Globetrotting: news from around the world – August 2015

The Asia Pacific region’s 100 largest cities have a combined output of US$21.9 trillion, says recent report. Plus, a new app uses visible light communication to send personalized product information to shoppers.


The Asia Pacific "nation"

If the 100 biggest metropolitan areas in the Asia Pacific region formed a single country, they would have the world’s largest economy with an output of US$21.9 trillion (2014), reports Bloomberg based on an analysis from the Brookings Institution. That country would account for 20% of global GDP and 29% of global GDP growth in 2014.

Of the metro economies included in the analysis, 49 are in China and 12 are in North America (including Vancouver). These cities are behind much of the activity driving three important global economic developments: the rise of Southeast Asia, China’s continued economic expansion and the technology-led growth occurring in North America.


Shock stocks

Chinese stock market 

In June and July, China’s stock markets went on a wild ride, swinging as much as 10% within hours, reports

The Shanghai composite index, the world’s third-largest in market capitalization, lost 24% between June 12 and July 5, wiping out more than US$2 trillion of investors’ wealth. But the index was still up by 20% over its January 1 level, thanks to a bull run in previous months.

Since foreigners hold only 1.5% of Chinese stocks, the country’s market gyrations have had little effect beyond its borders. But Oxford Economics says stocks stand to lose another 35% to fall in line with their long-term averages. That could send ripples through other economies.


Whale, whale, whale


After tracking sperm whales for more than 10 years, Danish researchers have found that these otherwise fearsome predators have extended families that are just as important to them as our own, reports the BBC.

"Female sperm whales are likely able to recognize individuals and families, accumulate social knowledge, and recall their interaction histories over very long periods of separation," says Shane Gero of Aarhus University in Denmark.

Typically, a sperm whale family is made up of seven individuals and spans three generations of females. "Sperm whale life is surprisingly similar to ours," Gero notes. The loss of a family member can prove devastating to the other members, changing the social network and impacting the lives of many.


"Hello shopper. This is your local lightbulb"

Very soon, shoppers making their way through store aisles will be receiving messages on their smartphones from the lightbulb above them, offering specials on the toothpaste or shampoo on shelves nearby, reports MarketWatch.

The GE Lighting Unit, which was developed in cooperation with Qualcomm, uses visible light communication (VLC) technology to transmit a code directly to smartphones via phone cameras.

VLC can pinpoint a person’s location far better than GPS. That means the store can send product information or promotions tied specifically to the item shoppers are interested in. Of course, to hear from their friendly local lightbulb, shoppers must first opt in to the retailer’s app.