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Celebrate Innovations With Global Tech Show

Consumers are starting to understand more about data and become more discerning about which companies and devices they trust.

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Technology
Avatarmind's iPal Smart AI Robots, designed to be companions for children and elderly, perform calisthenics during the 2018 CES in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 9, 2018. VOA

Amid trade wars, geopolitical tensions and a decline in public trust, the technology sector is seeking to put its problems aside with the Consumer Electronics Show, the annual extravaganza showcasing futuristic innovations.

The Jan. 8-11 Las Vegas trade event offers a glimpse into new products and services designed to make people’s lives easier, fun and more productive, reaching across diverse sectors such as entertainment, health, transportation, agriculture and sports.

“Smart” devices using various forms of artificial intelligence will again be a major focus at CES.

Visitors are likely to see more dazzling TV screens, intuitive robots, a range of voice-activated devices, and folding or roll-up smartphone displays. Also on display will be refinements to autonomous transportation and gadgets taking advantage of 5G, or fifth-generation wireless networks.

But the celebration of innovation will be mixed with concerns about public trust in new technology and other factors that could cool the growth of a sizzling economic sector.

Technology
People look through Sony PlayStation VR headsets after a Sony news conference at CES International in Las Vegas, Jan. 8, 2018. VOA

“I think 2019 will be a year of trust-related challenges for the tech industry,” said Bob O’Donnell of Technalysis Research.

CES features 4,500 exhibitors across 2.75 million square feet (250,000 square meters) of exhibit space showcasing artificial intelligence, augmented and virtual reality, smart homes, smart cities, sports gadgets and other cutting-edge devices. Some 182,000 trade professionals are expected.

Much ado about data

There will be a focus on artificial intelligence that can “personalize” a user’s experience with a device or a car, or even predict what someone is seeking — whether it’s music or medical care.

But because this ecosystem is built around data, confidence has been eroded by scandals involving Facebook, Google and other guardians of private information.

“The public is wary because of recent events,” said Roger Kay, analyst and consultant with Endpoint Technologies Associates. “I think the industry will be slowed by this skepticism.”

Carolina Milanesi, an analyst with Creative Strategies, said, “You’ll definitely hear people talk about security more, and really looking at how you secure the data,” at CES.

Technology, robot, inventions
The mock killer robot was displayed in London in April 2013. (VOA)

Trade frictions

The Consumer Technology Association, which operates the show, acknowledges that the sector is being hurt by tariffs and trade frictions between the two largest economic players, the United States and China.

Tariffs on tech products jumped to $1.3 billion in October, according to CTA, raising fears about growth.

“It’s almost inevitable that an economic slowdown will occur if these tariffs continue,” said Sage Chandler, CTA vice president for international trade.

The U.S.-China trade issues and the arrest of a top executive of Chinese giant Huawei in Canada have thrown into question the “supply chain,” the system in which U.S. designs are manufactured in China for the global market.

“This does cast a shadow over CES,” O’Donnell said.

AI and personalization

The auto sector will again have a major presence at CES with most major manufacturers on hand, some with prototypes of self-driving vehicles.

Technology
Attendees wave at Honda robotics concepts 3E-C18, left, and 3E-A18, at CES International, in Las Vegas, Nevada, Jan. 9, 2018. VOA

Japanese carmaker Honda will be showing an “autonomous work vehicle” which can be configured for search and rescue operations, firefighting and other uses.

Other exhibitors will be showing technology designed to serve as the “brains” of self-driving vehicles, not only for navigation but to create a better, more personalized “user experience” for travelers.

The show includes startups offering “predictive” health care solutions designed to anticipate the kind of care senior citizens may need.

Facial recognition, which is already being used on many smartphones, will be incorporated into vehicles, doorbells and security systems as part of efforts to increase personalization and improve security.

And consumer products group Procter & Gamble, making its first appearance at CES, will demonstrate ways to use facial recognition and AI for improved skin care and beauty recommendations.

The new applications raise questions on whether consumers are ready for technologies that evoke the notion of Big Brother and a surveillance state.

Brenda Leong, senior counsel at the Future of Privacy Forum, a Washington think-tank, said consumers should be mindful about whether data from facial recognition is kept only on the devices, such as in the iPhone, or held in a database.

digital video technology, technology
HD Television with digital video technology. Pixabay

“Even if commercial institutions are collecting the data, everybody is worried about government access,” she said.

Patrick Moorhead of Moor Insights & Strategy said consumers have shown a willingness to adopt these new technologies if they offer convenience.

“If they are balanced from a benefit point of view, those worries are going to go away,” he said.

Moorhead noted that as facial recognition has become a standard feature for many smartphones, “those fears have faded.”

Also Read: U.S. Army Sparks an Industry Battle After it Looks For Robots

O’Donnell said consumers are starting to understand more about data and become more discerning about which companies and devices they trust.

“Personalization is something people want, and they are willing to give up some privacy to get it,” he said.

“But if they can get personalization on the device without sending it to the cloud, they get the benefits without giving up privacy.” (VOA)

Next Story

1,700 Child Soldiers Reunite With Their Parents In Myanmar

In September 2018, the Myanmar government released 75 children and young people who were recruited and used by the military in the only discharge to take place last year.

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Myanmar
Colonel Tun Tun Win of Myanmar's Ministry of Defense speaks at a workshop on the creation of a complaint mechanism to report instances of forced labor, in Naypyidaw, Jan. 17, 2019. (RFA)

More than 1,700 child soldiers in Myanmar have been reunited with their parents, and about 800 military officers and other army personnel who recruited and used them have been punished, a defense ministry official said Thursday during a workshop in Naypyidaw to discuss the creation of a complaint mechanism to report instances of forced labor.

Colonel Tun Tun Win of the Ministry of Defense said that the army has taken action against the use of child soldiers in Myanmar based on regulations of the International Labour Organization (ILO), a United Nations agency that sets global labor standards and promotes social protection for workers.

“In response to the ILO’s regulations, the Tatmadaw [Myanmar military] has taken action from 2007 to 2018 against a total of 379 military personnel, including 64 officers and 315 other ranks in accordance with military discipline,” he said.

Soldiers
Child Soldiers, Representational Iamge

At the same time, the U.N. Country Task Force on Monitoring and Reporting (CTFMR), co-chaired by June Kunugi, UNICEF’s representative to Myanmar, and Knut Ostby, the U.N.’s highest representative and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar, to report on grave violations committed against children during times of armed conflict, has taken action against 448 military personnel, including 96 officers and 352 other ranks, he said.

The punishments included sending military personnel to both civilian and army jails as well as demotions, Tun Tun Win said.

Besides sending nearly 1,730 child soldiers home, the army is addressing the issue in a transparent manner, he said.

Saw Tin Win, a lawmaker who is a member of the Farmers and Workers Affairs Committee in Myanmar’s lower house of parliament, said his committee receives about 40 complaints about the military’s use of child soldiers every month, though only two or three have been returned.

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U.N.’s highest representative and humanitarian coordinator in Myanmar

“Some underage children were allowed to resign from the service, while other cases remain under investigation,” he said. “And some children were not allowed to resign during their recruitment period.”He also said that the committee had gathered evidence of underage children being used as child soldiers and then sent complaint letters to the defense ministry.

Thein Swe, Myanmar’s minister for labor, immigration, and population said that the Myanmar military is cooperating with both the CTFMR and the ILO on the child soldier issue.

“It also has taken action if complaints were submitted under the Supplementary Understanding agreement,” he said.

The February 2007 agreement between the Myanmar government and the ILO provides for a complaint mechanism under which individuals can submit cases of forced labor under the ILO Convention 29 concerning forced labor, and including underage recruitment, to the ILO liaison officer in Yangon.

“For instance, if the Tatmadaw cooperated on the issue of child soldier recruitment, then it took action against those who recruit underage children and notified us once the issue had been resolved,” Thein Swe said.

He also said that the ministry would address the issue of forced labor by ethnic armed groups in Myanmar, but did not elaborate.

Widespread use of child soldiers

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Besides sending nearly 1,730 child soldiers home, the army is addressing the issue in a transparent manner, he said.

The use of child soldiers in Myanmar has been widespread since the country’s independence from colonial ruler Britain in 1948. For decades, the national military has engaged in hostilities with several ethnic armies fighting for varying degrees of autonomy in their states.

Some of the ethnic armies that are fighting against Myanmar forces, and some of the forces allied with them, also have recruited and used child soldiers, though the numbers have been much lower than those recruited and used by the Myanmar military.

In 2007, Myanmar and the U.N. began negotiations on ending the use child soldiers that culminated in a joint action plan in June 2012 to stop the recruitment and use of children by the armed forces.

Three years later, Myanmar signed the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict (OPAC), also known as the international child soldier treaty, but has yet to ratify it to make it fully binding.

Also Read: Reuters Journalists’ Appeal Gets Rejected by Myanmar Court

In 2017, the country signed the Paris Principles and Commitments to protect children from unlawful recruitment or use by armed forces and groups and to reintegrate those who have been associated with armed forces into civilian life.

In September 2018, the Myanmar government released 75 children and young people who were recruited and used by the military in the only discharge to take place last year.

(Reported by Win Ko Ko Latt for RFA’s Myanmar Service.)