The rise of co-location data centers
Australia is rapidly becoming a go-to destination for companies all over the world for data storage. Here is an overview of the colocation data scene in the country, along with an outline of the major benefits reaped by organisations using the service
Data storage is big business. To put it into perspective, last year 416.2 terawatt hours of electricity was used to store information in data centers, 110 terawatt hours more than the entire output of the UK and around three percent of the planet’s total consumption.
Analysts predict that the amount of gigabytes stored will soar by 300 percent over the course of the next decade, which only means one thing – massive opportunities for data center providers.
Australia is already home to more than 100 colocation data centers consisting of multiple hot spots based on climatic areas and differing time zones. Though Canberra might be the capital city, it would be wrong to call it a capital of Australian data storage, with other cities including Sydney, Brisbane, Adelaide and Perth each housing colocation data centers comfortably into the double figures. Most of the country’s data storage sites are found on the east and south coasts.
Over the past five or so years, the colocation industry in Australia has seen substantial expansion that has encouraged global providers of colocation, cloud and other services to invest here. The data center services provider landscape in Australia comprises DC specialist providers, IT services firms, telecommunications companies and modular DC providers.
While DC specialist providers such as Equinix, NextDC, Metronode, Global Switch and Digital Realty are the most dominant providers of co-location, IT services firms such as Fujitsu, IBM Softlayer, HP and telcos such as Telstra, Optus and Macquarie Telecom provide managed IT services, which is the faster growing segment in the market. Due to the ability to add capacity on demand, modular DC providers are also becoming increasingly popular amongst cloud services providers and enterprises with special requirements.
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’.