ENVIRONMENTALISTS in Bangkok, Thailand, who are seriously worried about the high level of hydrocarbons that Thais breathe, can now heave a sigh of relief. The ubiquitous tuk-tuks -- nifty little three-wheelers with two-stroke engines -- held primarily responsible for the air pollution, are now being given a facelift by the Pholasith Tuk-Tuk Industry Company, along with its North American partner, the California-based Advanced Electric Car Technology (AECT) Inc. These noisy, smoke-belching taxis will now run on batteries and will function "faster, cleaner and far more efficiently," claims Chaz Haba, the president of AECT. The repowered vehicles will not even require a network of battery recharging stations: the driver can plug it into 110 volt or 210 volt outlet.

SEMPAC, the Swiss company that sells "smart cards", unstealable identity cards that have chips instead of magnetic strips embedded in the plastic, is planning a recce to the Orient. It is all set to sweep high-profile executives in China and Japan off their feet by guaranteeing that the card manufacturing costs will come down by up to 50 per cent: what it calls the "Sempac process" uses 4 machines to imprint the cards instead of the 8 or more in other rival techniques, and in a single step. The smart cards will also be forgery-proof: Sempac plans to have colour photographs and computerised data printed on their plastics covers, says Willi Truckenbrod, the company's vice-president for marketing.

IN THE new world order, all roads seem to lead to China. Matrix Telecommunications Ltd, a smalltime Australian paging company, is also gearing up to move eastwards. "We find there are better opportunities in Asia as the markets are very large and are not saturated by existing operators," enthuses Gabriel Lorentz, executive chairman. He has reasons to feel upbeat. His company has already signed a memorandum of understanding with the government in Beijing allowing it to be involved with upto 108 paging centres in China.

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