Good morning. David Meyer here in Berlin, filling in for Alan.
Some of the biggest tech giants yesterday agreed to build healthcare products that use a common set of standards in order to make it easier to share medical data across hospitals. What’s more, these are open standards and specifications aimed at encouraging “frictionless data exchange.”
The agreement between Amazon, Google, IBM, Microsoft, Oracle and Salesforce is good news for medical professionals and their patients, because having more information at hand potentially aids speedy diagnosis and treatment. If the promised efficiencies materialize, there may even be savings on the horizon.
The openness of the standards is also very good news for the future competitiveness of the healthcare IT market, because it should lower the barriers to entry for companies that aren’t at the scale that these giants currently enjoy.
But the deal is also clearly good for its signatories, not only because it expands their potential markets, but because it will help feed their artificial intelligence ambitions. More data, if properly wrangled, translates to smarter AI.
And the companies need smarter AI. Consider the case of IBM and its marquee Watson system, which was recently the subject of quite the takedown by the Wall Street Journal. It turns out that more than a dozen clients and partners have scaled down or ended their experiments with using Watson in cancer treatment.
Here’s the relevant bit from that piece: “In many cases, the tools didn’t add much value. In some cases, Watson wasn’t accurate. Watson can be tripped up by a lack of data in rare or recurring cancers, and treatments are evolving faster than Watson’s human trainers can update the system.”
There’s a lesson in here about taking a realistic view of where AI’s development stands today. But there’s another takeaway too: perhaps healthcare is too sprawling an environment for one company, no matter how venerable and well-resourced, to provide all the value that’s needed on its own. If that’s the case, then there’s much cause to celebrate an agreement that breaks down silos, opens up markets, and hopefully saves lives.
More news below.
The Turkish lira popped 6% in early trading today, providing respite from what was looking like a freefall situation in recent days—the currency lost 13.8% of its value Friday and 6.3% yesterday. Other emerging-market currencies such as the South African rand and Mexican peso also rose slightly. But President Erdogan shouldn’t rest easy. “Even if the political stand-off between Turkey and the U.S. somehow got resolved, the lira would only partially recover,” Commerzbank analyst Antje Praefcke told the Financial Times. FT
Elon Musk published a blog post yesterday, claiming he made his Twitter announcement about taking Tesla private because “it wouldn’t be right to share information about going private with just our largest investors without sharing the same information with all investors at the same time.” He also said a meeting with the Saudis left him with “no question that a deal with the Saudi sovereign fund could be closed, and that it was just a matter of getting the process moving,” hence, the “funding secured” claim. However, The New York Times reports sources “familiar with the working of the Saudi fund” as saying the fund has made no serious preparations for such a transaction. NYT
If you use an Android phone and have told it not to record your location, chances are that some Google services are doing so anyway. That’s according to an AP investigation. Here’s a snippet: “Google’s support page on the subject states: ‘You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored.’ That isn’t true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It’s possible, although laborious, to delete it.)” AP
Icahn Take It Anymore
Carl Icahn has abandoned his attempt to vote down the $52 billion Cigna-Express Scripts merger, after proxy advisors Glass Lewis and ISS, and hedge fund Glenview, backed the deal. Icahn: “In light of the ISS and Glass Lewis recommendations in favor of the Cigna/Express Scripts transaction and the significant stockholder overlap between the two companies, we have informed the SEC that we no longer intend to solicit proxies to vote against the transaction.” Reuters
Around the Water Cooler
A car crashed into the security barriers outside the Houses of Parliament in London this morning, in what the police are treating as a terrorist incident. Some pedestrians and cyclists were reportedly injured by the vehicle before it crashed. The driver was arrested. Parliament is in recess at the moment, so most politicians were nowhere near the incident. BBC
Fed Chair Jerome Powell is likely to keep raising interest rates despite turbulence in emerging markets currencies, observers say. Here’s Barclays’ chief U.S. economist Michael Gapen, who used to be a section head at the Fed Board in Washington: “The broad conclusion from history is that the U.S. can generally ignore what happens in emerging markets, unless it involves China.” Bloomberg
The Chinese authorities banned a game called Monster Hunter: World and Tencent, which distributed the PC game on its WeGame platform, saw its stock take a hit seemingly as a result. Tencent’s share price fell more than 3%. Last year, the company’s market cap shrunk by $15 billion when it responded to state media criticism about the addictiveness of its Honour of Kings game by limiting the amount of time kids could spend playing it. CNBC
Georgetown economics professor Arthur Dong writes for Fortune that China’s authorities have displayed an intention to “weaponize American corporations operating in the country” in the context of the Sino-U.S. trade dispute. “By threatening companies like Apple, Beijing can pressure them to vocally oppose the Trump administration’s aggressive trade actions against China and to push Washington to resolve the worsening trade conflict,” he writes, but “if American companies feel they are no longer welcome in China, or subject to the winds of political expediency, they have the option of pulling out of China and building their supply chains elsewhere.” Fortune