Asia the NEXT FRONTIER for AI dominance

Tech August 11, 2018 11:50

By Asina Pornwasin
The Nation WEEKEND

9,701 Viewed

Blognone Tomorrow conference hears business success stories from the use of artificial intelligence and machine learning 



Artificial intelligence (AI) today is at the centre of the digital transformation of organisations, and tech giants told the Blognone Tomorrow tech event in Bangkok last week that they fully support their partners and customers benefiting from investing in AI.

Organisations this year are investing heavily in AI and IoT, the conference heard. By 2019, predicted International Data Corporation (IDC), 40 per cent of digital transformation initiatives will be supported by AI and cognitive capabilities that provide timely, critical insights for new operating and monetisation models in this region.

Tanapong Ittisakulchai, enterprise a partner group lead for Microsoft Thailand told participants that by 2021, product and services derived from digital transformation will also account for 40 per cent of Thailand’s gross domestic product (GDP). 

“AI are influencing every industry including healthcare, manufacturing, retail, financial services, education, and even government,” said Tanapong. “Microsoft believes that human ingenuity is amplified by intelligent technology.” 

For example, a Danish construction company responsible for detecting damage chose AI to detect three main types of damage – algae, cracks and rust. AI’s role in this case was to address certain issues, such as speed, time intensiveness, expense and difficulty in tracking over time.

Microsoft Azure AI services help build AI models and streamline artificial intelligence programming that runs AI workloads anywhere at scale. 

According to an article, “Asia is the Next Frontier for AI Development”, recently posted to the Microsoft Asia News Centre, AI is already delivering tangible economic benefits for many organisations across Asia Pacific. Written by Ralph Haupter, the president of Microsoft Asia, the article draws on examples, including leading global container shipping company OOCL use of AI in their business, which is said to be saving them $10 million (Bt332 million) annually, while Apollo Hospitals in India are using AI to help predict heart disease among patients. 

Microsoft’s AI investment in Asia includes the recent investment of $33 million in partnership with the Taiwanese government to create an AI research and development hub in the island nation to help transform its technology and industrial sector.

Recently the company announced that it is committing $500m over the next two years to offer joint sales engagements with start-ups, along with access to Microsoft’s technology, and new community spaces that promote collaboration across local and global ecosystems.

Take the example of Miko, an AI-power chatbot and star of the new mobile travel app Japan Trip Navigator. Created by Microsoft in partnership with travel agency JTB Corp and navigation firm Navitime Co, Miko provides travellers in Japan with real-time information from official sources, as well as insights from other users of the apps. Miko can also help with hotel and other bookings.

In Thailand examples, Microsoft Thailand has worked with Thai Airways to develop Nong Fah, an AI chatbot, as well as working with the Revenue Department to develop Nong Aree, an AI chatbot.

“To develop AI, a data scientist is a must for corporates, but the affordability is not equal for every organisation to have in-house data scientists,” said Tanapong. Microsoft’s AI platform can help businesses to effectively benefit from AI, he said.

Bruce Lai, the leader of brand management for IBM Power Systems in IBM Asia Pacific, said his company’s power architecture had been adopted by tech giants, including Google, which deployed their Power9-based systems in production. Paypal accelerated deep learning research for fraud prevention by leveraging extra large data sets for higher accuracy. Uber has collaborated with Oak Ridge National Labs to test deep-learning at extreme scale. Tencent scales their deployment of Power architecture for data intensive applications, and is realising 30 per cent increased efficiencies at 30 per cent lower cost.

“We have reimagined infrastructure for the journey to AI. We have designed IBM Power Systems with support from industry leaders in acceleration, advanced analytics and deep learning. Our servers and solutions are built to crush today’s most advanced data applications and the next generation of AI workloads.

According to Facebook, meanwhile, AI is foundational to what the social-media giant does. AI has the potential to enhance the efficiency of SMEs and to help businesses scale up their advertising campaigns. Tools like dynamic creative or dynamic ads, for example, feature AI technology.

Methit Mukdasiri, client partner, Facebook Thailand, told the Blognone Tomorrow conference that AI could help address common business challenges. Facebook uses it to help partners in three main areas – to reach an audience efficiently, deliver a relevant message and to drive sales effectively. 

Facebook provides business with 11 campaign objectives from awareness to conversations, each with different optimisation. For example, brand awareness objectives utilise machine learning to find people most likely to recall an ad.

Michael Jittivanich, head of marketing for Google Thailand, said that AI is the science of making thing smart, while machine learning (ML) helps machines learn to be “smarter”. Google has empowered many products and services with AI and ML, including Google Photos, Google Lens, Google Assistant and even Gmail.

Google provides Tensor Flow, an open-source machine learning framework for everyone. Also, with Tensor Processing Units (TPUs), Google’s custom-developed application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs) are used to accelerate machine learning workloads.

“For example, Kewpie Corporation benefits from Tensor Flow to use AI and machine learning to ensure the safety and purity of ingredients faster and more reliably than ever,” said Michael.

AI disruption

AI has contributed to the disruption of business models.  For example, SCB Abacus, a dedicated data analytics subsidiary of Siam Commercial Bank (SCB), is set up to build B2B2C solutions by using AI and big-data technology to help corporates personalise services at the individual level, with an emphasis on millennials. 

Natth Bejraburnin, a senior data scientist at SCB Abacus, said that AI and big data development at the company is to serve SCB Financial Group and B2C corporate clients. It focuses on three main areas – a credit scoring platform (ClickCash), robo-advising platform (m.me/puekhom and KEB Hom), and personalisation engines (My Deals). 

“Let me share lessons learned,” Nath told the conference. “Do not start with AI, but start from customers. AI and ML models require data. Build a complex system incrementally, not every feature launched is successful, and if it is going to fail, fail fast. And do not underestimate the need for software engineers and developers for your team.” 

Thadpong Pongthawornakmol, principal visionary architect, KLabs, KBTG, told Blognone Tomorrow that KBTG has been developing AI-based services since 2016, including K-Plus Beacon, which is mobile banking for the visually impaired. In 2017, it developed Machine Lending, fully-automated frictionless lending. This year, it developed Machine Commerce, a lifestyle platform with intelligent matching.

“The lending process is cumbersome,” says Thadpong, “how can we create a lending experience that is easier, faster, more accessible?”

“With digital automation and ML, we managed to create a better lending experience. Future works include improving the prediction model as well as extending the process to include other loan products,” said Thadpong.

GET, a new player coming to the ride-sharing market in Thailand is also said to be using AI and big data to make its service powerful. 

Pinya Nittayakasetwat, GET company co-founder and CEO told the tech conference that Thais on average spend 800 hours on the street per person per year, The GET team is inspired to turn the pain of everyday commuters into a business opportunity that they say will improve life for millions of people.

The company debuted in Thailand because the market is around 96.4 per cent untapped market, with lots of room for growth in the ride-sharing industry, said Pinya. The 3.6 per cent penetration by ride-hailing apps is low, he said.

The company will provide app-based on-demand services, by first focusing on developing ride hailing before expanding into a broader range of services in the future.

It aims to become an indispensable part of life in Thailand, making life easier for Thai consumers, while also providing partner drivers and local entrepreneurs with access to additional income sources, said Pinya.

Blognone Tomorrow

Blognone Tomorrow is a tech conference hosted by Blognone, the leading tech news site in Thailand, under the theme of “What’s next in the tech world”. 

“Blognone Tomorrow is our first tech conference in the series,” said Isriya Paireepairit, co-founder of Blognone.

“We learned that business leaders in Thailand are aware of digital transformation and planning for changes. The obstacle is they don’t know the ‘how’ or the process of the change. We brought them the top experts from tech companies to tell their stories and experiences.”