Australia Government

Big data and machine learning algorithms could increase risk of collusion: ACCC


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has provided an overview of its approach to potential future cases where machine learning algorithms are deployed as a tool to facilitate conduct that may contravene competition law. While the ACCC sees many economic advantages in "data-driven innovation" -- such as consumers being able to compare products online -- it also has a number of concerns, such as the possibility of such innovation increasing the risk of engaging in and sustaining collusion, and decreasing competition in the market without necessarily violating any competition laws. "Cases brought to date globally by competition authorities relating to the use or misuse of online databases to determine prices reflect circumstances where'something more' occurred," ACCC chair Rod Sims said at a conference in Sydney on Thursday. In the United States Airline Tariff case, a database that was accessible to travel agents was being used by airlines to negotiate supra-competitive airfares and ensure proposed price hikes were maintained, Sims said. "It is said that a profit-maximising algorithm will work out the oligopolistic pricing game and, being logical and less prone to flights of fancy, stick to it," he said.

NBN looking into 1Tbps satellites


Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) is looking into the utilisation of satellites with 1Tbps capacity as consumer demand for bandwidth increases, CEO Bill Morrow has told ZDNet. Speaking during NBN's first-quarter financial results call, Morrow said NBN has many options for evolving its network, with the company still seeing satellite as its best solution for providing connectivity to those living in regional and rural Australia. "When we think about those people in the very remote parts of the country, we still do not see other technologies than satellite as the most optimal solution, so we stay on top of the current developments of technology that are satellite related," Morrow told ZDNet. "For example, we know that there are terabit-per-second-capability satellites that are being built and planned to be deployed in a similar geostationary orbit path as what we have for our satellites, so we try to examine at what point would we think that consumer demand would be necessary to justify deploying those other satellites. "There's been no decision to go forward, but we watch it closely."

"Ban Killer Robots" - AI Experts Urge Governments


Two open letters have been sent by Artificial Intelligence experts to the Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull, which was signed by 122 AI researchers, and to the Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, which had 216 signatures on it.

Self-driving bus crashes two hours after launch in Las Vegas


A driverless shuttle bus crashed less than two hours after it was launched in Las Vegas on Wednesday. The city's officials had been hosting an unveiling ceremony for the bus, described as the US' first self-driving shuttle pilot project geared towards the public, before it crashed with a semi-truck. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the human driver of the other vehicle was at fault, there were no injuries, and the incident caused minor damage. The oval-shaped shuttle -- sponsored by AAA, the Review-Journal added -- can transport up to 12 passengers at a time. It has an attendant and a computer monitor, and uses GPS and electric curb sensors instead of brakes or a steering wheel.

'Killer robots' that can decide whether people live or die must be banned, warn hundreds of experts

The Independent

Hundreds of artificial intelligence experts have urged the Canadian and Australian governments to ban "killer robots". They say that delegating life-or-death decisions to machines crosses "a clear moral line", and that the development of autonomous weapons will result in machines, rather than people, deciding who lives and who dies. Such systems, including drones, military robots and unmanned vehicles, should be treated in the same way as chemical weapons, biological weapons and nuclear weapons, they say. An open letter addressed to Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has been signed by 122 AI researchers, while an open letter sent to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has 216 signatories. Toby Walsh, the organiser of the Australian letter and Scientia Professor of AI at UNSW Sydney, said, "The Canadian AI research community is clear: we must not permit AI to target or kill without meaningful human control.

Australian government awards AU$5.9m in R&D grants to support defence operations


The Australian government has announced awarding five organisations with Defence Innovation Hub grants worth AU$5.9 million. Western Australia-based L3 Oceania has secured a AU$2.9 million contract to explore the development of an underwater acoustic sensor, while the University of Newcastle will explore the development of virtual reality-based resilience training programs for Australian Defence Force (ADF) personnel under a AU$2.2 million contract. Agent Oriented Software from Victoria has been awarded a AU$378,000 grant to explore the concept of an "autonomous teamed intelligent software agent capability resilient to cyber-attacks"; Explosive Protective Equipment from Queensland received a AU$242,000 grant to explore the integration of a Cobham Amulet Ground Penetrating Radar into an existing unmanned ground vehicle for the detection of improvised explosive devices; and Griffith University received a AU$183,000 grant to explore the development of a portable device that enables real-time detection of airborne biological threats. "These investments will drive growth in defence industry and innovation whilst focusing on the capability needs required to ensure Australia's national security now and into the future," Minister for Defence Industry Christopher Pyne said in a statement on Friday. Launched in December last year, the Defence Innovation Hub has invested about AU$20 million to industry and research organisations, Pyne said.

Queensland government deploying digital meters to reduce spread of banana disease


Due to Panama TR4 biosecurity concerns and strict quarantine measures, Ergon -- a subsidiary of government-owned power company Energy Queensland Limited -- made the decision to stop all entry of their contract meter readers onto farms and install digital meters that could be read remotely, Energy Minister Mark Bailey has said. In August, the Queensland government published a consultation paper on the implementation Australia's first whole-of-government Drones Strategy, addressing the technology's business opportunities and regulatory challenges. According to Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk, feedback from the Queensland Drones Strategy Consultation Paper will be used to help direct future policy and determine how best to take advantage of the potential of drones in supporting economic and jobs growth. Under the amended legislation, both producers and contractors using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are required to comply with all label instructions when applying agricultural chemical products, as well as obtain required licences.

Government blunders stall rollout of NDIS virtual assistant: Report


The National Disability Insurance Agency (NDIA) has put its virtual assistant rollout on hold, with the ABC reporting those working on the project are concerned issue-plagued technology-based initiatives from the government have "taken their toll" on Australia's appetite for risk. NDIA first announced the development of its virtual assistant Nadia in February, touted as providing National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) participants with a better service. The NDIS contact centre fields about 6,000 calls a week from a client base of 32,000 clients, costing AU$25 every call, with the ABC saying the number of NDIS participants will grow to 460,000 over the next three years. The Centrelink robo-debt debacle has plagued the agency since the summer break, with its data-matching system automatically comparing the income people declared to the Australian Taxation Office against income declared to Centrelink.

NBN launches Tech Lab to collect data and resolve connection issues


Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN) company has announced its new Tech Lab, which will utilise big data, graph technology, and machine-learning capabilities to help solve and map end-user connectivity issues. "While for the majority, the installation experience is positive, when faults do occur, NBN's Tech Lab will help the team determine whether a fault can be dealt with remotely and immediately, or whether a field technician needs to visit an end-user home to resolve the fault," NBN explained on Thursday morning. McInerney said NBN expects to see "significant improvements" in customer experience by simplifying and speeding up the fault detection and resolution process. NBN has expressed an increased focus on end-user experience of late, earlier this week it announced trials of a new diagnostic tool aimed at remotely finding out whether a premises has copper wiring faults.

Labor criticises NBN rollout as ramping up too quickly without considering consumers


Under Labor's original fibre-to-the-premises (FttP) plan, Rowland said the NBN would have reached 27,000 premises each week and maintained that level until its 2021 completion, while the current NBN plan sees the number of premises connected each week top 70,000. Rowland defended the contentious NBN pricing model created by Labor that sees retail service providers (RSPs) charged to access the network and then further charged for bandwidth under the connectivity virtual circuit (CVC) charge, saying it was well suited for an FttP network. In many of these cases, poor wiring caused download speeds to degrade by more than 50 percent," NBN acting CTO Carolyn Phiddian said. "Thankfully, there can be a relatively simple fix for homes suffering from speed degradation caused by poor wiring," she said.