Displaying items by tag: Google

Google CEO expresses fears over AI’s potential to harm

Written on Wednesday, 12 December 2018 12:12

Head of Google, Sundar Pichai, has expressed feelings of “deep responsibility” as a leader in the development of artificial intelligence (AI).

In an interview with The Washington Post, he encouraged his tech competitors such as Apple and Amazon to ‘self regulate’ their technology when designing AI that has the potential to harm.

Pichai said it was important to factor in ethics during early stages of production, rather than afterwards; accepting concerns surrounding AI’s potential to hurt people as “very legitimate”.

"I think tech has to realize it just can't build it, and then fix it," Pichai said. "I think that doesn't work."

In June of this year, Google published a set of internal AI principles, that software created would first and foremost be ‘socially beneficial’. It vowed the technology would never be designed or deployed to violate human rights, to be used in surveillance outside international norms or ever be used in weapons.

Pichai’s comments follow the controversy surrounding Amazon’s Rekognition app, which has faced scrutiny regarding its accuracy and has raised ethical concerns. CEO Jeff Bezos met with Border Control Officials to sell the facial recognition software, which could track human beings and take them back to potentially dangerous situations overseas.  

"This is why we've tried hard to articulate a set of AI principles. We may not have gotten everything right, but we thought it was important to start a conversation," Pichai says.

The company noted that it would continue to work with the military or governments in areas such as cybersecurity, training, recruitment, healthcare, and search-and-rescue.
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 "As a leader in AI, we feel a deep responsibility to get this right."

Published in Apps

Tech giant to invest further $1 billion for NYC campus

Written on Thursday, 20 December 2018 09:01

Alphabet Inc. has announced it will invest more than $1 billion to build a new campus in New York.

The parent company of Google plans to make the Hudson Square site its primary global business hub; with new office space in Lower Manhattan, and new property at 550 Washington Street.

The 1.7 million square-foot campus is set to double its staff numbers within a decade.

Earlier this year, the tech giant spent $2.4 billion buying New York City’s historic Chelsea Market, with plans to add a community space, winter garden and a public water taxi landing. It closely resides to their 111 Eighth Avenue headquarters, which they purchased in 2010.

“New York City continues to be a great source of diverse, world-class talent—that’s what brought Google to the city in 2000 and that’s what keeps us here,” Says Ruth Porat, SVP and CFO of Google and Alphabet, on a blog post.

"It's now home to more than 7,000 employees, speaking 50 languages, working on a broad range of teams including Search, Ads, Maps, YouTube, Cloud, Technical Infrastructure, Sales, Partnerships and Research."

Fellow tech titan Amazon Inc. is also set to invest $5 billion in real estate across two new headquarters for their HQ2 project. It hopes its Long Island City site will create a further 25,000 new jobs in New York and North Virginia.

Published in Apps

US tech giants roll out controversial new app

Written on Tuesday, 04 December 2018 07:26

Google has plans to roll out a controversial new app in which AI will make phone calls on behalf of users to arrange appointments, book tables and order food. Duplex will run through Google Assistant, and is described as “a new technology for conducting natural conversations to carry out ‘real world’ tasks over the phone.”

At a conference in May, CEO Sundar Pichai played two recordings of Google Assistant running Duplex, arranging a hairdressing appointment and booking a table. The assistant understood the context and responded appropriately, even when the conversation didn’t go as expected.  

In both phone calls, the receiver did not suspect they were talking to a robot; the bot speaks with realistic sounding human inflections and pauses. The next-generation voice assistant has raised some ethical questions as to whether humans should be told they are speaking to a robot and be clear that the conversation is recorded.

“It’s important to us that users and businesses have a good experience with this service, and transparency is a key part of that,” Says Yaniv Leviathan, Principal Engineer at Google.

“We want to be clear about the intent of the call so businesses understand the context. We’ll be experimenting with the right approach over the coming months.” 

Currently, only Pixel owners in selected US cities can run the app, and are, for now, limited to making restaurant reservations.

“We hope that these technology advances will ultimately contribute to a meaningful improvement in people’s experience in day-to-day interactions with computers.”

Published in Apps

Google Fi finally available to other devices

Written on Thursday, 29 November 2018 12:29

Google is set to expand its virtual telecommunication service “Google Fi” to a wider range of devices, including Samsung and iPhones. The service had been previously limited to select Android-powered smartphones, and to newer Pixel handsets made by Google.

"Our plan now works with the majority of Android devices and iPhones," Fi director Simon Arscott said in a blog post, who promises a simple pricing scheme that makes the Fi wireless experience “fast, easy and fair”.

Fi - previously known as Project Fi - works by hopping between carriers; shifting smartphone service between Sprint, T-Mobile, US Cellular, and Wi-Fi hotspots to provide optimal signals, says Google. Launched in 2015, Fi offers its US users unlimited domestic call and texts, plus texting internationally, for $20.

The service will let users pay based on how much data they use and allow for international roaming in up to 170 countries and territories.

Published in Devices

Google workers condemn controversial Dragonfly App

Written on Thursday, 29 November 2018 12:23

An open letter condemning Google’s ‘Project Dragonfly’, has garnered the support of human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Reporters Without Borders. Written by staff at Google, 407 of its workforce have already signed the petition, which has called upon the internet giant to end plans to provide a censored search engine for China.   

To comply with strict laws, a search application would be designed with the Chinese government to filter out censored content from results. In 2010, Google shut down its search engine after it would not capitulate to Beijing’s censorship demands. However, last month Google chief executive Sundar Pichai said it was “important to explore the options for China,” and would be able to serve over 99 percent of the search queries.

The signatures believe such a search engine would enable “state surveillance” and make it easy for the government to monitor user’s searches. It also would deny users to access politically sensitive information like the 1989 Tiananmen massacre.  The letter says it would “make Google complicit in oppression and human rights abuses” and believes it is at odds with the company’s values, whose motto ‘don’t be evil’ is used within their code of conduct.

Amnesty International is calling upon other members of Google’s 88,000 workforce to sign the petition.

“This is a watershed moment for Google. As the world’s number one search engine, it should be fighting for an internet where information is freely accessible to everyone, not backing the Chinese government’s dystopian alternative,” said Joe Westby, Amnesty International’s Researcher on Technology and Human Rights.

Google said there were no plans to launch a search engine in China, and it was merely at exploratory stages. 

Published in Apps

US tech giants make huge investment in NYC

Written on Thursday, 29 November 2018 12:09

According to The Wall Street Journal, Google is reportedly set to purchase significant amounts of real estate throughout New York City, which could provide an extra 12,000 tech workers to multiply its workforce.

Parent company, Alphabet Inc. is nearing a deal to buy or lease three new properties in the city, including a 1.3 million-square foot building in St. John’s Terminal.

Earlier this year, the tech giant spent $2.4 billion buying New York City’s historic Chelsea Market, with plans to add a community space, winter garden and a public water taxi landing. It closely resides to their 111 Eighth Avenue headquarters, which they purchased in 2010.

Over the last two years Google has spent a reported $2.8 billion on real estate, and earlier this month paid $1 billion for a property in Mountain View, California.

Amazon is also set for expansion in New York, with plans set to split its headquarters between Long Island City in Queens and Arlington County VA, providing a further 25,000 jobs for the company. HQ2 is set to be the largest economic development project in New York State history, bringing billion of dollars in tax revenue.

Published in Finance

Alphabet’s revenues up 24 percent year-on-year

Written on Tuesday, 31 October 2017 12:33

Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, announced its financial results for Q3 on Oct. 26, for the quarter ended Sept. 30. The company’s revenues were up 24 percent year-on-year, reflecting strength across Google and other bets. “Our momentum is a result of investments over many years in fantastic people, products and partnerships,” said Ruth Porat, FCO of Alphabet.

The company had a “terrific quarter” said Porat in a conference call with media. Revenues of $27.8 billion were up 24 percent year-on-year, and also up 24 percent in constant currency. Advertizing revenues benefited from strong performance in sites, which was powered by strong results in mobile search.

The company saw growth in network revenues which was led by its programmatic business. Alphabet also benefited from growth in revenues from cloud, play and hardware.

Alphabet’s performance was strong in all regions, Porat said. US revenues were $12.9 billion, up 21 percent year-on-year. Europe, Middle East and Africa revenues were $9.1 billion, up 23 percent year-on-year. Asia Pacific revenues were $4.2 billion, up 29 percent versus 2016. Other Americas revenues were $1.5 billion, up 33 percent year-on-year.

The company’s operating expenses were $8.8 billion, up 11 percent year-on-year, reflecting the change in the timing of its annual equity refresh cycle from the third quarter to the first quarter of each year. Operating income was $7.8 billion, up 35 percent versus 2016, and the operating margin was 28 percent. Other income and expense was $197 million.

Google contributed revenues of $27.5 billion, up 23 percent year-on-year. In terms of the revenue detail, Porat said, Google site revenues were $19.7 billion in Q3, up 23 percent year-on-year, led by mobile search, and complemented by desktop search and strong performance from YouTube.

Meanwhile, Alphabet’s Network revenues were $4.3 billion, up 16 percent year-on-year, reflecting the ongoing momentum of programmatic AdMob, a Google-owned advertizing company. Other revenues for Google were $3.4 billion, up 40 percent year-on-year, fueled by cloud, play and hardware.

Total traffic acquisitions were $5.5 billion or 23 percent of total advertizing revenues and up 32 percent year-on-year. Other Bets revenues – generated by Nest, Fiber and Verily – were $302 million. Operating loss including the impact of SBC was $812 million for Q3.

“Nest continues to drive ongoing product expansion with a number of notable launches including the Nest Thermostat E, which is offered at a lower price point than the Nest Learning Thermostat,” said Porat. “Nest also announced a home security solution that includes the Nest Secure alarm system, Nest Hello video doorbell, the Nest Cam IQ outdoor security camera and corresponding software and services.”

Porat added, “Waymo continues to expand its geographic presence and announced this morning that it will commence winter testing in Michigan to build on our progress to-date addressing the challenge of autonomous driving in cold weather, particularly with snow, sleet and ice. Michigan is the sixth state where Waymo is testing its self-driving vehicles. Over the last eight years, Waymo's cars have self-driven in more than 20 cities.”

Porat also mentioned Project Loon, a research and development project being developed by Alphabet subsidiary X with the mission of providing Internet access to rural and remote areas. Alphabet has been collaborating with companies such as SES and AT&T to deliver emergency Internet service to the hardest hit parts of Puerto Rico.

Google CEO Sundar Pichai said he has been “really proud of the progress this quarter, launching popular new products and continuing to grow our business in new areas. It's been particularly exciting to see our early bet on artificial intelligence pay off and go from a research project to something that can solve new problems for a billion people a day.”

Published in Finance

Google Pixel 2 the first smartphone with built-in eSIM

Written on Monday, 16 October 2017 07:14

Alphabet-owned Google unveiled the Pixel 2 smartphone in two models on Oct. 4, along with a new family of hardware products such as Google Pixel Buds (wireless headphones). The Pixel 2 is the first smartphone built with an eSIM, an embedded SIM that lets you instantly connect to a carrier network. It also features a high-end camera, all-day battery life, and an improved Assistant.

As long as you’re a Project Fi subscriber, Google will use the devices’ built-in eSIMs to authenticate your cellular account. Project Fi is a mobile virtual network operator by Google. Prior to the release of the Pixel 2, no smartphone has ever used the eSIM standard.

With the Google Pixel 2, you “no longer need to go to a store to get a SIM card for wireless service, wait a few days for your card to arrive in the mall, or fumble around with a bent paper clip to coax your SIM card into a tiny slot,” said Joy Xi, Product Manager for Project Fi. “Getting wireless service with eSIM is as quick as connecting your phone to Wi-Fi.”

Xi explains that you’ll see the option to use eSIM to connect to the Project Fi network on all Pixel 2s purchased through the Google Store or Project Fi. Those already subscribed to Project Fi can simply power their Pixel 2 to begin setup. When you’re asked to insert a SIM card, just tap the button for SIM-free set up, and Google will “take care” of the rest.

“For now, we’re piloting eSIM on the newest Pixel devices with Project Fi,” said Xi. “We look forward to sharing what we learn and working together with industry partners to encourage more widespread adoption.”

Pixel 2 comes in two sizes. The 5-inch model comes with an OLED display in Just Black, Clearly White and Kinda Blude. The 6-inch XL model has a pOLED 18:9 display and comes in Just Black and Black & White.

The phones are powered by Android 8.0 Oreo and come with an always-on display. Both are available for pre-order now starting at US$649 in the US, Australia, Canada, Germany, India and the UK. The Pixel 2 XL will be available in Italy, Singapore and Spain later in the year.

Pixel 2 features an improved camera powered by computational photography and machine learning capabilities, allowing users to take high-quality portrait shots with perfect background blurs, from both the front and rear cameras. New motion photos capture a few seconds of video around the shot so you can relive the moment around the picture, explains Mario Queiroz, VP and GM for Phones at Google.

Video capture is also improved in Pixel 2, by combining both optical and electronic video stabilization giving users smooth video capture. The smartphone also has unlimited storage for all of the photos and videos taken. In addition, with Augmented Reality (AR) Stickers, you can add emojis and virtual characters to photos and videos.

Pixel 2 owners will also get an exclusive preview of Google Lens, which builds on Google’s advancements in computer vision and MS, combined with the company’s Knowledge Graph which underpins Google Search.

Using Pixel 2, you can look up landmarks, books, music albums, movies and artwork by clicking on the Lens icon in Google Photos. You can also use Google Lens to copy URLs and contact info from a picture of a business card, for example.

Pixel 2’s updated Google Assistant can be activated with a new feature called Active Edge. By giving the phone a squeeze – even when it’s in a case – you can talk to the Assistant.

Soon the Assistant on Pixel will be able to help with daily routines, according to Mario, just by using a simple phrase. For example, when you go to bed at night, with a simple “good night” the Assistant can silken your phone, turn off the lights, set your alarm and more.

The smartphone also features battery that lasts all day, based on the use of the included charger and a mix of talk, data and standby use with always on display. 15 minutes of charging will give you up to 7 house of phone usage. It’s also water resistant to the IP67 standard and comes with important security features.  

Published in Devices

Telcos and OTTs shouldn’t be subject to same rules

Written on Tuesday, 26 September 2017 12:26

It’s no secret that telecom operators have struggled against the popularity of over-the-top (OTT) applications like WhatsApp and Skype, who have challenged traditional voice and SMS revenue streams. Some operators have called for regulators to subject OTTs to legacy telecommunications regulations in order to even the playing field. But such suggestions are misguided, according to the ITU.

Telecom operators are stuck in a predicament regarding OTT services who utilize their networks. They have little control over the growth of OTTs because users should be free to use the internet as they please. The network carrier only carries the IP packets from source to destination. They might be aware of the packets and their contents, but cannot do much about it. Carriers have had to roll with the punches and figure out how to adapt.

Ultimately, using VoIP (voice-over-IP) is a cheaper alternative to making expensive phone calls because the user doesn’t have to pay to use the dedicated phone line and instead utilizes an internet connection without any extra costs. As is the case with most VoIP services, calls made using the internet are often free while calls made to a cellular network require a payment. The advanced communication functions of modern smartphones have played a role in the rapid growth of OTT services.

The question is: what can network carriers do about it? Telecom carriers have lost hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue to VoIP services, statistics show. Some network carriers reacted, of course, by imposing restrictions on VoIP services. AT&T did this when Apple released its iPhone and the US telecom operator didn’t want its network being used for VoIP calling. AT&T lifted the block in 2009 after pressure from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

AT&T had an agreement with Apple to ban apps that would enable iPhone users to make phone calls using a wireless data connection. The scandal was revealed when the FCC requested that the companies explain why Google’s Voice app was rejected for the iPhone app store. The FCC was led to investigate if AT&T and Apple were colluding to prevent competition, sparking the beginning of a sour relationship between telecom providers and OTTs.

Can telcos come out on top?

For decades, telecom operators had free reign to charge rates for voice, data and SMS largely in excess of their marginal cost, which created a market ripe with innovation. The International Telecommunications Union’s (ITU) recent report ‘The State of Broadband 2017’ highlights the struggle telecom operators have faced since that period began to wane, as online applications became increasingly popular with consumers around the world who wished to interact in ways not possible through traditional communications channels.

Communication has been transformed by the likes of Facebook, Instagram, Skype, WeChat, Google, WhatsApp and Viber. These OTT services have “transformed the way people build communities and search for information, and made valuable contributions to health, education, finance and entertainment,” ITU claims in the report. “Online applications now generate a significant proportion of the socioeconomic impact of digitization and utilization of the internet itself.”

The demand for OTT services has driven the telecom industry to a new era, and some telecom operators – in defense of their traditional revenues – have sought to “handicap” the growth of OTT players, the report suggests. It’s important to note, however, that these OTT services, however disruptive they may be, are driving demand for telecom operators’ broadband services. Without the content and services that OTTs provide, consumers would be less willing to pay operators for internet access, ITU claims.

“The operators’ complaints make as much sense as cable operators that sell access to cable channels complaining that people are watching too much TV, driving up the demand for their own services,” the report says, “Or a restaurant complaining that too many people want to eat its food driving up food costs. Operators sell access – not content – but people only want that access to use online content.”

Telecom operators, according to the report, claim they cannot invest in their networks because online OTT services have limited their ability to generate revenue. The ITU says this is “inaccurate” and “misguided”.

Some telecom operators have called upon regulators to apply the “same rules for the same service” by encouraging authorities to subject all online OTT services to legacy telecommunications regulations. ITU rejects this, emphasizing that OTTs don’t offer the “same service” as telecom operators, and that subjecting them to the same rules would be “entirely inappropriate”.

OTT services like Facebook and Google, for example, don’t provide equivalent services as telecom operators, the report points out. Operators provide access to the internet and some vertically integrated services that take advantage of, and are bundled with, general access. Online OTTs, on the other hand, provide interactive experiences for internet users that go beyond traditional voice and SMS, including payment services, chat services and photo/video sharing.

The fundamental differences between the telecom sector and online OTT services has led to the establishment of different rules, the report highlights. For instance, telecom regulations are intended to ensure that established operators – who own network infrastructure with high barriers to entry and face limited competition – do not use these privileges to the disadvantage of consumers. OTT services, by contrast, don’t control network infrastructure and must compete fiercely to retain customers who could easily be swayed.

There’s also the perception that OTT payers get a “free ride” on telecom network infrastructure which is financed by operators. But in truth, OTT players invest billions of dollars annually in a combination of physical facilities, according to the ITU, including data centers, fiber networks, servers and routers, which form an “essential part of the physical fabric of the internet”. In fact, according to the report, online OTT players invested an average of US$33 billion per year in infrastructure from 2011-2013.

ITU argues that telecom operators should recognize how much online OTT players drive consumers’ willingness to pay for internet access, which then provides more opportunities to generate revenue and finance new infrastructure. According to the report, consumers who demand the most data tend to spend more money on mobile contracts that feature high-speed data – revenue that goes directly to the telecom operators.

“Regulatory authorities do not have to choose directly between the interests of online application providers and telecom operators,” the ITU report concludes with. The most important aspects of internet usage that regulatory authorities should focus on, the report suggests, are adhering to customer needs, ensuring that the internet is widely available, and prioritizing connectivity, competition and innovation.

Published in Featured

HTC employees to join Google in $1.1bn cooperation deal

Written on Tuesday, 26 September 2017 08:35

Alphabet-owned Google announced a definitive agreement with HTC on Sept. 21 under which HTC employees – many of whom are already working with Google to develop Pixel smartphones – will join Google. HTC will receive US$1.1 billion in cash from Google as part of the transaction. Separately, Google will receive a non-exclusive license for HTC intellectual property.

The transaction is subject to regulatory approvals and expected to close by early 2018. It represents a significant investment by Google in Taiwan as a key innovation technology hub.

The agreement is a “testaments to the decade-long strategic relationship between HTC and Google around the development of premium smartphones,” the two parties said in a press statement.

HTC said the agreement will support its continued branded smartphone strategy, enabling a more streamlined product portfolio, more operational efficiency and financial flexibility. The Taiwan-based company also insists it will “continue to have the best-in-class engineering talent” to work on its next flagship phone, following the launch of the HTC U11 this year.

“This agreement is a brilliant next step in our longstanding partnership, enabling Google to supercharge their hardware business while ensuring continued innovation within our HTC smartphone and VIVE virtual reality businesses,” said Chairwoman and CEO of HTC, Cher Wang. “We believe HTC is well positioned to maintain our rich legacy of innovation and realize the potential of a new generation of connected products and services.”

HTC said it will continue to build the virtual reality ecosystem to grow its VIVE business, while investing in other next-generation technologies, including the Internet of Things (IoT), augmented reality and artificial intelligence (AI).

For California-based Google, the agreement will further its commitment to smartphones and overall investment in its emerging hardware business, the company said. In addition to the HTC professionals joining its team, Google said it will continue to have access to HTC’s IP to support the Pixel smartphone family.

“HTC has been a longtime partner of Google and has created some of the most beautiful, premium devices on the market,” said Rick Osterloh, Senior Vice President of Hardware at Google. “We’re excited and can’t wait to welcome members of the HTC team who will be joining Google to fuel further innovation and future product development in consumer hardware.”

Published in Finance
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