Facebook has been on the receiving end of a lot of government scrutiny in recent months, but it looks like Google’s turn is coming soon. According to a report from Politico, the European Commission is preparing to hand down its decision on an antitrust investigation into the search giant’s Android mobile operating system. A fine against the company is expected to be announced in July.
The probe, led by the European Union’s antitrust czar Margrethe Vestager, is reportedly looking into accusations that Google has used its dominance in the mobile marketplace to its advantage. Politico suggested the fine could eclipse the previous European Commission record penalty of $2.7 billion, also issued to Google.
The EU first took interest in Google’s alleged abuse of Android back in 2016, when the Commission first informed Google that it may be in violation of antitrust rules with its massively popular mobile operating system. According to the initial charges, Google is accused of requiring phone manufacturers to install the company’s Chrome web browser and its search tool on their devices. Google allegedly offered financial incentives to place its apps on phones, but also threatened to cut off access to the Google Play Store if companies didn’t comply.
Google also allegedly prevented phone makers from creating devices that run on modified or forked versions of Android by requiring the companies to enter into an “Anti-Fragmentation agreement.” Companies were only allowed access to Google’s proprietary apps, including the Google Play Store, if the entered into the arrangement, according to the European Commission.
“A competitive mobile internet sector is increasingly important for consumers and businesses in Europe,” Vestager said at the time. “We believe that Google’s behavior denies consumers a wider choice of mobile apps and services and stands in the way of innovation by other players, in breach of EU antitrust rules.”
The EU hit Google with a $2.7 billion fine for manipulating search results to favor its own shopping service over third-party options that may have produced better results, but that penalty may end up looking like peanuts compared to the one Google gets for possible Android antitrust violations. It’s possible (albeit unlikely) that Google could be fined up to $11 billion, or 10 percent of the company’s annual turnover, according to the Financial Times. That would represent a significant blow to the company—which may be exactly what the EU wants to deliver.
The EU has applied increased pressure to Google in recent months, and its competition commission has reportedly expressed interest in trying to break up the company. Those types of inquiries have also spread to other countries. Last month, a number of Democratic Senators asked the Federal Trade Commission to look into the possibility that Google is tracking the location of Android users without permission. Australia’s government launched a similar probe.
Google still holds about 90 percent of the search market and just under 90 percent of all smartphone operating system market worldwide. The company isn’t hurting for the time being, but it should expect further scrutiny as long as those positions hold.
INDUSTRY GROUPS SUE TO STOP CALIFORNIA NET NEUTRALITY LAW
The broadband industry’s four main lobbying groups are joining forces to stop California’s state net neutrality law from taking effect.
On Wednesday, mobile-industry lobbyist the CTIA; USTelecom, which lobbies for the telecommunications industry; and the two lobbying organizations for the cable industry, NCTA and the American Cable Association, jointly filed a lawsuit in federal court against the state of California to block its new law.
Collectively, the groups represent almost every broadband provider in the country, including mobile operators like T-Mobile and Sprint as well as cable and telecom companies such as AT&T, Comcast, Charter, Verizon, Frontier and CenturyLink.
The suit, filed in the US District Court for the Eastern District of California, asserts that California’s net neutrality protections are illegal because they’re pre-empted by the Federal Communications Commission, which rolled back federal net neutrality rules earlier this year.
The trade groups’ suit calls California’s law a “classic example of unconstitutional state regulation,” and it’s asking the court to block the rules from taking effect on Jan. 1.
This is the second lawsuit filed against California since Gov. Jerry Brown. The Trump administration’s Department of Justice is also suing California and seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the law from going into effect.
At issue is whether California and other states have the right to pass net neutrality laws, which they claim are necessary to protect their citizens. As part of its roll-back of federal net neutrality rules in June, the FCC included a provision in its order that pre-empted states from creating their own regulations. The DOJ and the broadband industry argue it would be too complicated for internet service providers to follow different net neutrality rules in 50 states.
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions said California’s law violated the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.
“Under the Constitution, states do not regulate interstate commerce — the federal government does,” he said in a statement.
But net neutrality supporters argue that since the FCC has refused to regulate these services and because the agency actually abdicated its authority for such regulation to the Federal Trade Commission, states can impose their own rules for services delivered in their states.
California’s law, which prohibits internet service providers from slowing down or blocking access to websites or charging companies like Netflix extra to deliver their services faster, is based on Obama-era net neutrality protections that the Republican-led FCC rolled back earlier this year. But California’s law goes further, also outlawing some zero-rating offers, such as AT&T’s offer, which exempts its own streaming services from its wireless customers’ data caps. The law also applies the net neutrality rules to so-called “interconnection” deals between network operators, something the FCC’s 2015 rules didn’t explicitly do.
The legislation has been opposed by the broadband industry, which considers it too restrictive.
California is just one of several states looking to enact its own rules governing an open internet, after the FCC, under Pai, rolled back the Obama-era net neutrality rules in June. States such as Washington have pushed through a net neutrality law, while others are considering doing so.
Meanwhile, attorneys general of 22 states and the District of Columbia have already filed a brief to a US Appeals Court to reverse the FCC’s move. Companies like Firefox publisher Mozilla and trade groups also filed arguments.
Net neutrality, the principle that all internet traffic is treated fairly, has been one of the hottest topics of debate over the past several years. Consumers, tech companies and Democrats have pushed for stricter regulations prohibiting the prioritization of traffic, which resulted in the rules put in place by the previous FCC. But the Trump-era FCC has agreed with ISPs and Republicans who fear the regulations are onerous and hurt capital investment.
Taking It to Extremes: Mix insane situations — erupting volcanoes, nuclear meltdowns, 30-foot waves — with everyday tech. Here’s what happens.
WITH WATSON, TECHNICIANS ARE EMPOWERED TO MAKE THE RIGHT REPAIRS. THE FIRST TIME. ANYWHERE.
Since 2014 Apple and IBM have been working with clients to usher in a new era of smart enterprise. The latest collaboration offers companies interested in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) a chance to be a part of the next big shift in enterprise mobile intelligence — by bringing the power of IBM’s Watson AI services and Apple’s machine learning framework, Core ML, to native iOS apps. IBM Watson Services for Core ML delivers native iOS apps that give developers access to vast amounts of data, both on their device and through the cloud. This means that users can access information and deep insights directly on their iPhone or iPad, even when it’s not connected to a network.
The Coca-Cola Company is always innovating across their technology landscape, and AI is a key focus area. When presented with the opportunity to explore the value of IBM Watson services and machine learning, they quickly engaged. With the Coca-Cola emphasis on quality, they are currently partnering with IBM, working on prototypes for how IBM Watson Services for Core ML may transform in-field capabilities. Initial functionalities being analyzed are visual recognition problem identification, cognitive diagnosis and augmented repair. Early exploration is promising, and Coca-Cola and IBM continue to determine next steps.
Challenges in the field
Field technicians are deployed to service and repair beverage dispensing machines at restaurants and venues around the world. Once on site, the tech must be able to diagnose and correct an enormous array of problems, relying ultimately on their personal expertise and experience. If the system is not one the technician is familiar with – an uncommon water filter, for example – then routine repairs can become frustrating and time-consuming. Adding to the challenges, many sites are in remote or rural locations with no data connectivity, meaning no access to support, and therefore limited ability to make repairs. In these cases, the tech would need to spend time searching through informational databases, product manuals, and might even need to call in or consult with a colleague or specialist – resulting in lost productivity and prolonged system downtime.
Enter Watson Services for Core ML
With the AI capabilities of IBM Watson and Core ML, relevant information is put directly into a tech’s hands the moment she needs it, allowing her to resolve the issue quickly. Coca-Cola used Watson Services for Core ML to build an app that leverages visual recognition and augmented reality to identify equipment issues, diagnose problems, and troubleshoot repairs.
Through the app, the tech can use their iPhone or iPad camera to diagnose system problems via a virtual overlay and guided instructions pulled from the cloud, with zero latency, and even in areas with no network connectivity. Watson Visual Recognition on the device helps the technician identify older or poorly differentiated systems, or unfamiliar parts, and pinpoint the problem right away. Then, Watson Discovery Service helps identify possible solutions for the specific systems and type of malfunction.
Using ARKit, an iOS framework with resources to help create augmented reality experiences for the iPhone and iPad, developers are able to integrate apps with augmented reality models that help the technician solve complex problems on less-familiar systems.
As the technician is working on the job, data is captured. That data is then sent to the cloud once the device is back on the network, so Watson can learn from the interaction and make the learning available to other technicians in near real-time. Using the guided repair system, the technician is empowered to solve the problem the first time, increasing productivity, and elevating customer service – all without needing to call for assistance or reschedule the repair.
E. & J. GALLO WINERY IS WORKING WITH WATSON TO DEVELOP AN INTELLIGENT IRRIGATION SYSTEM THAT INCREASES THE QUALITY OF ITS GRAPES.
Overview: The problem
Having farmed in California for more than 80 years, E. & J. Gallo Winery knows that no resource is more important than water, which is why water management has been a top priority for the company for decades.
E. & J. Gallo Winery and Watson are now using weather reports and remote sensor data to deliver precise amounts of water to each vine, optimizing growth. The secret is located above the clouds, in a satellite looking down on the vineyard.
This allows the exact needed amount of water – based on highly targeted irrigation requirements – to be dispensed to each grapevine. As the weather changes, the irrigation methods react to ensure vines only receive water when needed.
Powered by IBM Cloud
IBM Cloud is built to handle cognitive workloads, such as the immense amount of data from satellites and IoT sensors. It also uses The Weather Company data from 2.2 Billion locations, which is combined with E. & J. Gallo Winery’s other data sources to help perfect individualized irrigation plans.
A competitive advantage
Because of this tailored watering, E. & J. Gallo Winery reduced its water use by 25%, while also improving the quality of its wine.
Wineries, hospitals, businesses, educators and governments are now working with Watson. In 45 countries and 20 industries, Watson is helping people make sense of data so they can make better decisions while uncovering new ideas.