August 25, 2021
5 mins

Satellite internet access and the car revolution

Chinese hospitals, which were recently overflowing with COVID-19 patients, now have many empty beds. It's the result of an extraordinary, concerted effort by China's private and public sector to tackle a crisis which could have been much, much worse.

Searches on China's main search engine, Baidu, for "复工" (basically "going back to work") have grown by 678% in the last few days.

Number of Baidu searches related to "复工" in the last week

Of course, this comes at a time when things are getting much worse elsewhere. In China, the slow resumption of business activity also does not mean that the negative reverberations are over.

Foxconn, which is critical to Apple's iPhone supply chain, announced this week its first quarter consumer electronics revenue may decline by 15% as a result of the epidemic.

Airbnb may postpone its IPO to 2021, after a 80% decrease in China-related business. OYO, the Indian budget hotel chain which Airbnb invested in, has started a worldwide layoff plan, including a 60% cut in staff in China.

OYO hotel in China

Throughout these very tough times, some companies keep investing and trying to take advantage. Chinese car manufacturer, Geely, which owns Volvo, is certainly one of them.

When auto industry icon, Elon Musk, launched Starlink satellites to provide high speed internet access globally, we all noticed:

Photo of Starlink satellites after their launch in 2019

Geely however made little fanfare about its internet access initiatives; their low-orbit satellites, which are designed to support high-speed data transmission, precise navigation, and cloud computing.

If and when the world fills up with autonomous cars, then Geely's move could be the backbone to how these cars operate. It could be a game changer.

Geely concept car driving under the guidance of its satellites network

This isn't so far off. Last year, I saw the successful trial in Seoul of autonomous cars driving on a 5G network.

Hanyang University's ACE Lab's autonomous car running on LG Uplus's 5G network

There's a lot of interesting innovation developments this week. Before you read more, let me put a thought to you that came to me as I was looking through the below.

Thought: The combination of artificial intelligence and cloud computing changes urban life as we know it.

How? Through dynamic two-way sharing of data between infrastructure, automobiles and emergency services, a city becomes a living organism. The city communicates through signal the same way the body does, sending messages backwards and forward.

If that wasn't thought-provoking enough, let me finish by sharing a magnificent essay in Nature, on life: What is Life?. Nature 123, 73-75 (1929).

It was written in 1929 and I've found it hugely helpful in thinking about viruses like the COVID-19, which came 90 years later.

As ever, stay safe.

Thanks as ever for reading and, if you like what you see, please consider sharing!