Alibaba launches food tracking blockchain trial between ANZ and China
Chinese e-commerce and tech giant Alibaba has unveiled a trial of its Food Trust Framework, an initiative that uses blockchain technology to improve supply chain traceability.
With the help of PwC, Alibaba has set up a framework which will see Fonterra and Blackmores ship goods from Australia and New Zealand to Tmall customers in China using the blockchain technology.
Blackmores is shipping Odorless Fish Oil while Fonterra is shipping Anchor dairy products to consumers who purchase them on Alibaba’s Tmall Global platform.
Once the pilot is complete and if successful, the framework could form the basis of a global supply chain model applied across all of Alibaba Group’s e-commerce markets.
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Speaking at the launch in Auckland, Alibaba Group’s Alvin Liu, General Manager of Tmall Import & Export said: “Food fraud is a significant global challenge, particularly with the growing complexity of supply chains.
“In response, we have created a coordinated, world-leading and robust framework that involves stakeholders from across the supply chain to improve visibility and enhance the confidence of both end consumers and merchants.”
Food fraud costs the global food industry an estimated $40bn each year, according to research from the Michigan State University. PwC has also estimated that 40% of food companies find food fraud difficult to detect with current methods, and 39% think their products are easy to counterfeit.
Product tagging using QR codes will also be utilised in the trial alongside blockchain – these are designed to authenticate, verify, record and provide ongoing reporting of the transfer of ownership and provision of products and goods.
Australia Post and New Zealand Post are also partners in the trial, and will be responsible for helping to ship the products.
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.