Two Supreme Court decisions, on cell phone privacy and, to a lesser degree, the status of Aereo, were the highlights of the week. It’s interesting that in an era of such intense partisanship, the decision was unanimous.
There was other interesting news and commentary this week. Here are some highlights, starting with the high court:
Two from the Supreme Court
The Supreme Court decisions handed down this week affect telecommunications in different ways. In a 9-0 vote (more common than many people believe), the court said that the right to search a suspect at the scene of a crime does not in most cases cover his or her cell phone. The court was deciding on two different cases. Chief Justice John Roberts acknowledged that the decision could impede law enforcement, but that the right to privacy “comes at a cost,” according to the Chicago Tribune.
The other case involved Aereo, an Internet streaming service. The court ruled 6-3 that the service was acting as a cable company and therefore is, according to The Boston Globe, “subject to the same kind of regulations and copyright laws that those types of broadcasters face.”
Aereo features technology that the court considered was more to get around the laws than a fundamentally different approach.
Google on the Road
Every clever innovation Google brings to market does a couple of things: It shows how smart the company’s technical folks are and how self-disciplined it is at its core strategy of imcrementally creating a deep and wide umbrella over virtually everything we do.
The latest illustration of that approach is Android Auto, which was discussed at the Google I/O developers’ conference. The platform, according to Computerworld, will give drivers voice-activated access to navigation, traffic updates and music. It seems inevitable that Android Auto eventually will be deeply connected to self-driving cars pioneered by Google and other existing and emerging products that increasingly will weave throughout the lives of users.
The report on the product at Computerworld said that the company will release a full set of APIs in the Android Auto SDK. The platform will be released this year.
MediaPost reports that two measures of online usage show that the industry has passed an important milestone. ComScore found that apps accounted for 51 percent of time spent on digital media in May, which was an 8 percent increase over the year-ago number. The story offers a lot of interesting statistics on how this increase is manifesting itself.
The other significant research is from PricewaterhouseCoopers, which found that mobile advertising tripled last year to $7.1 billion compared to 2012. That is about 17 percent of the total of $42.8 billion spent on online advertising.
More Privacy in iOS 8
ZDNet reports that Apple is planning to deepen privacy controls in iOS 8. Jason O’Grady reports that the OS, which will be widely distributed this fall, now is being distributed to developers.
There are a lot of changes, and Apple wants the word out: The video of a session at the company’s Worldwide Developers Conference, and the long accompanying slide deck, were posted. O’Grady writes that the most important upgrade probably “is the ability to see and modify an app's individual privacy settings on an app-by-app basis.”
The Brains of the New Machine
And, finally, comes a story about what the machines are thinking. GigaOm reports that Ray Kurzweil, who Google hired in 2012, suggests that a computer capable of 100 trillion calculations per second equals the horsepower of a human brain. Supercomputers have reached that level. The next challenge is to actually make devices think:
The more difficult challenge is creating a computer that has a hierarchy similar to the human brain. At the Google I/O conference Wednesday, Kurzweil described how the brain is made up of a series of increasingly more abstract parts. The most abstract — which allows us to judge if something is good or bad, intelligent or unintelligent — is an area that has been difficult to replicate with a computer. A computer can calculate 10 x 20 or tell the difference between a person and a table, but it can’t judge if a person is kind or mean.
Another way of saying that is that the acid test is creating a device cable of reasoning. When that happens, Kurzweil said, he will be “ready to accept them as conscious beings.”