How Facebook Will Cope with a Big Tech Crackdown

The backlash against big tech isn’t going anyway anytime soon. Of all the tech titans bracing for impact, Facebook has the most to lose from increased scrutiny and new regulations in the U.S. and around the world.

The most recent firestorm was sparked by a massive data leak that exposed up to 87 million users to the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Facebook was caught flatfooted by the intensity of condemnation from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle. Continue reading “How Facebook Will Cope with a Big Tech Crackdown”

Who Profits from the New Space Race?

The new space race’s leaders will start emerging over the next 12 to 18 months. Investors in space have wagered that cheaper rocket launches, better small satellite hardware, upgraded antenna equipment and other advances will transform the industry and bring satellite broadband, Earth imaging and other services to a new slate of businesses and consumers. The buzz has lured an estimated $10 to $15 billion of venture capital into space companies over roughly the last 10 years.

Nearly 5,000 small satellites are planned for launch over the next decade, according to North Sky Research, a space market research firm. That’s far more launched per year than past years. The optimism underscores the promise of cheaper, more reliable access to space. Continue reading “Who Profits from the New Space Race?”

Rent-A-Robot Services Will Bring Bots to More Small Businesses

Robots that work alongside humans are hitting factory floors in earnest. Falling costs and expanding capabilities are bringing robotic coworkers to more plants. Unlike traditional industrial robots, these so-called collaborative robots don’t need large safety cages to protect workers. Many of the robots are small, allowing them to fit into tight spaces. And their arms are getting more rugged so that they can be used in harsh environments.

Robot subscription services are spurring adoption. For a monthly fee, companies can rent robots instead of ponying up well north of $100,000 to purchase and install an industrial robot. In these “robots-as-a-service” agreements, customers get a multipurpose robot that can be up and running in days, compared to weeks for traditional systems. The subscription includes training, installation and regular software updates. Continue reading “Rent-A-Robot Services Will Bring Bots to More Small Businesses”

China’s Mounting Tech Ambitions Target U.S. Leadership

China is ramping efforts to topple America’s high-tech dominance. Beijing wants to take the lead in an array of advanced technologies, ranging from artificial intelligence to medical equipment. It faces challenges, of course, but it is methodically gaining ground on the U.S. and developed nations. Whether China succeeds or fails at its lofty goals, ripple effects will continue to sweep across the globe. The most innovative U.S. companies along with U.S. tech experts are sounding the alarm about China’s growing aspirations.

The technologies in China’s crosshairs require massive amounts of capital, research and innovation. In addition to AI and medical gear, there’s also industrial robots, electric vehicles, aerospace equipment, satellites, electric power equipment, telecom gear and agricultural machinery. “Today the China challenge is pointed directly at U.S. advanced industries, many of them critical to our defense industrial base,” writes Robert D. Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, in a recent article. Continue reading “China’s Mounting Tech Ambitions Target U.S. Leadership”

Will Tech Companies Have to Divulge AI Secrets?

Tech companies are facing mounting pressure to show what’s under the hood of their artificial intelligence tools, which guide driverless cars, enable facial recognition apps, decide what ads to show internet users and much more. The decision-making software that automates such tasks is usually a closely guarded secret. Advocates for transparency say that tech companies should reveal more information about how these systems work when they are used to guide public policy. Continue reading “Will Tech Companies Have to Divulge AI Secrets?”

Tech Companies are Racing to Fix a Chip Bug, But Threats Will Linger

A major computer chip security flaw will continue to roil the tech industry for years to come. The problem affects a staggering amount of modern information technology around the globe, including PCs, smartphones and servers that run widely used cloud computing apps. The issue stems from processors from Intel, AMD and ARM, which are at risk of exposing sensitive data to hackers, such as passwords and encryption keys.

The vulnerabilities were discovered in June by security researchers at Google, who quickly reported it to the chipmakers and other hardware and software companies, prompting a rapid behind-the-scenes company response. The problem was made public on January 3 by the tech website The Register, causing tech firms, particularly Intel, to scramble to disclose more information. Continue reading “Tech Companies are Racing to Fix a Chip Bug, But Threats Will Linger”

Key Technology Trends to Watch in 2018

As 2017 draws to a close, it’s time to look ahead to a new year in technology. Some of the key tech trends that bear watching closely in 2018 follow. We’ll be covering these topics—and many others—next year in our Alerts. As always, please send along any questions or comments about technology and I’ll do my best to answer. Continue reading “Key Technology Trends to Watch in 2018”

Internet Regulation Food Fight Far from Finished

In a big win for internet providers, federal telecom regulators are ditching utility-style internet rules. As we predicted in July, the five-member Federal Communications Commission will ditch the net neutrality rules that went into effect in 2015. They will split along party lines, with the Republican majority voting to do away with the 2015 framework at the FCC’s upcoming December meeting.

The Obama-era rules, implemented when Democrats had a 3-2 majority on the commission, barred web providers from blocking or throttling lawful content. They also banned so-called fast lanes—special agreements between web providers and content makers to speed up their data. Continue reading “Internet Regulation Food Fight Far from Finished”

The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear

The race to make driverless car service a reality is revving up. Carmakers are ramping up investment in an array of technologies fundamental to autonomous vehicles. The industry poured more than $80 billion into self-driving technology recently, according to a tally by the Brookings Institution spanning August 2014-June 2017. It’s a full-fledged spending spree on everything from artificial intelligence software to sensors to computer chips.

“Every manufacturer in the world wants to be an early mover—or at least avoid competitive disadvantage,” notes the Brookings report. Investments by car companies, tech giants and venture capitalists will only accelerate. The whole industry is riding on more than a decade of development, steep price drops on sensors and other key hardware and breakthroughs in artificial intelligence software. Carmakers know they are also competing outside of their industry—against Apple, Google and China’s Baidu to name a few—on the technology front. Continue reading “The Driverless Car Race Shifts into High Gear”

Apple Brings Facial Recognition to the Masses

Apple’s new facial recognition technology will bring facial biometrics into the mainstream. The tech giant’s new $1,000 iPhone X will let users scan their face for added security when paying at the grocery store or signing into a bank account. The high-end phone is one of three new iPhone models, and the only version with facial recognition. But the top-tier iPhone X could end up netting one-third of all sales of the new iPhone fleet. That would put the new tech in the hands of 70 million or more users around the world within 12 months, barring severe shipping delays or supply shortages. Continue reading “Apple Brings Facial Recognition to the Masses”