Asian Busi­nesses Are Win­ning In The AI Race

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While global tech gi­ants like Ama­zon, Ap­ple, Face­book and Google typ­i­cally come to mind when we think about lead­ers in AI, new re­search from For­rester finds that Asian busi­nesses are not lag­ging be­hind th­ese global firms, and are tak­ing AI be­yond tech to rein­vent them­selves, their in­dus­tries — and the global econ­omy.

There is a sense of ur­gency in Asia to cap­i­tal­ize on AI, not only to com­pete but to lead glob­ally. Govern­ment-backed AI is fu­el­ing in­no­va­tion in ex­ist­ing tech firms, star­tups, and aca­demic com­mu­ni­ties. The South Korean govern­ment an­nounced $1 bil­lion in AI fund­ing in 2017, while Ja­panese PM Shinzo Abe has en­cour­aged AI star­tups and ven­ture cap­i­tal in­fu­sion. The na­tional re­search foun­da­tion of Singapore’s govern­ment an­nounced a na­tional AI plan, AI.SG, to boost the coun­try’s AI ca­pa­bil­i­ties. Chi­nese in­vest­ment from both govern­ment and cor­po­rate sec­tors is global, caus­ing the US to con­sider re­stric­tions on th­ese in­vest­ments.

Some key find­ings from the re­port on how Asian com­pa­nies are seek­ing dis­rup­tion in AI:

• AI in­vest­ment and adop­tion. Led by China (from 31% to 61%) and In­dia (from 29% to 69%), in­vest­ment and adop­tion jumped sig­nif­i­cantly between 2016 and 2017, with Ja­pan, Singapore, and South Korea fol­low­ing closely by ex­pand­ing their ex­ist­ing tech­nol­ogy in­dus­try strength in ro­bot­ics elec­tron­ics to com­pete against com­pa­nies like In­tel and NVIDIA.

• Strate­gic dis­rup­tion of AI strat­egy. What stands out among Asian en­ter­prises is the heavy fo­cus on strate­gic, longer-term ob­jec­tives and high out­comes com­pared with other re­gions and global en­ter­prises. Th­ese firms pri­or­i­tize in­dus­try dis­rup­tion and new prod­uct de­vel­op­ment higher than other re­gions and global en­ter­prises. In­ter­nal in­vest­ments are driven by the mar­ket­ing, sales, and cus­tomer sup­port ar­eas that are de­vel­op­ing cog­ni­tive prod­ucts and en­gag­ing with cus­tomers through in­tel­li­gent agents.

• AI as a tech­nol­ogy dis­rup­tor. Asian en­ter­prises see AI as a com­plete dis­rup­tive force across tech­nol­ogy, in­dus­try, prod­uct, go-to-mar­ket, aca­demic, and eco­nomic di­men­sions. Rather than develop in­cre­men­tal tech­nolo­gies, com­pa­nies like Alibaba, Baidu, and Ten­cent are as ac­tive in self-driv­ing car tech as Google is in the US, even to the point of push­ing the bound­aries of Chi­nese reg­u­la­tions while still test­ing their tech­nol­ogy. Uni­ver­si­ties are re­search re­sources for com­pa­nies like Huawei, which re­cently in­vested $1 mil­lion with UC Berkley for AI R&D. In­dian sys­tems in­te­gra­tors are also ac­tively par­tic­i­pat­ing in AI con­sor­tiums such as OpenAI.

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