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Mady Delvaux: 'Robotics will bring about a revolution'

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Mady DelvauxRobots used to exist only in the realm of science fiction, but these days they are rapidly becoming a part of everyday life in the shape of drones, intelligent cars, industrial robots and robotic vacuum cleaners. The Parliament's legal affairs committee has decided to set up a working group to come up with proposals for legislation on how to make best use of robotics. We spoke to Luxembourg S&D member Mady Delvaux (pictured), who will write a report on this on behalf of the working group.

Although the European Commission is funding several robotics projects, there is no EU legislation on it yet. This is why the Parliament set up this working group, which consist of representatives from every political group. The group, which will be in place for at least one year, will work closely together with experts, the European Commission and other parliamentary committees.  Delvaux is responsible for writing a report with recommendations, which all MEPs will then vote on during a plenary session. To find out more about her work, we asked her for an interview.

What is a robot? People generally think of androids from the future that look and act like people. On what sort of robots will you focus on?

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It is very difficult to find a definition. We will cover all kinds of robots: industrial robots, service robots - such as vacuum cleaners and intelligent fridges - health and surgical robots, drones, cars and artificial intelligence. But we know we have to deal with one type at a time. Androids are our last concern; they are mostly localized in Japan. We know where we will start, but we do not know where we will end.

Why is there a need for new legislation on this matter? Isn't artificial intelligence already covered by existing legislation? 

There are various reasons for this. We need a new European standardisation. We also need to consider liability, the protection of personal data and the prevention of hacking. Some robots, for example industrial ones, are already covered by a machinery directive, but it covers only speed and some technical parameters, but not the machine's intelligence.

We need to test robots more to see how they act and what kind of accidents can arise from their interaction with humans. Then there is the question of equal access. If robots really make life easier, we need to ensure that everybody can afford them.

The US, China, Korea and Japan have very ambitious projects. If we do not create the legal framework for the development of robotics, our market will be invaded by robots from outside. Also, the European Parliament will be the first parliament in the world to discuss and create such a legal framework.

Some people fear that robots will steal jobs, others argue that robots will actually create new and better jobs. Are we at the cusp of a new industrial revolution?

I am convinced that this will bring about a revolution. Of course it will destroy certain kinds of jobs, but it will also create new ones. If industry uses more automation robotics, they will be more performing and more competitive and it can lead to some companies relocating production back to Europe.

Bulgaria

Eastern Europe’s most powerful supercomputer will be hosted by Bulgaria. What’s it good for?

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The IT giant Atos said that is has fully delivered to Bulgaria’s Sofia Tech Park a super computer that is expected to be Eastern Europe’s most powerful such device, writes Cristian Gherasim, Bucharest correspondent.

The petascale computing system will help greatly with Bulgaria’s tech ambitions in the years to come.

The supercomputers will serve in the development of scientific, public and industrial applications in various fields, including bioinformatics, pharmacy, molecular and mechanical dynamics, quantum chemistry and biochemistry, artificial intelligence, personalized medicine, bioengineering, meteorology and the fight against climate change.

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Atos, the company delivering the supercomputer, said in a press release that the computer is expected to be fully operational in July 2021.

“This will be the most powerful supercomputer in Eastern Europe and will help to leverage Bulgaria’s high-tech ambitions. Atos’ Czech Republic project teams have already started the configuration tests and the supercomputer is expected to start working operationally in July 2021,” the company said in a press release.

But this is not just a Bulgarian accomplishment but also a European one, benefiting European scientific research, bolstering innovation, and providing the wider scientific community with state of the art research and development tools.

The supercomputer is co-financed by the Republic of Bulgaria and European Union EuroHPC JU program. The total investment amounts to 11.5 million euros.

The petascale computing system in Bulgaria will be similar to other supercomputing systems in university and research centers across Europe, such as CINECA in Italia, IZUM in Slovenia, LuxProvide in Luxemburg și Minho Advanced Computing Center from Portugal.

The computing system present in Bulgaria will thus consolidate EU’s network of research capabilities and strengthened its endeavors to develop new tech and research hubs in its member states.

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Inauguration of the European High Performance Computing Joint Undertaking Headquarters in Luxembourg

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Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton, together with Luxembourg's Foreign and European Affair Minister Jean Asselborn, and Economy Minister Franz Fayot, inaugurated the headquarters of the European High Performance Computing (EuroHPC) Joint Undertaking in Luxembourg. Commissioner Breton said: “I am delighted to inaugurate the new home for European HPC. Supercomputing is key for the digital sovereignty of the EU. High Performance Computers are crucial to harness the full potential of data — notably for AI applications, health research and industry 4.0. We are massively investing in this cutting-edge technology for Europe to remain ahead of the global tech race.” The mission of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking is to pool European and national resources to procure and deploy world-class supercomputers and technologies.

Supercomputers will help European researchers and industry to make significant advances in areas such as bio-engineering, personalised medicine, fighting against climate change, weather forecasting, as well as in the discovery of drugs and of new materials that will benefit all EU citizens. The Commission is committed to supporting research and innovation for new supercomputing technologies, systems and products, as well as fostering the necessary skills to use the infrastructure and build a world-class ecosystem in Europe. A Commission proposal for a new EuroHPC JU Regulation, presented in September 2020, aims to enable a further investment of €8 billion to help drive and expand the work of the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking in order to provide the next generation of supercomputers and to support an ambitious HPC research and innovation agenda in the EU. More information will be available in this press release by the EuroHPC Joint Undertaking.

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EU to hit Apple with antitrust charge this week - source

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A 3D-printed Apple logo is seen in front of a displayed European Union flag in this illustration taken September 2, 2016. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration

EU antitrust regulators are set to charge iPhone maker Apple (AAPL.O) this week with blocking rivals on its App Store following a complaint by music streaming service Spotify (SPOT.N), a person familiar with the matter has said, writes Foo Yun Chee.

The move, the first EU antitrust charge against Apple, could lead to a fine as much as 10% of Apple's global revenue and changes in its lucrative business model.

Reuters was the first to report about the imminent EU antitrust charge in March.

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Sweden's Spotify took its grievance to the European Commission in 2019, saying Apple unfairly restricts rivals to its own music steaming service Apple Music.

It also complained about the 30% fee levied on app developers to use Apple's in-app purchase system (IAP).

The EU competition enforcer, which has four Apple investigations including the Spotify complaint, declined to comment.

Apple referred to its March 2019 blog following the Spotify complaint, which said its App Store helped its rival to benefit from hundreds of millions of app downloads to become Europe's largest music streaming service.

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