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FD Tech update

Financial Director's weekly round-up of the tech innovations shaping business models of the world's leading companies.

Amazon is hinting at Alexa’s future functionality

Amazon is reportedly developing new Alexa features and gathering data that could broaden the AI-powered voice assistant’s functionality. First of those include a patent that would enable Alexa to take instructions without requiring a “wake word” to trigger it. While this raises several privacy concerns it would allow consumers to interact more naturally with the assistant.

Amazon’s Body Labs unit is also looking to improve camera-based 3D body scanning which would potentially be used to offer consumers personalized clothing recommendations.

LinkedIn adds AI start-up Drawbridge to its ad offerings to help customers understand data

The business networking platform, LinkedIn has joined forces with Drawbridge to help its customers measure the ROI of their campaigns across platforms. Tomer Cohen, the vice president of product at LinkedIn said: “As we integrate Drawbridge’s technology into LinkedIn following the closing of the transaction, we will continue to maintain the strong controls our members and customers have over the data they choose to share with us. I’m excited about these and other investments that will allow us to continue to deliver greater value to our customers.”

Tesla believes deep learning AI is the future of autonomous vehicles

The electric car manufacturing specialist company Tesla has a unique view on the future of cars in comparison to its competitors in the automobile industry. The company is looking to transform the world by introducing driverless car technology that will make use of artificial intelligence to navigate instead of relying on LiDAR and High Definition Maps.

Tesla relies on its existing sensing technology and on-board computer systems that its production vehicles currently make use of and it has plans to release a software update by the end of 2019 which will allow the cars to go into autonomous mode. Artificial intelligence software based around neural network can be used to achieve this.

Facebook lifts the curtain on its AI robotics research

Social media giant Facebook’s AI team has revealed information about its robotics research, three robotic projects that will find ways for robots to teach themselves from experience rather than making use of algorithms for training. One project enables a six-legged robot teaching itself to walk, another focuses on developing curiosity to improve the learning process and the third throws light upon enabling robots to learn through tactile sensing or touch.

AI-driven Google Duplex still relies on humans manning the phones

Search engine giant Google’s AI-powered service that can call a restaurant to place a booking Google Duplex still relies on human assistance. The free service from Google is available to iPhone as well as android users wherein Google Duplex will make a call using artificial intelligence on behalf of the person, but a recent incident claims that the process is conducted by a human rather than making use of AI. This service has been available since a year ago.

A recent New York Times investigation into the service confirmed that around 25% of Google Duplex calls were to a human rather than an AI system. To increase the efficiency of the service, Google plans to expand the service to make reservations at hairdressers and at its Google I/O developer conference as well as developing a web platform apart from using it on smartphones.

Amazon wants to use An AI-powered wearable to learn your feelings

E-commerce, cloud computing, digital streaming and AI giant Amazon is in the process of introducing a new wearable device that will track the emotions of the owner in conjunction with an app on the likes of Alexa which powers its range of Echo products. The device has no name yet, though internally it is being referred to as Dylan and would be a wrist-worn device with a screen which would be interactive like smartwatches.

Amazon is going to make use of two separate teams, one which will include Alexa’s software team that will use the developments provided by Alexa researchers in terms of emotions in human speech. Health and wellness is another potential application of the device, in fact the device is being referred to as a health and wellness device. Lab126 will handle the hardware, the same department that handled Echo as well as Fire Phone’s hardware.

Google’s AI can generate videos from start and end frames alone

American multinational technology company Google can create videos from the start and end frame using its artificial intelligence. Google’s AI research division have developed a system that can generate “plausible” video sequences from no more than a single first and final frame, a process known as “inbetweening.”

One of the paper’s co-authors wrote: “Imagine if we could teach an intelligent system to automatically turn comic books into animations. Being able to do so would undoubtedly revolutionize the animation industry. Although such an immensely labor-saving capability is still beyond the current state-of-the-art, advances in computer vision and machine learning are making it an increasingly more tangible goal.”

Avaya embeds Google Cloud’s machine learning technology to provide intelligent customer experience

Santa-Clara headquartered global technology company Avaya Holdings has extended Google’s cloud integration to provide flexible solutions to customers. The integration embeds Google Cloud’s machine learning technology within Avaya conversation services powering customers with increased flexibility, efficiency and scalability in deploying the contact centre and collaboration solutions that best meet their specific needs.

Managing Director of Avaya ‘s Latin America Multi-Country Region, Jose Fernandez said: “Major banks, hotels, healthcare institutions, and investment services firms, colleges in the US, airlines and automobile manufacturers trust AVAYA for reliable communications.”

Asus partners with Google Coral for AI and Edge applications

Taiwan-based multinational computer and phone hardware and electronics company Asus has announced that it partnered with Google Coral for its AI and Edge applications. Coral is a platform that has been developed by Google to support and facilitate on-device AI. Asus will use its system-on-module (SOM) on its new AI development kit and single-board computer (SBC). The kit is to be called the Tinker Edge T and is aimed at electronic creatives and students. It incorporates the Coral SOM, as well as Google’s Edge tensor processing unit (TPU) platform. It intends to benefit consumer- and business-grade users and applications.

Salesforce to simplify marketing analytics

San Francisco-headquartered cloud-based software company Salesforce has announced the launch of its new platform Datorama app marketplace. Brands and agencies using Datorama’s marketing intelligence capabilities will benefit from an app marketplace designed to simplify and democratise marketing analytics.

Jo Gaines, AVP of Salesforce data and audiences and co-VP of APAC Salesforce Women’s Network, said: “At Salesforce we talk a lot about making everything work seamlessly and being able to connect together all of the different strands for effective data solutions. I think that this shows that we’re putting our money where our mouth is and focusing on making those integrations accessible to everyone.”

Standard Chartered rolls out AI trade engine

Banking giant Standard Chartered has partnered with IBM to launch of a revolutionary augmented intelligence (AI) trade engine. The new system is expected to improve operational efficiency and control by automating time-consuming and high-risk traditional back office tasks.

Using Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the Trade AI Engine can convert non-digital shipping documents into machine-readable format and can identify different types of document from a pre-defined database. The engine also utilises Natural Language Processing (NLP) to read and capture context, while continuous machine learning will enable the system to further improve accuracy.

Emirates NBD ties up with AWS to build a bank of the future

Emirates NBD, one of the largest banking groups in the Middle East, has partnered with Amazon Web Services (AWS) to help transform retail banking experience for customers. Using AWS’ machine learning (ML), data analytics, Internet of Things (IoT) and Natural Language Processing (NLP) among other technologies, Emirates NBD believes that the partnership will help it create a more rewarding and customer-centric banking experience.

Seattle-based AWS has strengthened its Middle Eastern footprint in recent years. In 2017, the firm said it will open at least three data centres in Bahrain to serve customers across the Middle East Region.  Additionally, the firm also added Arabic language support to Amazon Polly, a service that turns simple text into natural speech. Emirates NBD has used this service in its automated call centre to improve customer interactions.

HSBC opens London and Toronto data and innovation labs

HSBC has opened two new “data and innovation” labs in London and Toronto in a bid to create new data-powered offerings for its Global Banking and Markets (GBM) division’s clients. While the London lab will employ just under 100 people, the second lab in Toronto will have a team of 50.

The centres will house mixed-discipline teams of data scientists and technologists, as well as business intelligence staff, that will work collaboratively to leverage big data and AI tools to identify future product and service requirements. The bank is also planning to open more labs in Hong Kong and India.

UnionBank eyes investing $26m every year in fintech

Philippines’ UnionBank has committed to invest around $26m into financial technology ventures through its through wholly owned fintech/innovation arm UBX Philippines Corp. The move comes as the bank seeks to future-proof itself by embracing technology not just to make its core banking operations more accessible, efficient and customer-friendly but to also explore new business models outside traditional banking.

The bank has already made its first investment in Shiptek Solutions, a creator of shipping and logistics digital marketplace which connects the shipping ecosystem in real-time. The bank is also betting big on its  i2i platform which aims to bring millions of unbanked Filipinos to the financial system by connecting rural banks to the country’s main financial network using a secure retail payment system in the blockchain.

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