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    Singapore hasn't been spared from the onslaught of bike-sharing startups, as the colorful multitudes of Obike, Mobike, Ofo, and who knows who else at this point, can attest to.

    Local startup Neuron Mobility has a slightly different plan: what if dockless bikes but also, docked electric scooters?

    The startup provides both bicycles that work similarly to other companies' but its killer feature is a scooter that's parked at a dedicated grounded dock. Users book both of them through the same mobile app.

    Neuron co-founder Zachary Wang is a National University of Singapore alum.

    An automotive engineer, he specialised in electric vehicles and tried his hand at startups before - he co-founded residential solar power provider Rezeca Renewables.

    But he is passionate about finding ways to help people get around more efficiently. "Mobility is something I've loved since day one," he tells Tech in Asia.

    Charging

    A bicycle, an electric scooter, a docking station that doubles as a charger for said scooter, and an app comprise Neuron's offering. There's automatic locks, QR codes to unlock them with, a refundable deposit, and a usage fee. So far, so bike-sharing.

    The less visible part, which Wang feels is key to the company's purpose, involves a robust data analytics system that helps improve the service in a number of ways.

    Neuron can track which areas see more demand for bookings and at what times.

    For example, Neuron can track which docks are occupied and which are not, which areas see more demand for bookings and at what times, and even where the scooters and bikes are ridden.

    For now, this helps the startup figure out where there's demand for its vehicles and how many of them to deploy.

    But in the future, the data could help with more complex features.

    One possible scenario could be, say, the system detecting you're riding your scooter outside the range of a charger (which would likely result in the scooter running out of juice and you ditching it in some park somewhere) and taking steps to compel you to stay within range.

    Neuron makes use of resources and tools provided by geospatial data company Esri, as part of the latter's Singapore-based startup programme.

    US-headquartered Esri makes Geographic Information System technology to create maps out of data, highlighting patterns, relationships, and insights within.

    Its support programme, also active in markets like the US, Europe, India, and Japan, gives participating young firms access to tools and resources, including its ArcGIS platform, collectively worth US$181,000 (S$250,540)  for three years. Neuron is the first startup to enter the programme in Singapore.

    "We let data drive some of our decisions," Wang says.

    "At the end of the day what matters is not what you think people like but what people really like. We let them drive where this leads us in terms of demand and choices."

    Neuron also does dockless bikes similar to other bike-sharing startups, but its key differentiator is its docked electric scooter. PHOTO: Neuron Mobility.

    Docking procedures

    The startup is aware that bike-sharing companies have made docking stations seem antiquated, so its bikes work just like those from Obike, Mobike, and the rest. In the case of the scooters, though, the dock is a vital part of the process.

    It doesn't only serve to charge the scooter, it's also a response to an issue that all bike-sharing startups face in Singapore right now: people just dropping the bikes wherever, making them hard to find for other riders or just a plain nuisance.

    This could still happen to Neuron's bikes, but it's harder to do with its scooters.

    Using the proprietary docking stations for the scooters, Neuron is able to offset that problem, says co-founder Callum McNeill.

    The stations are also equipped with their own set of internet-of-things sensors, so that the startup keeps track of the dock's status and its position.

    That's the other interesting choice Neuron has made: the docks aren't drilled to the pavement. Rather, they're held down by weights, which means they can be knocked over or dragged away.

    The startup says its tech can help alert it if someone tries any funny business with the docks, but it's hard to imagine being able to prevent this at scale.

    Thankfully, in super-safe Singapore it's equally hard to imagine anyone trying to damage or steal the docks. But should Neuron target other markets, it will need to account for different behaviours.

    Neuron’s electric scooter in its dock. Besides charging the vehicle, the dock gathers all kinds of usage and location data to help improve the service. PHOTO: Neuron Mobility.

    Riding toward scale

    Neuron raised seed funding about a year ago and now is gearing up for a new round, Wang says. It's going to target between US$1.5 million and US$2 million.

    "There's some pretty cool technologies we're developing that we're very excited about. Scalability is also something we're concerned about - I think in the next version we'll address these issues. We're looking at some optimization for the manufacturing process to drive down the cost of this deployment and at the same time developing the next generation of products," he adds.

    Neuron is gearing up for a new round of funding.

    It's going to need the extra funds going up against the China-born bike-sharing startups active in Singapore.

    Mobike just announced it's raised another US$600 million from Tencent, adding to a considerable war chest while it's expanding beyond Asia.

    Ofo is backed by Jack Ma's Ant Financial, having raised an undisclosed amount of funding recently.

    Wang has helped build electric bikes and even cars before, so could such vehicles be part of Neuron's future as well?

    "It's definitely possible but we look at mobility needs," he says.

    "There are different ranges and different kinds of needs - you don't generally ride a scooter for 30km, for example. So we don't want to constrain ourselves. I'm very glad that we have a good team to be able to develop different solutions and to really look at what's best for our users," he adds.

    Monday, June 19, 2017 - 11:44

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    "I was in New Zealand for holiday when I was chased by the restaurant waitress. [I had to] go elsewhere to watch the video on my mobile phone, even though the restaurant was relatively empty." - Jonathan Ye, founder of Coffeemin.

    Coffeemin is Singapore and Asia's first and only time cafe, the name an amalgamation of coffee and minutes.

    Instead of by drinks, customers are charged for time spent - $6 for the first hour, and $1 for every subsequent 10 minutes. Everything else is free and so the place makes for an attractive hideout.

    The cafe is a "home away from home", where long tables form dining areas, and sofas create living areas with flat-screen TVs.

    PHOTO: hervelvertvase

    Coffeemin also has a kitchen with cups and free-flow Arabica coffee and nostalgic biscuit snacks. If you like, you can even bring your own food in.

    Free Wi-fi, Xbox games and a pool table also come included.

    A concept novel in Singapore and Asia, the Coffeemin brand was introduced by one Jonathan Ye.

    Being Chased From A Cafe

    Ye was in sitting in a New Zealand cafe watching videos on his phone when he found himself being shooed away by the waitress. From this experience, he realised that the culture in Singapore - hogging cafe seats with a single drink - is frowned upon overseas.

    "Western culture accepts paying for services such as time […] and staff clear the table the moment we finished, so as to pressure customers to continue spending or leave."

    In places like Russia and London, time cafes are already established concepts, and it was the Russian 'Ziferblat' (clock face) that inspired Coffeemin.

    "I decided to bring the [concept] to the city. People could have a home away from home, with the freedom to just pay for the time they spend there."

    In addition, a time cafe concept would also rectify seat hogging problems. However, introducing it was easier said than done.

    "My friends and family were initially confused by it, and they did not believe it would be accepted here."

    Nevertheless, he managed to rope in 10 friends.

    Together, they invested $250,000 and brought Coffeemin to life, all within 2 months.

    Home Away From Home

    The concept, renovation, theme and brandi ng were all done by Ye. The goal is to create a space where customers could have a coffee minute and socialise with friends.

    To create coziness, the cafe design and furniture are deliberately mismatched, emulating how homes change as furniture is gradually added.

    "The intention is so customers can visualise this as something they actually see at home. This would make it comfortable for them to stay longer."

    Coffeemin at Clarke Quay. PHOTO: Nanyang Chronicles

    "Patrons are free to do whatever they want whenever, like play games, read magazines, chill with their snacks and drinks," he explained.

    Given the local track record of space-hogging, customers exploiting the amenities is something to be expected.

    However, Ye is not worried. He and the staff take care to emphasise to customers that "everyone plays a part in maintaining their 'home'."

    "We hope for people to take ownership, interact with each other and rotate around (the games)."

    Beating The Odds

    After Coffeemin's launch, Ye reveals other competitors also introduced their own time cafes. (By 2016 however, his competitors have shut down.)

    Meanwhile, Coffeemin was also facing problems.

    "We were making losses the first 14 months and morale was low, but we finally reached a critical number. Now we have many returning customers who bring their friends over," Ye reveals.

    Coffeemin managed to beat the odds in 3 ways.

    First, they maintain low prices so as to prevent competitors from entering the scene.

    Second, they reiterate to customers the importance of taking care of the place like their own home.

    Finally, Ye is also co-founder of Lockdown SG and V-room, and he locates Coffeemin near their outlets to get better bargains with rents.

    Staffing can also be reduced as they can manage both businesses simultaneously while driving footfall to both businesses.

    Lockdown and Coffeemin at Suntec. PHOTO: Coffeemin

    A Multipurpose Space

    As a coworking space, Coffeemin sees its fair share of individuals setting up booths to sell iPhones or hold video conferences.

    With their eclectic and cosy ambience, they are also a hotspot for events. These range from birthdays to wedding solemnisations and photoshoots for social media influencers and Kpop groups.

    But so far, the most interesting one has been the Japanese butler cosplay event, Ye remarks.

    Butler Event. PHOTO: Facebook/ Coffeemin
     Mosaic glass workshop. PHOTO: Facebook/ Coffeemin

    Charting The Coffeemin Future

    Currently, Coffeemin has 2 outlets in Jurong East JCube and Clarke Quay Central Mall.

    For their future direction, Ye shares that they plan to open outlets in the East and West, although he did not reveal where exactly they would be.

    The eventual goal is to eventually launch a membership programme.

    "Similar to gym memberships, our Coffeeminions will be able to visit any of our cafes and just relax!"

    Monday, June 19, 2017 - 11:56

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    National servicemen! Start looking forward to next Friday, June 30.

    All past and present national servicemen from the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF), the Singapore Police Force (SPF) and the Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF) will enjoy free travel on public buses and trains operated by public transport operators Go-Ahead Singapore, SBS Transit, SMRT Corporation and Tower Transit Singapore on June 30.

    This is part of commemorative efforts for 50 years of National Service (N50), said a joint statement today by the transport operators.

    The NS50 Free Travel Day will happen all day on June 30 - from the start of the public bus and train services to the last bus and train services, including Nite Owl and NightRider.

    To enjoy the unlimited free rides, all past and present national servicemen are required to wear the following uniforms, for verification purposes by bus captains or MRT station personnel, to be eligible for their free travel:

    i) SAF national servicemen: No. 3 or No. 4 service uniforms.

    ii) SPF and SCDF national servicemen: duty uniforms.

    The NS50 campaign is a year-long celebration to commemorate 50 years of NS, in recognition of the contributions of the more than one million past and present national servicemen who have served in the SAF, SPF and SCDF.

    More information on the NS50 campaign can be found at www.ns50.sg.

    spanaech@sph.com.sg

    Monday, June 19, 2017 - 14:46

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    Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong issued a statement and video on Monday (June 19) evening, apologising to Singaporeans over how the 'private dispute' between his siblings and himself over Mr Lee Kuan Yew's house at 38 Oxley Road has "affected Singapore's reputation and Singapore's confidence in the Government".

    He added that the "baseless accusations against the Government" made by his siblings Mr Lee Hsien Yang and Ms Lee Wei Ling will be openly refuted in his ministerial statement when Parliament convenes next month on July 3.

    Said Mr Lee in his statement: "I have instructed that the PAP party whip be lifted. I urge all MPs, including the non-PAP MPs, to examine the issues thoroughly and question me and my Cabinet colleagues vigorously."

    Mr Lee's full statement can be found here:

    on Facebook

    I will speak in Parliament on the matter of 38 Oxley Road on 3 July. Watch my statement explaining this by clicking on the link below, or read the full text here: on.pmo.sg/2rvplEv. – LHL

    Posted by Lee Hsien Loong on Monday, 19 June 2017
    Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 09:21
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    The newly opened Apple Store on Orchard Road in Singapore has another function besides being a shop, at least for Apple fans Jermyn Wee and his wife Chia Suat Huang.

    The two decided to use the store as the location of their post-wedding photoshoot.

    At first, the couple, who got married on June 3, chose Tampines Round Market as the backdrop for their wedding photos.

    However, when they heard that the Apple Store, which is the only one in Singapore, was opened on mid-May, they quickly changed their minds.

    "Jermyn was so gleeful to actually take pictures in the store […] I was just glad it was air-conditioned," said Chia to The Straits Times, adding that her husband is the bigger Apple fan of the two.

    On the morning of their photoshoot, the couple went to the store 30 minutes before it opened and the store manager permitted them to get inside 10 minutes before the opening.

    on Facebook

    One of the featured photo on several news & media sites from local & overseas! Her World Brides Singapore by SPH - ...

    Posted by Weili Yip Creations on Wednesday, 14 June 2017

    Both Jermyn and Chia were still in the store when the customers came and they 'walked down the aisle' amidst the Apple phones on display.

    More photos can be found on the photographer's website.

    Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 11:33
    Others
    https://www.facebook.com/yip.creations/photos/a.925019720857463.1073741828.918633618162740/1939702429389182/

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    Yet another young local athlete has done Singapore proud, this time at the World Classic Powerlifting Championships in Minsk, Belarus.

    Matthew Yap, 18, a student from Republic Polytechnic, has set a new squat world record in the Under-66kg sub-junior (for 14 to 18-year-olds) division last Sunday (June 18), according to TODAY.

    Yap lifted 208kg on his third attempt, beating the previous squat world record of 207.5kg set by Swede Eddie Berglund in Texas last year.

    But his road to the world title wasn't a smooth one.

    On his first attempt, Yap cleared 190kg, a modest weight in a steady pace towards the world record.

    However, he was forced to sit out his second attempt of 202.5kg due to a cramp, dropping him to fourth position and out of any medal positions.

    That meant his third and final attempt was his only chance at winning anything in the competition.

    You know what they always say, "go big or go home", right? 

    And that was exactly what Yap had in mind.

    In a phone interview with TODAY, Yap revealed how he was motivated to do well after all the effort he put in his training preceding the competition.

    "I told myself I flew all the way here just to compete and with all the hard work and sacrifices that I have put in, I must make it worthwhile," Yap commented.

    All that hard work had not gone to waste definitely, and Yap had his brother Marcus Yap, who is also his coach, to thank.

    In his Instagram post, Yap credited his success at the competition to Marcus, whom Yap said "hasn't been eating well" and had prioritised Yap's training in the lead up to the event.

    And it was Marcus who got Yap into powerlifting initially, according to Channel NewsAsia.

    "He first competed and when I witnessed it, I told myself I want to be on this platform one day," he explained.

    Yap adds his record-breaking gold medal to a bronze medal (130kg) in the bench press and silver (550.5kg) in the overall standings at the competition.

    Local netizens were undoubtedly proud of Yap's performance.

    One netizen also expressed his hopes for powerlifting to gain more recognition as a sport in Singapore.

    ongymm@sph.com.sg

    Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 10:57
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    The police have arrested four youths aged between 16 and 18 for their suspected involvement in a case of rash act and public nuisance at Punggol MRT station and bus interchange.

    In a SnapChat video that circulated on social media last week, a man was seen throwing an oBike into a canal and riding an ofo bicycle in the train station and bus interchange.

    Officers from the Ang Mo Kio Police Division established the suspects' identities and arrested them along Ang Mo Kio Ave 9 on Monday (June 19).

    The police said that investigations are ongoing.

    If found guilty of committing Rash Act, the suspects may be jailed for up to six months, or fined for up to $2,500, or both.

    They may also face a fine of up to $1,000 if convicted of causing Public Nuisance.

    This is the latest case of bike-sharing abuse in Singapore, following the arrest of a 14-year-old boy who allegedly threw an ofo bicycle from Blk 116B Jalan Tenteram.

    Bicycles from bike-sharing initiatives found in the strangest places

    minlee@sph.com.sg

    Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 13:55

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    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qPV1WUdMYPU

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    Did you wake up this morning only to find your car or motorbike slapped with a 'parking summon'? Don't worry, you are not the only one.

    Almost half a million motorists would have received the dreaded parking ticket today (June 20).

    You'll be relieved to know however, that the slip is merely just an advertising stunt by insurance company Budget Direct Insurance.

    According to marketing site Marketing Interactive, the prank on motorists is part of a large-scale marketing campaign, light-heartedly entitled 'Operation National Summons', intended to promote the insurance company's 'Pay Less or Get $100' initiative.

    The initiative boasts a compensation of $100 by Budget Direct Insurance to motorists who are able to get a cheaper quote elsewhere for their car insurance renewal, even if they don't buy any, according to PR Newswire.

    A team of about 300 people were 'summoned' to work tirelessly through the night across 2,000 carparks, just so they could pull off the marketing stunt.

    "We wanted to do something that hadn't been attempted in Singapore before, said Mr Simon Birch, CEO of Budget Direct Insurance, in a press statement.

    Said Mr Birch: "A stunt that had humour, was cost-effective and would get people's attention. So we brought our message directly to our target customer."

    Mr Luke Tay, the creative partner of Co:hort Communications which helped execute the campaign, added that the scale of the project was novel and its planning took many months.

    In the end, the 'lucky' motorists were compensated for their early morning trauma with a free breakfast, if they redeem their 'parking ticket'.

    While it was an obvious marketing stunt not to get worked up over, some netizens certainly didn't find it funny.

    Even so, you've got to admit they've cleverly gotten your attention anyway.

    ongymm@sph.com.sg

    Tuesday, June 20, 2017 - 19:20
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    Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 09:09
    Workers' Party concerned over allegations that PM Lee had abused his power
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    A 39-year-old woman died shielding her 3-year-old toddler from a fall after getting flung from a car during an accident while the family of five were travelling on the SLE.

    The tragedy happened on Sunday (Jun 18) at around 1.50pm on the SLE towards BKE, close to the exit of the TPE, reports Shin Min Daily News via Lianhe Zaobao.

    The woman is survived by her 37-year-old husband and three sons the couple had, aged three, seven, and 10.

    A 64-year-old cabby told reporters that he had stumbled upon the incident as he was sending a passenger to Woodlands, with the dashboard camera on his taxi recording down the entire process.

    In the footage provided by the witness, the deceased's husband was seen driving in a silver 7-seater behind another black car.

    The driver of the black car then jammed on his brakes, causing the 7-seater to swerve to the left in order to avoid a collision, resulting in it crashing into a barrier along the expressway instead, narrowly missing a motorcyclist who was riding on the leftmost lane.

    The impact of the crash was so large that the deceased's vehicle was tossed into the air, turning 360 degrees before landing, with debris scattered across the road.

    PHOTO: Zao Bao

    The deceased's husband told reporters that he and his family were on their way to VivoCity Shopping Centre when the accident happened.

    He said: "I was worried that we would kill or injure the motorcyclist on the leftmost lane and tried my best to avoid colliding into him."

    "It was fortunate our vehicle didn't hit him."

    He recounted that their eldest son had sat in the front seat, with his wife, carrying their youngest son seated directly behind him.

    Their middle child was seated behind the deceased's husband who was driving.

    After the accident, he saw his wife lying on the road shoulder, and his youngest son on a grass patch a short distance away.

    PHOTO: Zao Bao

    The heartbroken man lamented: "During the accident, she (my wife) held onto our youngest son so tightly…"

    The couple had been married for more than a decade, and according to the deceased's husband, she was an understanding wife and good mother.

    He clarified: "She took care of everything in the house and sent our kids to school every day."

    "She also helped me out with my administrative matters so I can focus on my work." 

    "I feel helpless losing her just so suddenly."

    Police when inquired, have confirmed that the accident took place and that investigations are ongoing.

    Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 09:21

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    A 60-year-old man was arrested for assaulting and using abusive language against three National Environmental Agency (NEA) enforcement officers, the police said in a media release on Tuesday (June 20).

    The NEA officers had spotted the suspect selling fruits without a valid license during their rounds in the vicinity of Arumugam Road on Monday (June 19) afternoon.

    The suspect was stopped when he tried to flee.

    He then punched and head-butted one officer, spat on another officer, and slammed the door of his vehicle against the third officer's hand.

    The man also hurled vulgarities at the officers throughout the incident.

    Officers from the Bedok Police Division subsequently arrested the suspect.

    If found guilty of using criminal force against a public servant, the suspect may face a jail term of up to four years, a fine, or both.

    minlee@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 09:38
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    A company director was fined $12,300 for the unlicensed sale of shisha at two restaurants along Arab Street, the Health Sciences Authority said in a media release on Wednesday (June 21).

    Rupesh Kumar Singh s/o Seva Singh was the director of Tehrani Corporation Pte Ltd which owned Nasrin Restaurant and Sufi Corner Pte Ltd which owned Sufi's Corner.

    Both outlets continued to sell shisha tobacco molasses on seven occasions from September 2014 to November 2014, even after their tobacco retail licences were revoked earlier that year for tobacco-related offences.

    Under the Tobacco Act, a person found guilty of unlicensed sale of tobacco products may face a fine of up of $5,000, and in the case of a subsequent conviction, may be fined up to $10,000.

    Shisha was banned in Singapore in November 2014, and regulations prohibit the import, distribution, and sale of shisha molasses/tobacco.

    A person convicted of the above offence may face a fine of up to $10,000, a jail term of up to six months, or both. Reoffenders may be liable to a fine of up to $20,000, a jail term of up to 12 months, or both.

    HSA reminded members of the public that smoking shisha is more harmful than smoking cigarettes as shisha smoke contains higher levels of carbon monoxide, nicotine, and cancer-causing chemicals.

    A person who smokes shisha for 45 to 60 minutes inhales smoke equivalent to that from 100 or more cigarettes, according to the World Health Organisation.

    Those who need advice and support on smoking cessation can call the toll-free Quitline at 1800 438 2000 or visit Health Promotion Board's iQuit club.

    minlee@sph.com.sg

    Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 11:49
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    Wednesday, June 21, 2017 - 13:59
    Opinion: 3 key issues in the Lee v Lee saga
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