Daily Review: The AI Arms Race

With AI becoming the most defining technology in the financial services industry and beyond, it comes as no surprise that tech corporations are heavily investing in existing AI talent and expanding the pool of employees focusing on AI/ML research and development.

US employees were estimated to spend more than $650 million on annual salaries for 10,000 jobs in AI in 2016. Estimates put the cost to find and hire a new employee at a quarter of a million dollars. Some of the strongest AI/ML talent magnets have been Facebook, Google, Apple, Microsoft, Nvidia, Amazon, Intel, Rakuten and, of course, IBM. And that’s all aside from 365 technology startups operating in AI/ML space that we profiled on MEDICI platform.

Interest from tech corporations for establishing themselves as major AI companies comes from the strategy to make AI the operating system across applications, products, services, solutions. AI is already part of a suite of solutions at Microsoft, Apple, and Google. As The Street shares, Microsoft products leveraging ML include Office 365, the Cortana assistant, Power BI business intelligence software, Dynamics business apps, and the latest version of its SQL Server database. Apple products that fit the bill include voice assistant Siri, the Photos app (object/scene-detection), the HomePod speaker (audio-optimization), and iPhone/iPad cameras (autofocus and lighting effects). Google, Microsoft, and Amazon’s cloud platforms each support services for building ML models, as well as APIs providing access to existing models for things like text, speech, and photo analysis. Furthermore, Apple and Google have launched APIs for iOS and Android, respectively, that let apps run ML models on a device.

With Watson being the brains of all IBM offerings, the push towards expanding the talent pool focusing on AI is natural.

Pick #1. IBM Plans to Hire 1,800 People in France for Blockchain & AI

IBM CEO Ginni Rometty announced some new investments in France as part of the Tech for Good Summit organized by president Macron. The company plans to hire 1,800 new people in France over the next couple of years. IBM plans to put together a research team focused on blockchain projects, AI, and IoT.

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Pick #2. Mitek Extends Leadership Position in Digital Identity Verification by Acquiring A2iA

Mitek has acquired A2iA, an AI & image analysis company, for €42.5 million in cash and shares of Mitek’s common stock.

Mitek software is deployed in 6,100 US banks, including all 10 of the top 10 largest US financial institutions. A2iA’s software is also used by top US banks as well as 100% of UK banks, 90% of French banks, 90% of Brazilian banks, and more than 75,000 ATMs worldwide. A2iA uses AI and ML to create proprietary algorithms that process millions of checks, IDs, and documents each day for banks, retailers, insurance companies, mobile operators, healthcare providers, and governments in more than 42 countries and 11 languages.

In acquiring A2iA’s Research Labs, Mitek doubles the size of the existing Mitek Labs team, forming the largest private research group of PhD scientists in computer vision, machine learning, and artificial intelligence for this industry. Mitek Labs has been the source of the company’s 39 patents and technology innovation.

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Pick #3. Alibaba’s Tiny Loss-Making Unit Suddenly Soars 70%

A stock that until last week wasn’t covered by a single analyst has rallied 70% since May 16 for no apparent reason, at one point generating more turnover than some of Hong Kong’s biggest companies.

The sudden gains have made Alibaba Health Information Technology – a subsidiary of Alibaba Group – easily the best performing stock on the MSCI Asia Pacific Index this month. Some $135 million worth of shares exchanged hands on May 17, making it the fifth-most-traded stock in Hong Kong and surpassing giants including HSBC, PetroChina Co. and Bank of China, which are more than 20X as valuable.

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Pick #4. PayPal Starts Deeper Integration with Google; Users Can Now Pay Directly in Gmail, YouTube & More

PayPal and Google are kicking off a deep integration, where users who add their PayPal details to their Google Play accounts will be able to pay bills and for other items using PayPal, without logging in and without leaving the Google services.

The integration, when it goes live later this year, will cover apps like Gmail, YouTube, Google Store, and any services using Google Pay – and it will include not just payments but also P2P transfers.

Google has a number of other partners from the payments world, including Braintree, Stripe, Cybersource, Vantiv, Visa, and Mastercard.

For Google, the partnership will mean that users are less likely to leave Google sites to complete a transaction, potentially never to return; and will give users one more option for how to pay for things, making Google’s own sales more likely to be completed rather than abandoned. For PayPal, it will give users one more easy option for using its rails when buying things, and that will translate into more transaction revenues for PayPal.

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