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By Meikei Ieong, CTO, ASTRI
The Hong Kong Applied Science and Technology Research Institute (ASTRI) is a government-funded organization. Today, we have seven technology divisions and close to 600 employees, of which, around 500 are researchers. About 150 people work in semiconductor-related areas; this includes integrated circuits, IC design, packaging, and semiconductor devices. We are bringing many of these activities into more application levels, for example, the IoT, 5G network, and so on. At ASTRI, we cover everything from basic technologies all the way to applications areas. They all fall into the so-called information and communication technologies area. For the past two or three years, we have started many FinTech and blockchain related initiatives in conjunction with the Hong Kong Monetary Authority.
With your experience as a CTO, how do you go about leading the organization?
I worked at IBM Research in the US for 11 years. I learned quite a lot there, regarding how to innovate and about how to respect people. I was then at TSMC (Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) in Taiwan, a company well-known for its execution. The most important lesson I learned at TSMC was commitment—to deliver what you promise. These are the two things I am now bringing into ASTRI. I want to nurture the talent at ASTRI, but at the same time; I want to foster innovation.
My last two years at TSMC while in Europe was working with customers on the business side. Add to that my connection and experience at MIT Sloan Fellows program. So, together with my research experience as well, they have all blended. My current interest is putting a lot more emphasis on applications. Thus, in Hong Kong, my focuses from an application point of view are FinTech and Smart Cities. We have a lot of basic building-block technologies that can support a lot of innovation in these two sectors.
Trusted, connected, intelligence—I think these will be the three most critical enabling technologies for our future
What are some of the latest technological trends that you can see in this arena?
Trusted, connected, intelligence—I think these will be the three most critical enabling technologies for our future.
Trusted - Whether it is Smart Cities or FinTech, today a lot of concerns are related to trust, like cybersecurity, for example. If you look at blockchain, where there are a lot of opportunities, it is all about trust. As a result, a lot of people talk about this intermediation, where a lot of things are redundant because of the trust provided by the blockchain. We are also working on authentication of biometric technology, so these are making it more user-friendly without sacrificing security. These are very important areas where we need to be very capable, to provide enough technology to enable innovation.
Connected - Connectivity is of two areas, the first being 5G wireless connectivity that can provide a much better experience, and faster/higher data range. In addition to that, in 5G, there are two major features as well, the low latency of critical communication. Basically, in this connectivity, we can connect to each other in a much shorter time, because of which, a lot of new applications can be enabled, such as connected cars, internet of the vehicle and so on. The next 5G feature is a massive connection of IoT. What we do is researching all these connectivity technologies. We believe that very good connectivity technology that connects all these things is very important, we have to make it low-cost, while also making it consume less power as well.
Intelligence - A lot of the definite value will not be realized without intelligence. We have more than 20 ongoing projects related to Artificial Intelligence (AI) and data analytics. So, I love to talk about both the FinTech areas, financial institutions as well as a lot of Smart City related projects. Now, there is a lot more use of AI as well as data analytics.
So, as I see the future, these three areas need to work together seamlessly.
An analogy from your personal life that reflects in your leadership strategies.
I like working with people, and I feel especially satisfied when I work with people who I can help grow. Working at ASTRI will give me a lot of opportunities to do this because one of our missions is 'Talent Development.' At ASTRI, I had the opportunity to work with different people with different skills, and I enjoy working with them, especially with the ones who have the opportunity to grow. When giving advice, I would say, give them opportunities and allow them to try little projects, new ideas. I think everyone would like to grow in this technical area, to have an open mind and prepare to face those challenges, but they should not be afraid. Everyone should embrace the challenge.