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At Cebit opening ceremony, leaders evoke need to protect private data

Peter Sayer | March 10, 2014
Protecting privacy was on the minds of almost all the dignitaries assembled in Hanover, Germany, on Sunday night to open this year's Cebit trade show, the theme of which is "datability," or big data with responsibility.

He went on to recap initiatives introduced or planned by his government to favor innovation, including the "patent box," which reduces taxes on profits from patented inventions made in the U.K., and new grants to companies developing products for the Internet of Things. And on Monday Ofcom, the independent regulator and competition authority for the U.K. communications industries, will introduce new proposals to make spectrum available for connected devices and other new applications, he said.

Evoking chip companies such as Imagination Technologies, creator of the graphics chips Apple uses in the iPhone, and Arm, designer of the ubiquitous processor cores found in most mobile phones, he said his mission was to promote U.K. innovation. To that end, he called for a new alliance between innovative British companies and German manufacturing expertise, concluding: "Let us join forces, let us make progress through technology, and let us, Britain and Germany, do it together."

While Cameron seemed content to leave British wealth creation in the hands of a privileged and well educated few innovators, Merkel concerned herself with the wider job market, reminding the audience that humans are still needed to interpret the data pouring out of connected devices. "The human being may not be quite so superfluous as it would seem listening to previous speakers," she said. "The IT sector offers an enormous opportunity for all member states to develop modern forms of employment. There's a lack of skills which is why education and training is so important."

The ceremony ended with a demonstration of Volkswagen's vision for the interior of the car of tomorrow. Bitkom's Kempf had earlier suggested that we are about to experience another redefinition of human-computer interfaces, and Winterkorn brought on stage a prototype of how that might look. The prototype, James 2025, illustrated how, while travelling on a smart highway able to transmit traffic and environmental conditions to the vehicles on it, drivers might hand over control to their car by simultaneously pushing two buttons on the steering wheel before sitting back to enjoy the ride and perhaps take part in a high-speed video conference. With Cameron and Merkel declining to climb aboard the prototype, it was left to Weil to show how technology may yet, in some situations, make humans superfluous.

Cebit runs through Friday at the fairgrounds in Hanover, Germany.


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