In global terms, Europe's information and communications technology (ICT) industry is small, overshadowed by the massive software industry and the extensive electronics industry in East Asia. But it does have some world-class companies, such as telecom equipment providers Nokia and Ericsson, online music platform Spotify, e-commerce company Zalando, enterprise software provider SAP, games developer Supercell (now owned by Tencent), embedded processor designer ARM (now owned by Softbank) and Skype (now owned by Microsoft). Moreover, some of the region's telecom groups, Deutsche Telekom, Vodafone, Orange, and Telefónica, are major multinationals with operations spanning several continents. Although it has only one of the top 10 artificial intelligence (AI) research institutionsa (CNRS in France) and no major cloud service providers or Internet platforms on the scale of Amazon, Microsoft, or Google, Europe does innovate in ICT. Whereas Europe's tech industry is cash-strapped, non-tech companies in Europe have more cash holdings than their counterparts in the U.S. or China.b
The coming Internet of Things revolution will see billions of devices, from fridges to traffic lights, connected and controllable from afar. For Kevin Ashton, the tech entrepreneur and visionary who coined the term'Internet of Things', the risk of devices being hijacked is exponentially greater than any cybersecurity threat we've encountered before. "You can change the real world using the Internet of Things," explains Ashton, who was in New Zealand last week to address the GS1 eCommerce Innovation Summit. "If you are malicious, it isn't just about taking all the money out of someone's bank account. You can flip cars, you can shut down power stations, you can potentially make things explode.
Cybersecurity was the virtual elephant in the showroom at this month's Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. Attendees of the annual tech trade show, organized by the Consumer Technology Association, relished the opportunity to experience a future filled with delivery drones, autonomous vehicles, virtual and augmented reality and a plethora of "Internet of things" devices, including fridges, wearables, televisions, routers, speakers, washing machines and even robot home assistants. Given the proliferation of connected devices--already, there are estimated to be at least 6.4 billion--there remains the critical question of how to ensure their security. The cybersecurity challenge posed by the internet of things is unique. The scale of connected devices magnifies the consequences of insecurity.
Put more simply, AI depends on good data. Even Google--which is famous for the pioneering work in AI that underpins its standard-setting search-based advertising business--makes no bones about the critical role of data in AI. Peter Norvig, Google's director of research, has said: "We don't have better algorithms, we just have more data." Companies increasingly realize that data is critical to their success--and they are paying striking sums to acquire it. Microsoft's US$26 billion purchase of the enterprise social network LinkedIn is a prime example. But other technology companies are also seeking to acquire data-related assets, typically to acquire more than just identity-linked information from social media sources by focusing instead on vast troves of anonymized consumer data. Think, for example, of Oracle pursuing an M&A-led strategy for its Oracle Data Cloud data aggregation service, or IBM buying, within the past two years, both The Weather Company and Truven Health Analytics. Early returns for companies making such investments are promising.
A widespread internet disruption hit Japan on Friday, blocking access to banking and train reservation services as well as gaming sites. The disruption was limited to the networks of NTT Communications Corp. and KDDI Corp. NTT Communications, which runs the OCN internet service, said the problem occurred because an overseas network service provider that OCN uses suddenly switched internet routes. Several experts said Google might be the network provider in question. Google's Japan branch said it is investigating. The problem, which might have been caused by human error or malfunctioning hardware, was resolved after the normal flow of traffic was restored.