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itemit Asset Tracking Software Gets £1 Million Upgrade: AI and Social Networking Capabilities to Transform Traditional Asset Management

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itemit Asset Tracking Software Gets £1 Million Upgrade: AI and Social Networking Capabilities to Transform Traditional Asset Management

CAMBRIDGE, England-RedBite Solutions has secured Innovate UK funding for £1 million project to transform its asset tracking software ‘itemit’. Fueled by transparency and openness, itemit will leverage advanced AI and machine learning algorithms to create a social network-style approach to asset management.

Recent, tragic, events in social housing have highlighted the need for change in the way assets that are owned, managed and used by different parties are monitored and maintained. Asset end-users, such as housing tenants should have access to up-to-date and accurate information on asset maintenance and inspection schedules. All relevant feedback, reports and concerns from end-users should be valued and used to enhance and inform asset management decision-making.

RedBite is leading the £1 million Social Networked Smart Infrastructure Assets (SoNIA) project, collaborating with the combined research partner the Distributed Information Automation Lab (DIAL) and CSIC, at the University of Cambridge Department of Engineering (CUED) along with the housing association Settle (formerly North Hertfordshire Homes) and the Estate Management department of the University of Cambridge.

“The Grenfell Tower tragedy highlights the need for a drastic change in the way assets that are owned, managed and used by different parties are maintained and monitored. As evidenced in the Tower’s fire risk assessment report (Nov, 2012), the condition of critical assets was directly linked to the extent of the tragedy. Our aim is to empower members of our society at a very poignant time to engage with a transparent and trustworthy change that addresses pertinent concerns that are shared by so many,” said RedBite Solutions CEO, Dr. Alex Wong.

The project team will work towards creating a user-centred digital asset management solution that provides transparency to asset end-users about the assets they rely upon and interact with as well as working to ensure incoming data from maintenance contractors and end-users is analysed and incorporated into decision-making. The itemit asset management solution proposed is unique in that all parties with an interest in an asset will be using the same integrated system to engage with assets.

“The output from this project is an innovative, digital platform for all asset stakeholders that incorporates new algorithms developed together with CUED. Two public reference sites, in the social housing and university markets, will be created by the project. These combined innovations are disruptive in that, for the first time in the infrastructure industry, users are given the opportunity to provide actionable input to asset managers,” said Dr Ajith Parlikad, Senior Lecturer in Industrial Systems at the Institute for Manufacturing (IfM) and CSIC Investigator.

Artificial Intelligence and machine learning algorithms will be developed to interpret the data received from all parties in order to compute a condition assessment score, determine appropriate intervention actions and develop a decision-support system for asset management. The result will be enhanced decision-making based on the value of infrastructural assets to tenants, asset usage and feedback from end-users.

In line with the Horizons’ Human-Rights priority area, people must have the freedom to participate in decision-making that affects their lives. This project will extend RedBite’s fully-owned product, itemit to create an innovative digital platform for stakeholders to interact with assets and revolutionise the way asset data is conveyed and analysed.

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Tech demand drives Asia’s factory revival, China’s slowdown puts dampener

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Tech demand drives Asia's factory revival, China's slowdown puts dampener 1

By Leika Kihara

TOKYO (Reuters) – Solid demand for technology goods drove extended growth in Asia’s factories in February, but a slowdown in China underscored the challenges facing the region as it seeks a sustainable recovery from the shattering COVID-19 pandemic blow.

The vaccine rollouts globally and pick-up in demand provided optimism for a vast number of businesses that had grappled for months with a cash-flow crunch and falling profits.

In Japan, manufacturing activity expanded at the fastest pace in over two years while South Korea’s exports rose for a fourth straight month in February, suggesting the region’s export-reliant economies were benefiting from robust global trade.

On the flip side, China’s factory activity grew at the slowest pace in nine months in February, hit by a domestic flare-up of COVID-19 and soft demand from countries under renewed lock-down measures.

“The big picture, supported by the latest figures, is that China’s growth remains fairly robust, but it is slowing from previously very rapid rates,” Mark Williams, chief Asia economist at Capital Economics, wrote in a note to clients.

China’s was the first major economy to lead the recovery from the COVID-19 shock, so any signs of prolonged cooling in Asia’s engine of growth will likely be a cause for concern.

With the global rebound still in early days, however, analysts say the outlook was brightening as companies increased output to restock inventory on hopes vaccine rollouts will normalise economic activity.

“The recovery in durable-goods demand is continuing, which is creating a positive cycle for manufacturers in Asia,” said Shigeto Nagai, head of Japan economics as Oxford Economics.

“As vaccine rollouts ease uncertainties over the outlook, capital expenditure will gradually pick up. That will benefit Japan, which is strong in exports of capital goods,” he said.

China’s Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 50.9 in February, the lowest level since last May but still above the 50-mark that separates growth from contraction.

That was in line with official manufacturing PMI that showed factory activity in the world’s second-largest economy expanded in February at the weakest pace since May last year.

Activity in other Asian giants remained brisk.

The final au Jibun Bank Japan Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) jumped to 51.4 in February from the prior month’s 49.8 reading, marking the fastest expansion since December 2018, data showed on Monday.

In South Korea, a regional exports bellwether, shipments jumped 9.5% in February from a year earlier for its fourth straight month of increase on continued growth in memory chip and car sales.

The Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam also saw manufacturing activity expand in February, a sign the region was gradually recovering from the initial hit of the pandemic. (This story corrects to add name of institution linked to analyst comment in paragraph 5)

(Reporting by Leika Kihara; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

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China’s factory activity growth slips to nine-month low – Caixin PMI

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China's factory activity growth slips to nine-month low - Caixin PMI 2

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s factory activity expanded at the slowest pace in nine months in February as weak overseas demand and coronavirus flare-ups weighed on output, adding pressure on the country’s labour market, a business survey showed on Monday.

The slowdown in the manufacturing sector underscores the fragility of the ongoing economic recovery in China, although domestic COVID-19 cases have since been stamped out and analysts expect a strong rebound in full-year growth.

The results back an official survey released over the weekend showing China’s factory activity expanded at the weakest pace since last May.

February also saw the Lunar New Year holidays, when many workers return to their hometowns, although this year saw far fewer trips amid coronavirus fears.

The Caixin/Markit Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) fell to 50.9 last month, the lowest level since last May.

Analysts polled by Reuters had expected the index to remain unchanged from January’s reading of 51.5. The 50-mark separates growth from contraction on a monthly basis.

“Overseas demand continued to drag down overall demand…Surveyed manufacturers highlighted fallout from domestic flare-ups of Covid-19 in the winter as well as the overseas pandemic,” said Wang Zhe, senior economist at Caixin Insight Group, in comments released alongside the data.

A sub-index for production fell to 51.9, the slowest pace of expansion since April last year, while another sub-index for new orders fell to 51.0, the lowest since May.

Export orders shrank for the second month. Factories laid off workers for the third month, and at a faster pace, with Wang noting “companies were not in a hurry to fill vacancies.”

An index of confidence in the year ahead rose however to 63.0, the highest since October. Input and output prices continued to rise albeit at a slower pace.

“Now the major challenge for policymakers will be maintaining the post-coronavirus recovery while paying close attention to inflation,” Wang added.

Analysts from HSBC this week forecast that China’s economy would grow 8.5% this year, leading the global recovery from the pandemic.

(Reporting By Gabriel Crossley; Editing by Ana Nicolaci)

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For manga’s striving artists, success lurks online

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For manga's striving artists, success lurks online 3

By Sam Nussey

TOKYO (Reuters) – Manga artist Kamentotsu didn’t expect much when he uploaded a four-panel strip about an anthropomorphic bear who runs a cake shop to his Twitter account three years ago.

But the first instalment of “Koguma’s Cake Shop”, drawn as consolation for a tired friend, attracted tens of thousands of likes. Within a week, 40 companies had approached him with offers.

“Publishing company editors have gone from bringing up manga artists, like they are farming, to hunting for them,” said Kamentotsu, who goes by his pen name and wears a mask in media appearances.

By searching for talent online, publishers squeezed by the rise of the internet can see an artist’s audience potential out in the open.

For Japan’s striving manga artists, many of whom toil in obscurity for low pay, that means going viral can be life changing.

Kamentotsu’s strip, which is published by Shogakukan, has gone on to sell more than half a million books. The titular bear, who wears a chef’s hat, has become a popular soft toy and its image was used to promote frozen dumplings.

Japanese pop culture is piled with such cute, memorable characters.

Industry observers say that a feel-good style – known as the “iyashikei” or “soothing” genre in Japanese – is particularly fitting online audiences.

But other recent hits are quite a bit darker, such as “Jujutsu Kaisen” and “Demon Slayer”.

HIGH CONCEPT

Kousuke Oono’s “The Way of the Househusband” has a high concept idea: a feared yakuza gangster – tattooed, clad all in black but wearing an apron – quits crime to take care of the home while his wife works.

“A comedic story with easy-to-understand characters and title is suited to the internet… we thought about that from the planning stage,” said Arimasa Nishikawa, an editor at manga site Kurage Bunch, which first published the strip.

“Househusband”, popular on manga apps and in print, plays with gender stereotypes at a time of social change in Japan. A line of aprons has been a hit with fans.

The strip has been made into a TV drama, with an animated version set to stream on Netflix this year.

(Reporting by Sam Nussey and Yuki Nitta; Editing by Gerry Doyle)

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