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Salesforce, IBM, Google and Xiaomi all hit the AI button

Handshake of robot and man. New technologies evolution

With artificial intelligence proving to be the new go-to buzzword for marketers in 2017, Salesforce, IBM, Google and Xiaomi have all stepped up efforts in a variety of different ways.

Starting with Salesforce and IBM, who have announced a new collaboration to offer joint solutions to capitalize on the growing urge for intelligence in enterprise organizations. As part of the agreement, IBM’s Watson will be integrated into the Salesforce platform, and Salesforce’s own AI solution Einstein will head the other direction. The joint offering will be available as of Q2.

“Within a few years, every major decision, personal or business, will be made with the help of AI and cognitive technologies,” said Ginni Rometty, CEO of IBM. “This year we expect Watson will touch one billion people, through everything from oncology and retail to tax preparation and cars. Now, with today’s announcement, the power of Watson will serve the millions of Salesforce and Einstein customers and developers to provide an unprecedented understanding of customers.”

While AI could be seen as another buzzword in an endless sea of marketing confusion, it could also be seen as the technology which saved the drowning Big Blue. Salesforce’s AI move was just a natural evolution of the company, after all, the CRM giant was one of the digitally native organizations which caused the major problems for technology old-timers like IBM, but it was a catalyst for Big Blue.

Alongside the likes of Oracle, Intel or Microsoft, IBM was one of those organizations who was caught napping as the world moved towards the digital economy. All now seem to have turned the corner with IBM making a major move in the cloud arena. Recent quarters have seen IBM’s strategic imperatives business unit take more of a starring role in the revenues rollcall, as Big Blue becomes less reliant on legacy technologies.

A tie up with a disruptor such as Salesforce is another upwards tick for IBM to signal it is heading in the right direction. It might not be too long before Rometty and co. might actually record a quarter of growth following nineteen of decline.

Elsewhere, frontrunner Google has expanded it AI capabilities in its translation tool. Some may have noticed the Google Translation tool has been getting a bit better in recent months, and this is no accident. Over the last 12 months or so, the Google team has gradually been introducing more machine learning components into its translation tool, with the latest announcement sees improvements for Hindi, Russian and Vietnamese.

“Last November, people from Brazil to Turkey to Japan discovered that Google Translate for their language was suddenly more accurate and easier to understand,” said Barak Turovsky, Google Translate Product Lead.

“That’s because we introduced neural machine translation, using deep neural networks to translate entire sentences, rather than just phrases, for eight languages overall. Over the next couple of weeks, these improvements are coming to Google Translate in many more languages, starting right now with Hindi, Russian and Vietnamese.”

The big step Google made was the ability to translate complete sentences as opposed to components before piecing back together. It leans on the idea of natural language processing components of AI to allow the tool to grasp differing context, thus creating a more accurate translation. It may sound simple, but credit to Google, no-one else has made this much progress.

Finally, Xiaomi is entering the AI game. According to Tech2, CEO Lei Jun has announced the launch of the company’s AI laboratory set up for exploration in AI and development of AI-based products. It might not be too long before an AI component, similar to Apple’s Siri or the Google Assistant, is introduced to the firm’s smartphones. Details were relatively thin for the moment, but it should hardly come as a surprise.

In a world where smartphones are only really differentiated by brand equity or the ability not to blow up, software is fast becoming the battle-ground for device manufacturers to set themselves apart. AI assistants are becoming the norm, and it is nice that Xiaomi got the memo.


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