What is QUANTech? An easy-to-digest selection of what’s hot in tech and the impact on society to help you keep ahead in this rapidly changing digital world.
This week was marked by the repeal of net neutrality in the United States, namely equal bandwidth distribution for all web pages and online services. This repeal will allow US operators to offer packages with privileged or unlimited traffic for some services and not for others. No doubt that much is still to be written about this issue of net neutrality in the months to come.
In this week’s news, the release of Google’s AI principles by its CEO Sundar Pichai also caught my attention. The latter evokes the objectives pursued by the company when it comes to applying AI as well as the path that the digital mastodon commits not to follow.
Among the most promising applications of artificial intelligence is the autonomous car. Two stories on the topic are worth putting in the spotlight this week.
First off Waymo, the self-driving car subsidiary of Alphabet Inc., Google’s parent company, which intends to develop the brand in Europe with self-driving taxis in the future. Also Tesla, which plans to deploy full self-driving features next August. More on that later.
• America’s new supercomputer beats China’s fastest machine to take title of world’s most powerful.
• The data generated on the Internet every minute.
• Microsoft is throwing its servers in the sea to keep them cool.
• Uber is developing technology that would tell if you’re drunk.
• Facebook apologises for privacy glitch that affected up to 14 million users.
• Facebook enlists anchors from CNN, Fox News, Univision for news shows.
• All of your Facebook memories are now in one place.
As I am spending the week in Shanghai, meeting with stakeholders and observing how the country’s technological development is unfolding, one thing is undeniable: the historical cliché of China applying an economic strategy of copying the West is eroding technology-wise. Not only is the idea of China copying no longer necessarily true, but the country is also innovating. As this week’s focus, it is worth highlighting China’s lead on mobile payement.
By 2016, mobile payments in China were 50 times the size of those in the United States ($5.5 trillion versus $112 billion) according to consulting firm iResearch. The integration of mobile payment is so strong in China that it is not uncommon in urban areas for a small merchant to struggle to return change on a cash payment. Everything can be paid for with a mobile phone and QR codes. Beggars themselves can receive donations by offering a QR code printed on a card on the street.
WeChat and Alipay, the two leading mobile payment providers in the country, are now even offering to stop using their smartphones to pay tolls on the roads. With a minimum Sesame Credit of 550 —the Sesame Credit is an index of reliability set up by Alipay in the image of the banking credit system with us—, the vehicle registration plate is automatically scanned and the amount is debited from the owner’s account.
Other payment methods are also emerging in China. For example, in some restaurants, customers can now pay with their face through facial recognition. There are also several stand-alone stores in the country, with no line-ups or cash registers, just like their popularised equivalent on the other side of the Atlantic, Amazon Go.
All in all, what is interesting to observe is that the Chinese population seems more mature or better prepared —in part due to strong governement involvement— for the emergence of a cashless economy.