$1bn Metronode takeover makes Equinix Australia’s biggest data centre provider
Equinix has trebled its data centre footprint in Australia after closing a $1bn deal to buy Metronode.
Metronode has two data centres in Melbourne, three in greater Sydney (including one in Illawarra), two in Perth, and one in each of Canberra, Adelaide and Brisbane, taking Equinix’s footprint in Australia to 15 sites.
This equates to more than 860,000 sq ft of land, 90% of which is owned, being added to the global portfolio of what is comfortably Australia and world’s largest data centre operator.
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Samuel Lee, President of Equinix Asia-Pacific, commented: “The acquisition of Metronode ensures Equinix will continue to strengthen its leadership position in the Asia-Pacific region and support our ongoing global expansion while further enabling Australia's digital economy.
“Equinix is increasingly helping customers to digitally transform their businesses through deploying high-level interconnections taking their infrastructure, applications and services closer to customers and partners.”
The firm is looking to take advantage of the proliferation of digital projects sweeping through organisations in Australia.
Indeed, Microsoft and IDC predict that digital transformation will contribute $45bn to Australia’s GDP in four years, growing the country’s economy by an extra 0.5% a year.
Equinix is also well positioned to connect Australian companies with overseas business opportunities, notably through Metronode’s site in Perth, which is to house the landing station for the new Vocus Australia Singapore Cable.
The Equinix footprint in the Asia-Pacific region now includes 40 data centres and extends the company's global footprint to 200 data centres across 52 markets.
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’.