1 gigabit Ethernet.

Today, you can barely buy a computer that doesn't have a gigabit Ethernet network controller in it, and it was that transceiver advantage that Broadcom had that allowed them to subsequently grab the No. 1 market position from Intel.

CMOS, photonics, optical transceivers--sounds complex! In the simplest of terms, what is it that Luxtera's technology does?

Our technology takes a high-speed signal and gets it from point A to point B. A transceiver sends out a signal at point A and receives the same signal at point B. We send that signal over a fiber optic cable, giving us performance and signal quality advantages. Our system is less expensive than other optical approaches because of nanophotonics--we've shrunk the optical elements down to the same scale as the transistors that sit inside your PC's CPU.

By being down at that scale, we've enabled the manufacturing of our systems with the same processes that makes computer chips, meaning we can precisely stamp them out in large quantities, without needing complex assembly. We've been able to move the world of photonic interconnects from an era equivalent to that of the vacuum tubes, to one of the modern integrated circuit.

Who's competing with Luxtera in this market?

If you look at the area of silicon CMOS photonics, Intel, IBM ( IBM -news - people ), Hewlett-Packard ( HPQ - news - people ) and many other big names within the industry are all doing research. But Luxtera is the leader in development in this space. The original foundation for the company came out of advanced research at Caltech, which stimulated the very early years of development.

We have pioneered a brand new space, moving nanophotonic structures into a CMOS-compatible silicon process. By doing that, we've figured out how to increase performance while reducing cost. We've blazed a new trail, and in doing so we've established the methods and techniques needed to bring this technology into production. Based upon research papers written by other companies exploring this area, we estimate that we're at least five years ahead of the nearest competitor.

What do you see as the current market opportunity for this technology?

There is a huge short-term opportunity for Luxtera within the high-performance computing segment. High-performance computing refers to supercomputers and computer clusters like data centers that are trying to achieve maximum performance to solve complex computations or process large amounts of data. They are all on the cutting-edge of technology, and typically that technology very quickly waterfalls down into the mainstream PC market.

High-performance computing centers are typically the starting point for many innovations in the industry. In each of these centers, there are many, many processors that are trying to communicate with one another at mind-boggling speed, and it's becoming nearly impossible to make that communication work with copper wires.

While there has always been a broad opportunity for photonics, the photonic approaches thus far have always been too expensive to implement. Our technology allows us to take the performance of optics and reduce the cost so that we're able to interconnect these high-performance computing centers economically.

When will we see this type of technology in our home computers?

Over time, optics will transition into every market as speeds get faster and faster. The move from copper to fiber optics is a very natural transition forecasted by just about every industry pundit. You can find this technology today within the high-performance computing space, where we have products that send signals over fiber optics used to connect high-performance computing data centers.

Some of the world's fastest computer systems use photonic interconnects, and over time you're going see that transition down into consumer electronics: Home PCs, DVD players and TVs will all ultimately pick up optics for communications between subcomponents. What's notable is that optics has already moved into the home. The transition from magnetic media--like VHS and cassette tapes--to digital optical data storage on CDs and DVDs is a great precedent where storage requirements exceeded the limits of magnetic, copper-type systems and transitioned over to optics. Communication interconnects are moving down that same path.

Is Luxtera still focused on research or is the company shipping products today?

We are in production with products today. While we continue to do research to move the edge of technology forward (with 23 PhDs on staff), we are a product company with development engineering and manufacturing operations. In fact, we recently announced that through a partnership with Freescale Semiconductor ( FSL - news - people), we've reached full-scale production status for CMOS photonics technology.

What does this collaboration with Freescale mean for the company?

It means we can now design and produce chips that use our structures on a very large scale. Freescale already has a process that they use to build transistors at very large scale, and they produce lots of chips for things like network processors and automotive sensors. We've been able to integrate our novel nanophotonic device structures into Freescale's process, so now their factories can produce CMOS photonic transceivers.

As anyone in the semiconductor industry knows, it takes about five years to develop a new CMOS process, and once you have that process in production, you build products in it for a number of years. By taking our process to maturity through our relationship with Freescale, we can now design a whole host of products and bring them very quickly from design into volume manufacturing.

How do you think big players like Intel and Broadcom perceive your company in the market today?

I think that Intel in particular, and others that work in silicon photonics, see silicon CMOS photonics as being part of their future roadmap. Having a company like Luxtera out there that's in production with CMOS photonics, on the cutting edge of technology, I think one, it comforts them that the roadmap in front of them is truly viable, and two, if I were in their shoes, I would be a little threatened by it. Our technology can be applied to anyone in the industry. Any company that wants to be able to adopt

CMOS photonics to gain performance benefits in a very large market can leverage our technology platform and get to market very quickly. On the other hand, I think a lot of companies view us as an opportunity to get their hands on a technology that could move them ahead on their own roadmap faster.

The ease by which we transport massive waves of data may leave many unaware of the physical systems that enable our virtual world. How do you give people a sense of appreciation for the importance of this technology?

Here's an analogy that may give people some sense of scale: Many people have gone through the transition from a 56k modem to a cable modem or DSL service. What photonics represents to high-performance computing is akin to the transition from dial-up to broadband.

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Josh Wolfe, Forbes, CMOS, photonics, Luxtera, Freescale, Greg Young, Lux Capital, Broadcom, electrons, optical transceivers, Freescale Semiconductor, nanophotonic structures, CMOS-compatible silicon process,

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