Techtonic plates (pun intended) continue to shift in the tech world. This week’s headlines feature platforms being targeted not just by legislators and interest groups, but also by other tech giants. In case you missed the news, the latest Big Tech CEO to roll through Brussels was IBM’s Ginni Rometty. Her message for EU audiences? The “irresponsible handling of personal data by a few dominant consumer-facing platform companies” led to “trust crisis” between users and tech companies.
After an attack against the “data industrial complex” by Apple’s Tim Cook during his October visit, are the lines in the sand being drawn between the platforms – particularly those of a social nature – and the B2B world? With big themes like trust, privacy and misinformation flying around, platforms are facing difficult questions from all sides.
While we keep an eye on the storm brewing in the tech world, I would like to introduce myself as the newest member of the Cambre tech team! My name is Charlotte Matthysen and I joined Cambre this week, having worked for 6 years in the Brussels transatlantic sphere at AmCham EU and the German Marshall Fund of the United States. I’ll be working across several sectors, including tech, external relations and trade. I’ll be pitching in on #TechAways along with the rest of the talented tech team! If you see me out and about soon, say hello! I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for our loyal readers.
Until next week,
Doom and gloom or innovation boom? [Financial Times]
We (almost) all know that climate change is a serious threat and that governments are trying to stave off the impending doom that would results from a 2° C increase by 2050. But it turns out we don’t like to pay more for our electricity or gas. Instead of spending billions of euros on conventional wind power or solar panels – we should be focusing on batteries, fuel cells and solar film. It is a clear call for more nanotech and less false promises from politicians. We are running out of time to just talk, investment in innovative energy technology needs to ramp up globally, with Europe (hopefully) in a leading role.
Robots to take over the world of caregiving for the elderly [New York Times]
A home for the elderly in France is doing a test-run to use robots in their daily routine. This cute-looking humanoid, called Zora, has no functions that might replace tasks done by nurses. Zora is meant to be a simple companion, there to give people some much-needed stimulation. In the healthcare industry, demand for resources and staff will only continue to grow while the workforce supply remains limited on its current trajectory. Technology today can’t fill that resource gap, but it can help finding an innovative way to add value to elderly’s daily lives. It seems that robots are not (always) entering the workplace to take over our jobs, but to fill gaps that we weren’t even fully aware of.
Dr. Victor Frankenstein exists! [Financial Times]
The scientific community is in turmoil. A scientist has claimed that he’s created the world’s first genetically edited ‘Crispr’ babies. The goal was to create children who would resist HIV infection by removing from the embryos one particular gene that infects the cells with the disease. This trial has raised many ethical concerns especially since this “sorcerer’s apprentice” self-funded his research avoiding scrutiny of his peers. How far do we want technology to go when it comes to editing? Check out Stephen Hawking’s warning of the process resulting in a rich race of superhumans and you decide.
The Spotify Wrapped campaign enters its third year, featuring over 350 unique billboard ads highlighting unusual (and sometimes odd) stats from the company’s users. To allay privacy concerns, Spotify encourages people to go public with their playlists. “This year we’ve made sure to tell universal stories that aggregate data, versus highlighting individuals,” says Spotify’s June Sauvaget. Spotify also gets explicit permission from the creator of each public playlist that the campaign spotlights. Thanks GDPR? You can’t be too careful with data privacy – or is the point of Spotify for the whole world to appreciate your great musical tastes exemplified by your playlists? #ShamelessPlug by a team member.
Angel or Demon? EU tech tools to Revitalize European Democracy [Carnegie Europe]
The possible negative impact of digital technologies on the next European elections is causing headaches in Brussels and beyond, just have a look at Facebook’s testimony in London. But the EU should also think of tech as a possible solution to improve democracy. From citizens having a direct say on their city’s public spending through the Paris Budget Participatif, to open government and direct democracy solutions in Finland or Greece, people are ‘teching back’control. Funding for digital democracy is currently missing from the EU’s 9.2 billion euro Digital Europe investment priorities. With today’s environment distrust and misinformation, funding experimental GovTech and participatory democracy tools could drive innovation solutions.
Cheap and fast transport with a small carbon footprint? That’s what e-bikes and e-scooters can provide, according – and make three reasons why the market for these “micro vehicles” is set to explode in 2019. And it’s not just new brands. Tech giants Uber, Didi and Alibaba are all investing in e-bike start-ups. But an exploding growth rate creates challenges for cities that need to accommodate these micro vehicles on roads and parking spots. With carbon-neutral transport topping the EU’s agenda, micro vehicles could be the missing part of the multimodality puzzle.
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In case you haven’t had enough
Google and Facebook face European vexation [The Wall Street Journal]
The case for protecting small firms from cyber lawsuits [The Wall Street Journal]
Corners of Wall Street remain undeterred by crypo crash [The Financial Times]