Huawei denies US allegations of technology theft

Portuguese inventor Rui Pedro Oliveira claims Huawei met him and then essentially ripped off one of his designs in order to produce the Huawei EnVizion 360 panoramic camera. (File/AFP)
Updated 03 September 2019

Huawei denies US allegations of technology theft

  • The United States is pressing allies, with mixed success, to reject Chinese 5G technology, especially from the giant mobile phone company Huawei
  • Washington fears that Huawei will provide Beijing with a way to spy on communications from the countries that use its products and services

PARIS: Beleaguered Chinese telecom giant Huawei on Tuesday denied accusations reported in the Wall Street Journal that it stole technology from a Portuguese inventor, accusing him of “taking advantage of the current geopolitical situation.”

The US Department of Justice is looking into the claim, potentially adding to existing criminal cases against Huawei, the WSJ reported last week. Huawei — considered the world leader in superfast 5G equipment and the world’s number two smartphone producer — was in May swept into a deepening trade war between Beijing and Washington, which has seen punitive tariffs slapped on hundreds of billions of dollars of two-way trade.

The latest controversy involves Portuguese inventor Rui Pedro Oliveira who claims Huawei met him and then essentially ripped off one of his designs in order to produce the Huawei EnVizion 360 panoramic camera. “These allegations are false,” Huawei said in a statement in which it “categorically rejects Mr. Oliveira’s claims of patent infringement.”

“For the past several months, the US government has been leveraging its political and diplomatic influence to lobby other governments to ban Huawei equipment. Furthermore, it has been using every tool at its disposal — including both judicial and administrative powers, as well as a host of other unscrupulous means — to disrupt the normal business operations of Huawei and its partners,” the Chinese company said.

It said “Oliveira proceeded to feed a false narrative to the media in an attempt to tarnish Huawei’s reputation. He made further efforts to exert pressure on Huawei through senior government officials, trying to make the company cede to his demands and hand over large sums of money.”

The United States is pressing allies, with mixed success, to reject Chinese 5G technology, especially from the giant mobile phone company Huawei. Washington fears that Huawei will provide Beijing with a way to spy on communications from the countries that use its products and services.

Huawei admitted meeting with Oliveira in 2014 but insisted that its EnVizion 360 camera was “independently designed and developed by Huawei’s employees having no access to Mr. Oliveira’s information.” Last month the US Commerce Department effectively suspended for a second time tough rules stopping the sale of components and services to the Chinese telecoms titan and a prohibition on buying equipment from it.

However, it also said it would add 46 more companies to its list of Huawei subsidiaries and affiliates that would be covered by the ban if it is implemented in full — taking the total on the list to more than 100. In December Canada arrested Huawei executive Meng Wanzhou on a US warrant.


Facebook researchers use maths for better translations

Updated 13 October 2019

Facebook researchers use maths for better translations

  • Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue
  • Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business

PARIS: Designers of machine translation tools still mostly rely on dictionaries to make a foreign language understandable. But now there is a new way: numbers.

Facebook researchers say rendering words into figures and exploiting mathematical similarities between languages is a promising avenue — even if a universal communicator a la Star Trek remains a distant dream.

Powerful automatic translation is a big priority for Internet giants. Allowing as many people as possible worldwide to communicate is not just an altruistic goal, but also good business.

Facebook, Google and Microsoft as well as Russia’s Yandex, China’s Baidu and others are constantly seeking to improve their translation tools.

Facebook has artificial intelligence experts on the job at one of its research labs in Paris. Up to 200 languages are currently used on Facebook, said Antoine Bordes, European co-director of fundamental AI research for the social network.

Automatic translation is currently based on having large databases of identical texts in both languages to work from. But for many language pairs there just aren’t enough such parallel texts.

That’s why researchers have been looking for another method, like the system developed by Facebook which creates a mathematical representation for words.

Each word becomes a “vector” in a space of several hundred dimensions. Words that have close associations in the spoken language also find themselves close to each other in this vector space.

“For example, if you take the words ‘cat’ and ‘dog’, semantically, they are words that describe a similar thing, so they will be extremely close together physically” in the vector space, said Guillaume Lample, one of the system’s designers.

“If you take words like Madrid, London, Paris, which are European capital cities, it’s the same idea.”

These language maps can then be linked to one another using algorithms — at first roughly, but eventually becoming more refined, until entire phrases can be matched without too many errors.

Lample said results are already promising. For the language pair of English-Romanian, Facebook’s current machine translation system is “equal or maybe a bit worse” than the word vector system, said Lample.

But for the rarer language pair of English-Urdu, where Facebook’s traditional system doesn’t have many bilingual texts to reference, the word vector system is already superior, he said.

But could the method allow translation from, say, Basque into the language of an Amazonian tribe? In theory, yes, said Lample, but in practice a large body of written texts are needed to map the language, something lacking in Amazonian tribal languages.

“If you have just tens of thousands of phrases, it won’t work. You need several hundreds of thousands,” he said.

Experts at France’s CNRS national scientific center said the approach Lample has taken for Facebook could produce useful results, even if it doesn’t result in perfect translations.

Thierry Poibeau of CNRS’s Lattice laboratory, which also does research into machine translation, called the word vector approach “a conceptual revolution.”

He said “translating without parallel data” — dictionaries or versions of the same documents in both languages — “is something of the Holy Grail” of machine translation.

“But the question is what level of performance can be expected” from the word vector method, said Poibeau. The method “can give an idea of the original text” but the capability for a good translation every time remains unproven.

Francois Yvon, a researcher at CNRS’s Computer Science Laboratory for Mechanics and Engineering Sciences, said “the linking of languages is much more difficult” when they are far removed from one another.

“The manner of denoting concepts in Chinese is completely different from French,” he added.
However even imperfect translations can be useful, said Yvon, and could prove sufficient to track hate speech, a major priority for Facebook.