Google’s antitrust fine undoubtedly dominated (pun intended…) this week’s tech news. After last year’s €13 billion EU tax penalty against Apple over illegal Irish state aid made waves around the world, European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager was at it again announcing Google’s record fine of €2.4 billion in the latest EU antitrust ruling.
Many worry that these decisions signal the EU is shoring up its position as the primary regulator of internet services. And while these rulings might seem like one-offs targeting specific company behaviours, as a series they could signal a shifting understanding of how the world operates in a digital era. Citizens, companies and governments will have to make tough decisions as society is increasingly digitised and data becomes the currency of the future.
This week’s Google antitrust fine is the Commission’s largest ever. That said, the money isn’t even the worst news for Google. The ruling attacks Google and, more generally, tech companies relying on algorithms at their core. Notable is the fact that the ruling forces the company to change how it handles search, potentially paving the way for more lawsuits to come in European civil court. So, whether this a protectionist EU move, an opportunity for Vestager to prove her strength or a long overdue step to ensure a fair market, it’s certainly just the next sign of what’s to come for big tech companies operating in Europe.
On to lighter news. Let’s face it – once in a while everyone wonders what their grumpy cat is doing when left home alone. Watching The Secret Life of Pets might have worried you, but UK pet-tech (yes – it’s a thing!) firm SureFlap is there to help. How? With an app-controlled pet door. You could be able to remotely lock or unlock the pet door, set curfews and track the habits of your pet through a visualization of their diurnal and nocturnal routines. Pet door controls can also be shared with others via the app so that, for example, a cat sitter can manage the permissions. EU data protection rules do not apply to animals. Yet.
A boom in assistive technologies is revolutionising the lives of the visually impaired. Next to autonomous vehicles with artificial intelligence functions and sonar technology bracelets, apps such as Be My Eyes help users “see” their surroundings. The app works by connecting a user’s phone camera to one of the half a million real-time volunteers to help them with daily tasks, such as reading instructions on food items or taking the right bus. As the EU continues its efforts towards increasing accessibility to people with disabilities, we hope to see more support for technology-based solutions to health and social issues.
In case you didn’t notice, Apple’s iPhone just turned 10. A decade ago, the product’s launch started a real digital and cultural revolution. It changed our relationship to technology and undoubtedly impacted our private and professional lives. While many bet against it at the time, the iPhone paved the way towards Steve Jobs’ mission to put a computer in everyone’s pocket. Was he right in calling it THE “revolution” of the past 10 years?
While automation is gradually taking over many repetitive tasks in the workplace, it hasn’t been the case for household chores. Researchers at Madrid’s Charles III University are now developing a robot that can iron clothes, but the process is still slow and requires human involvement. Nevertheless, this robot has a lot of potential as the researchers aim to develop a humanoid that would conquer chores beyond ironing. A product like that could be particularly useful to people with limited mobility, as they could have a robotic helper for most of their everyday chores instead of purchasing numerous specialised devices.
We’re wrapping up this week’s #TechAways with a look forward to Wimbledon. At this year’s tournament, with its main draw kicking off on Monday, IBM's Watson will be used to help direct fans to the most exciting matches, to generate the highlight reels and to guide fans through the crowded grounds. They’ve even built a voice assistant, dubbed Fred, to serve as fans’ guide to the tourney. While IBM has been active in game stats for some time, this move into storytelling is being sold as a game changer. We’re adding sports to the growing list of sectors where AI and data are changing the rules.
In case you haven’t had enough:
#TechAways is brought to you by Cambre’s Technology Practice led by Victoria Mainand featuring François Barry, Zachery Bishop, Svenja Mai, Anne-Claude Martin,Efthymia Ntivi, Teodora Raychinova, and Theresa - Sophie Stiegler.
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