Eat, entertain, shop, move in China without wallet and with just a mobile phone

Published 30 September 2016


This is my regular Friday non data center post.


Last year, I was mainly splitting my time in Shanghai and Ma’anShan while also having to travel to other cities for work and leisure. I came back to Singapore early this year and it surprised me that I find it more convenient to live, eat, and move about in China than in Singapore.


There was a hurricane that will sweep through Shanghai during a weekend and I stayed home from Friday night and emerge on Monday morning. I relied on YiHaoDian(一号店), JingDong(京东), DianPing and E’LeMa (饿了吗literally translated meant are you hungry) app for groceries and cooked food delivery. So I did not need to step out of the door. Kudos to the delivery man.


I bought my air ticket, high speed train ticket, hotel accommodation, restaurant booking and payment all through my phone’s apps. My travel to and from work and in leisure are mostly through the DiDaPingChe (DiDa car sharing) or DiDi (taxi or private car or car sharing).


It was mentioned somewhere that everything a Chinese need to live, work, play, eat, travel, entertain are all available a tab away on their phone. It was really amazing.


In my recent 2-weeks trip to Wuxi, Shanghai, Beijing, and Tianjin, I did not fork out a credit card or cash (except for subway ticket, which I bought a refillable card for Beijing and Shanghai), I used the following apps:


For hotel/accommodation:

  • Ctrip(携程), Airbnb, JingJiang (锦江之星)


For travel:

  • DiDi (滴滴出行taxis), 12306 (for the high-speed train, I can even change the date/timing for free once online)


For restaurant:

  • DianPing (for booking and its linked to Wechat for payment with 2-8% discount), MeiTuan (美团,for 2-8% discount)


For movie:

  • MeiTuan(美团), DianPing(点评), Wangyi (网易)


For payment (in general)

  • Wechat payment, alipay


So it will help if you apply for a bank account (a one-time effort with passport and cash), and get a local phone card (this you have to do it at a main China Telecom/Unicom/Mobile shop with your passport), and load the abovementioned apps and you will be good to go in China.

Eat, entertain, shop, move in China without wallet and with just a mobile phone

The Always Charging to 100% Syndrome

Published 9 September 2016

This is another of my regular pre-weekend post that is partially technology related for relaxed reading.

Ever since I carry mobile phones and recently with iPad, I have this nagging need to charge them to 100% before going out the door. After thinking about it for a while, I realised it is triggered by a couple of things:

  1. I have experienced zero battery power on my phone after just 4-6 hours of usage.
  2. I have used the phones more intensively than before which drains battery at a faster rate while previously I do not always use my phone that intensively.
  3. Work goes on past work hours
  4. Fear of missing “important” messages

And when I thought about it, I have refrained from going to swim because I am afraid that I miss a message or two. 9 years back, I used to go for long run with a group of runners and I always leave my phone in the car for that peace of mind. Now peace of mind is kept intact when I have my phone in my arm-band when I do long exercise sessions. I wonder aloud when did this change came about.

Thinking back, it began for about 2 to 3 years ago when calls and messages about work that needs to be addressed even after work hours, plus the fact that the phone battery gets drained in the daytime when it was used more intensively to check and response to messages. It was also the time that portable battery-bank became very popular and I’ve got three of those. I looked at my phone accessories and I have three phone cases that also act as spare batteries albeit one for each model of phone I had ever owned. I also installed battery doctor app, switch screen brightness down, and look for seats with power socket when I am in Starbucks. I think all this small stuff adds to the stress of daily life.

Actually, there were never anytime that I missed critical messages when I happened to have powered-drained-phone situations. I think I kind of put myself into what-if-I-miss-important-message stress that makes me always want to keep phone charged to and at 100%.

The phone processor and phone manufacturers have responded with quick-charge technology, phone with larger battery capacity, and some of the “plus” models or phabets have bigger than 3,500mAH or 4,000 mAH capacity. However, I still need to find a battery outlet or carry a portable battery-bank to juice up my phone.

Now that my phone contract is up for renewal with my carrier, I am searching for a new phone and a critical feature is battery capacity and quick-charge 3.0 support.

I am now considering these few phones, Samsung Note 7 (4,000 mAH battery), Oppo R9 Plus (4,120 mAH battery), Huawei P9 Plus (3,400 mAH). I had even considered phones not carried by my carrier like the Huawei Honor Note 8 (a big 4,500 mAH battery) or the Xiaomi Max (humongous 4,850 mAH) but the lure of the carrier subsidized phone (tied with the renewal of post-paid phone plan) for getting a Oppo R9 Plus at a one-time price of SGD 99 (without carrier subsidy will be SGD 610) is too good to pass up.

Optimistically, the new phone with quick-charge technology will mean it last me until sleep time. I will still carry a lower capacity (meaning lighter) portable battery-bank just in case anyway.

While the new technology and new phone will help, I also hoped that I can relaxed a little and just take the phone and go without always plugging it to the power socket to charge. There is a lot more stuff to handle then to always wait to be 100%.

Recently, I do noticed lots more people are in the park walking about, partly to exercise but mostly to play the Pokemon Go game on their phones. I don’t do games but I do enjoy reading a book via Amazon Reader app while exercising on stationary bike so that is a relaxing situation.

I will make it a habit to swim or run without my phone in the weekends, to re-capture and enjoy that sense of peace, hopefully without stressing out by thinking “what-if an important message comes in” kind of thoughts.

Have a great weekend!


The Always Charging to 100% Syndrome

Some thoughts on Smart Cities and Nations

Having spent time working and living overseas, there are instances where ease of living in places that are worse off or better off than Singapore.

After the world ranking of ICT countries that has been popular for the last 15 or so years, it is now smart cities that many city governments that given the scope and span of control is more within their reach, so to speak. But by which yard stick or umbrella of categories do one city get ahead of another city? There is no apparent consensus and it will probably be debated for some years before a global organization like World Economic Forum or a reputable university will have one that is more acceptable by most stakeholders.

It is difficult to define smart that everyone agrees to. The measure of human intelligence has IQ test? Can EQ be tested? EQ defers from one culture to another. Let us leave it to the scholars and researchers to work it out what constitutes a smart city.

My understanding is when something is considered smart, be it a thing or a system, it has to exhibit human intelligence in anticipating and giving delight.

While lots of sensors can be deployed, where they previously were not due to cost and other reasons, are connected to deliver data (the fundamental use of Internet of Things) to systems, and people build applications or uses data analytics to makes use of the data, it is the people that gives the smart behaviour to the entire system.

Singapore has employed use of technology to build the intelligent nation based on building e-government platform and systems, and enabling use of technology that is pushed out to the masses at a speed and scale that matches the best out there (e.g. ICT @ Schools, wireless @ SG). While the roll out of pilot driverless taxi service has put Singapore in the limelight, this innovative use of technology in transport sector is still an extension and progressive trend that has been undergoing trials in lots of places.

Key Pillars

The Key pillars of smart city are public (infrastructure), private, and citizens in ways that will go beyond what has been done before. A smart city will enable businesses and individuals to go about their daily business and lives with ease that we should not feel the technology at work. Now that is a tall order even in the most futuristic science fiction books/movies.

A key enabler in smart city/nation is an public service that is ICT enabled and data sharing at least across the public sector. You cannot imagine a smart city that requires you to repeatedly enter your personal information in public hospital admission in the same city or state/province but it is still happening in every city in China. What has been done so far in lots of countries and in what I saw in China has been about building broadband infrastructure, cloud technology and community/personal health areas which is not built upon strong foundation of an efficient e-government platform and data services. China is still working hard to cut red tape and make its government services more friendly and relevant and only recently cancelled the need for citizen to go to the police for certain number of identity confirmation (see reference 8) and also a health system that does not allow its citizen to enjoy healthcare service away from where they are born (see reference 9). China do have lots of innovation in the e-commerce area which Singapore has lacked. Breaking down silo walls and thinking in the shoes of the citizens so that it is seamless and easy to transact should be what every public facing service should strive to achieve.

In the private sector area of smart city, it is the weakest chain for Singapore. While we have 30,000 small and medium enterprises, the ICT usage within each industry is low as we rely on a few key industries like financial service, pharmaceutical, electronics, chemical and oil, which are mainly centred on foreign multinationals. To build a plethora of smart apps and systems, we need to train and attract talents. I think the recent re-organization of infocomm and media authorities and the re-tasking of workforce development authority are necessary moves by the Singapore government to focus on supporting the ICT capability building capacity and developing the talent pools.

I like the way that Singapore has adopted in embracing changes in some industries such as the personal transport sector with driverless taxi and Uber. However, I think the breaking up of bus routes into multiple bus operators will dilute the investment in technology.

At the citizen and community level. I think the citizen sector will need a strong lead by the government linked corporations that deals with the citizens. The public hospital groups and the private healthcare groups and health technology companies should form an eco-system that will make healthcare much more personable and near-as-needed basis as possible. The retail sector should have a lead company or two (e.g. NTUC, ShengSiong, Cold Storage/Guardian) working together with delivery and physical dropbox companies to make working professionals’ lives so much easier. China has the scale and business size for and 1HaoDian to take order before 11am and deliver groceries to the door by 5pm, there is no reason why a city that is so well connected in Singapore cannot do the same or better. The identification of leading corporations should not be limited to government linked corporation if there is no suitable candidates.


We need more smarts and this is only achievable when people apply their smarts. I read an author who wrote that, let us put the intelligence into the Internet of Things (“IoT”). IoT is a tool and it is the human that we need to focus on, not the things. IoT is a tool and it is the human that we need to focus on, not the things.

Attracting and growing the talent pool that are needed to create innovative and smarter systems is the key. Things like whether IoTs will be used is secondary.


  6. Internet of Things: Promise and Peril for the RFID Industry
Some thoughts on Smart Cities and Nations