Technology Featured East Asia

SK Telecom introduces new AI service ‘A.’

Seoul, South Korea — SK Telecom (SKT) has announced the launch of its new AI service named ‘A.’ or ‘A dot’ as an open beta version for Android on One Store and Google Play, with SKT currently working on ‘A.’ for iOS and plans to release the service as soon as possible.

‘A.’ embodies SKT’s vision to become a leading AI Service Company that realizes greater value and convenience in customers’ daily lives through warm, human-centred technologies and services.’

Ryu Young-sang, CEO of SKT, said, “We created ‘A.’ as a means to provide customers with the benefits of warm, human-centred technologies in this era of AI. Going forward, we expect ‘A.’ to constantly grow and become a more valuable service with the active participation of customers.”

‘A.’ handles many different tasks on customers’ smartphones and recommends or plays music or video that matches their preferences making it a beneficial time-saving solution.

Built with advanced natural language processing and sentiment analysis technologies, ‘A.’ enables customers to create and enjoy communicating with an AI character that understands them well. The key AI technology applied to ‘A.’ naturally combines daily conversations based on the Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 with the handling of specific tasks requested by customers. While having a free conversation with ‘A.’, customers can naturally shift to task-oriented dialogue.

Like other AI apps, ‘A.’ users can create and customize an AI character that reflects their personalities; communicate with the character through conversations or text messages, and ask for diverse information.

Through seamless interconnection with apps like FLO for music, Wavve for OTT, T Map for navigation, ‘A.’ allows customers to conveniently use a long list of services with their SK Telecom T ID. Customers can also send text messages, make phone calls, set alarms, manage schedules, and check daily information like weather, news and stock quotes.

In the second half of this year, SKT plans to add new features to ‘A.’ including ‘My TV’ and games. Other features like English learning, photo management, and concierge/expert will also be added going forward. SKT also plans to expand the features of ‘A.’ through partnerships with other companies.

Marketing Featured ANZ

AI programmatic marketing firm Scibids launches in ANZ, unveils country manager

Sydney, Australia — Paris-based AI programmatic marketing firm Scibids has announced that it has launched in Australia and New Zealand. Scibids, which builds artificial intelligence for marketing, has appointed former JAPAC sales director for Flashtalking by Mediaocean, James Whitbread, as country manager for ANZ and has also elevated its former commercial director for India, Mansi Garg, to be the commercial director for ANZ.

Scibids AI supports strategic business outcomes for brands by building customizable algorithms for powerful ad decision making that don’t rely on user tracking and profiling to deliver immediate and measurable results.

Scibids AI is enabled within leading Demand Side Platforms, and helps unify the ad stack between planning and measurement and delivers measurable ROI for a long-lasting competitive advantage.

Rahul Vasudev, managing director for Scibids APAC, said that Australia is a market leader in the adoption of new technology, and given the market dynamics around media costs, desire for transparency and talent, an Artificial Intelligence solution like Scibids is a perfect fit.

“We are excited to be able to officially launch in Australia and New Zealand with two highly passionate and experienced individuals like James and Mansi,” Vasudev said.

Whitbread has more than 17 years of media experience across various ad tech, digital and programmatic businesses including DoubleVerify and most recently at Flashtalking. In those roles, Whitbread has been working with high-value brands and agencies plus collaborating with various DSP’s, SSP’s, and ad server partners.

Meanwhile, Garg holds extensive experience in the marketing and advertising industry. Most recently, Garg worked with Scibids in India and also worked for multiple years for the media company GroupM in Australia.

The hiring of Whitbread and Garg comes at a time of quick expansion for Scibids, who recently announced the hiring of in-market teams in Japan as well as India.

Whitbread commented on his appointment, saying, “Both Mansi and I are very excited to be joining Scibids at such a crucial time for the company’s expansion globally and regionally. Scibids is a unique proposition in the fact that it removes the guesswork. Programmatic businesses get an upfront view of the likelihood of AI improving their results. But in addition to improving media efficiency, Scibids brings a huge amount of automation benefits to the trading units as well. Given the shortage of Programmatic Traders in the AUNZ market, this brings massive efficiency to the operations as well.’’

Technology Featured Global

Taboola updates AI-powered tech for advertisers’ autonomous campaign management

Singapore – Advertising company Taboola has announced an update to ‘SmartBid’, an AI-powered technology that helps advertisers maximize their campaign performance even more autonomously.

The update, known as ‘SmartBid Dimensions’, now allows advertisers to couple contextual and demographic data with more user dimensions on readers – data points which uniquely connect content, consumers and interests, and are sourced from the company’s 500 million active users and 30 billion clicks annually.

The original SmartBid software was first introduced in 2018, which uses readership pattern data from global campaigns that reach more than 500 million daily active users and deep learning algorithms to adjust advertisers’ bids, to drive actions an advertiser wants to accomplish.

Prior to the new update, SmartBid took advantage of Taboola’s scale and size, including its curiosity graph – the connection between reader interests across content – to make decisions on behalf of the advertiser when it came to auction price.

“It is so important to help advertisers succeed, because advertiser success is directly correlated to publishers’ success and it keeps the open web thriving. SmartBid is one of the most sophisticated A.I. technologies in the world, now providing advertisers an autonomous autopilot-like experience, where they can keep their hand on the wheel, but let the car drive on its own,” said Adam Singolda, CEO and founder at Taboola.

In hindsight, SmartBid analyzed a site’s performance, and used that as a main signal to adjust the price an advertiser should pay. For example, if a site drove less conversions for an advertiser, SmartBid would adjust the price lower and vice versa. That still meant that advertisers had to be somewhat leaned in, to take into consideration more granular circumstances such as geography, time of day, day of week, platform, operating system, creative, and dozens more.

Singolda adds that what makes their company unique from a data perspective is that they sit on a ‘curiosity graph’, which understands what people do when they finish reading an article. He adds that this data shows a much more authentic version of consumers versus what they tell social networks about themselves.

“That helps SmartBid make accurate predictions, and as of now will help our advertisers to go beyond human capabilities to reach better results, while being even more hands off. I’m so proud of our algorithm teams for working hard to make our advertisers, publishers and open web successful,” he concluded.

Technology Featured Global

InMoment appoints Mehul Nagrani as GM for AI product and technology

Sydney, Australia – Experience improvement (XI) solutions company InMoment has appointed Mehul Nagrani as the company’s new general manager for AI product and technology. He brings in extensive experience in leveraging machine learning (ML) and natural language processing (NLP) to deliver artificial intelligence (AI) products and technology that operationalize experience data to drive better business decisioning.

He was most recently the founder and CEO of Fokal AI, an AI automation company and platform for ML applications. Prior to Fokal, he also served as the EVP and general manager, digital for Univision Communications where he transformed the division including its technology stack, personnel, products and overall financial performance. He was an engagement manager for McKinsey & Company, and an IC design engineer for Micron and Intel.

Nagrani’s appointment follows the recently announced acquisition of Lexalytics, a provider of cloud and on-premise natural language processing and machine learning. The Lexalytics technology team will report to Mehul, and he will report to Andrew Joiner, InMoment CEO.

For Joiner, Nagrani’s appointment comes at a significant time of growth and investment for the company, adding that when they introduced the idea of experience improvement last September and challenged the industry to do more, they did so with the knowledge that acting on data is paramount. 

“Experiences are changing every day, and expectations are dynamic. Our vision of AI is to offer faster progress and improved decision making by automating tasks that can easily be facilitated through technology. We are tuning our approach to the tasks of CX professionals to give them more scale,” Joiner stated.

Speaking about his appointment, Nagrani commented, “InMoment has consistently been recognised not only for its future-proof vision but also its ability to execute on that vision. I was drawn to InMoment largely because of its comprehensive vision, innovative approach and caliber of talent.”

He added, “While already an industry-leader, accelerating the advancement of AI-based technology that leverages all types and forms of data, will help InMoment and our customers better deliver on the promise of experience improvement. I look forward to working with the combined InMoment and Lexalytics teams to accelerate this progress.” 

InMoment has also recently appointed Eric Weight as its VP of solutions consulting for APAC.

Technology Featured ANZ

Creative agency Orchard amps up Hyundai AU’s FB CX with devt of AI keyword recognition

Australia – Hyundai in Australia has partnered with creative agency Orchard to enhance its customer engagement on Facebook. The new tech developed by the agency is an AI smart assistant keyword recognition on the brand’s posts on Facebook.

The new Facebook chatbot is customer experience and smart execution rolled into two key user journeys. Its direct to Messenger feature focuses on helping users discover the Hyundai vehicle they may be interested in and providing a direct line of contact with customer care through phone support or via the enquiry process.

In addition to this, when users comment on a Facebook post with specific questions, the AI capabilities of the chatbot are able to harness the power of keywords and respond in real-time. The keywords trigger the Hyundai Smart Assistant, inviting customers to discover valuable information about the model or post.

Furthermore, Orchard has implemented an auto-comment response on Facebook posts, which allows the public to see when other users’ comments have been acknowledged by Hyundai.

Kevin Goult, Hyundai’s director of marketing for Australia, shared that conversational UI is redefining community management, and they wanted to extend Hyundai’s offering by providing customers with a helpful experience on social channels. 

“We are confident the Facebook chatbot created by Orchard will deliver a higher level of customer satisfaction and engagement with Hyundai,” said Goult.

The new feature is an Australian automotive first for community management, which aims to assist current and prospective Hyundai owners to interactively find information about vehicles while on Facebook.

Meanwhile, Andrew Killey, Orchard’s practice lead, noted, “Customers love the convenience and can become easily frustrated by having to wait online for answers. We wanted to create a seamless UI experience that engages users with Hyundai right from the start of the customer journey until the very end.”

Paul Balbo, the client partner at Facebook Australia, commented, “We are confident that this Messenger project will help Hyundai increase customer satisfaction, lower costs and ultimately drive sales.”

Just recently, Hyundai has unveiled its newest ‘Tomorrow wants its car back’ campaign for its all-new car model, ‘Hyundai Tucson’. It features the car’s futuristic look with the appearance of robots coming from the future to steal back what is rightfully theirs from 2021.

Platforms Featured Global

Shutterstock acquires three AI platforms as part of new subsidiary launch

New York, USA – Global creative platform Shutterstock has announced the launch of new subsidiary Shutterstock.AI, which aims to offer computer vision and predictive performance solutions with the goal of enhancing creative performance. To mark the launch, it has also acquired three artificial intelligence (AI) platforms to boost the offering.

Said platforms are marketing platform Pattern89, content personalization platform Datasine, and image intelligence platform Shotzr. All of the companies have an aggregate cash consideration paid among them by Shutterstock amounting to US$35m.

Through the new offering, Shutterstock.AI will continue to rapidly develop its own predictive performance capabilities to help creatives and customers accomplish their goals by making more data-informed content decisions.

In addition, Shutterstock.AI will commercialize data assets within Shutterstock’s immense content library, which includes over 400 million images, videos, music tracks, and 3D models, as well as partner with innovative companies to grow their capabilities in computer vision and content insights to power the next generation of AI models.

Stan Pavlovsky, chief executive officer at Shutterstock, said the offering will help their customers globally solve the biggest creative challenge they have: discovering and selecting the right content that is relevant, and that resonates with audiences. He added that they want their customers to ‘create with confidence’ based on their content.

“To complement this, Shutterstock.AI will also help new customer segments accelerate the development of artificial intelligence, by unlocking the power of the data associated with our vast content library. From autonomous vehicles, to content moderation, to AI powered process automation, Shutterstock.AI’s high quality data and services will enable companies to develop the next generation of technologies,” Pavlovsky.

The company also stated that they see the future of creativity through the lens of performance, as the engine that will transform customers’ ideas into accomplishments.

“With the acquisition of these three creative AI companies, and the creation of Shutterstock.AI, Shutterstock is redefining what creativity means, and helping solve our customers’ problems by expertly navigating the availability of content. Looking ahead, Shutterstock.AI will develop predictive creative AI models, leveraging cutting edge technology to help customers make more informed content choices, providing more confidence about the performance of what they produce,” Shutterstock said in a press statement.

Technology Featured APAC

E-commerce enabler Awake Asia merges with ADA for market expansion

Singapore – Awake Asia, a regional e-commerce enabler, has announced that it will be now merging with data and AI company ADA, which will help both of the companies empower their services across 10 markets in Asia Pacific, particularly in the e-commerce sector.

Awake Asia’s integration under the ADA brand is effective 1 June this year, where they will serve the markets of Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Cambodia, South Korea, and Vietnam.

The merger entails the combination of Awake Asia’s deep e-commerce expertise with ADA’s media, creative, and analytics solutions to drive online sales for brands. This is best applied through digital marketing deeply linked to e-commerce revenue generation; consumer data and analytics leveraged to uplift e-commerce sales; and reaching vast audiences in super-apps and marketplaces.

For Srinivas Gattamneni, chief executive officer of ADA, the merger brings together an integrated approach for brands to reach and convert digital consumers, which is best supported by the fact that more brands are forced to adapt to capture the ‘great migration’ of consumers from offline to online, and business owners still in the dark on how to navigate the challenges to maximize return on investment.

“At ADA, our belief is that e-commerce should not be a siloed execution but needs to be deeply integrated into the brand’s analytics, media, creative, and marketing technology investments – only then can we achieve superior performance,” he said.

Leading the new division is Simon Paterson who joins ADA as chief of e-commerce enablement and the former CEO of Awake Asia. 

Commenting on his new appointment, he said “Over the past 5 years, Awake Asia has built a formidable e-commerce enablement business in Southeast Asia. We are excited to embark on this new phase of growth with integrated analytics, media, and creative to boost e-commerce operations for all brands in the region.”

The merger opens a new market for ADA in Vietnam with over 150 e-commerce specialists currently serving more than 120 brands, driving e-commerce growth for clients such as P&G, Unilever, BMW, and Wyeth; and e-commerce partners including Shopee, Tokopedia, and Lazada among others.

ADA has recently been expanding its data and AI-oriented services across Asia Pacific, such as launching its martech service, an end-to-end e-commerce service, and its partnership with Insider for data-led enterprise marketing endeavors, as well its recent US$60m funding from Softbank.

SME Featured South Asia

Sequoia India-backed Pencil launches video ad system for SMEs

New Delhi, India – Creative AI company Pencil, which has been supported by venture capital Sequoia India’s rapid scale-up funding Surge, has recently launched its latest video ad system catered to serve small businesses, as well as startups looking to gain access to the same ‘Machine Generated Creative’ (MGC) platform as larger brands, for the first time, to level the playing field. 

Pencil’s new service allows small businesses struggling to compete in an increasingly online world dominated by larger brands’ slick video ads and optimized ad spend. Pencil learns from historic ad performance to generate new video ads that help brands systematically improve Return on Advertising Spend (ROAS). This is done through Pencil’s ‘Generate’ feature, which utilizes artificial intelligence (AI) to generate new video ad ideas.

Pencil is one of the first companies to launch a commercial tool using OpenAI’s GPT-3 to generate playful, effective ad copy that, combined with Pencil’s language model, enables MGC to generate entirely new narratives around a brand or product.

For context, the GPT-3 (Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3) is an autoregressive language model that uses deep learning to produce human-like text. This then allows the AI model to create texts that are indistinguishable from those of human writing and thought.

Will Hanschell, co-founder and CEO at Pencil explains that the launch of the AI ad system corresponds to the dilemma of cash-strapped businesses with limited creative resources and ad budgets, who face long odds competing for consumer mindshare against larger, more established brands.

“Pencil evens the odds with Machine Generated Creative that enables marketers to take existing copy, imagery, and video assets and automatically generate batches of video ads that learn to perform week-on-week,” Hanschell stated.

Based on its proven performance, the company was recently accepted into Facebook Marketing Partners, a program that connects businesses to an ecosystem of specialists.

Alongside the launch, there are three tiers that advertisers can subscribe to based on their ad needs namely ‘Generate’ which creates copy and video ad ideas for startups and small businesses to test 10 ads a month for a single brand, the ‘Generate+ Learn’ plan which includes a patented machine learning loop that predicts outcomes and optimizes performance, and the ‘Enterprise’ plan which provides custom pricing, integrations, and features for large agencies and creative teams. Rate per ad ranges from US$25 to US$50 per ad. 

Technology Featured APAC

Midea ropes in MediaMonks to launch lineup of future-oriented CX

Shanghai, China Midea, the global appliance manufacturer headquartered in China, has announced its upcoming state-of-the-art virtual factory – the Midea Thailand Smart Factory – and it has partnered with creative technology company MediaMonks to create an innovative immersive experience for Midea’s customers.

MediaMonks was named partner during this year’s Midea RAC (Residential Air Conditioning) Online Canton Fair, with the aim to deliver richer, and more interactive experiences to consumers, and to give greater clarity and understanding on its brand, vision, and products. The smart factory is only one of the two main projects that the two are working on, with the other being the Midea Vision or what is also called the M-Vision project, a digital interactive platform. Both aim to demonstrate Midea’s strong vision for the future. 

The Midea Thailand Smart Factory

On the smart factory in Thailand, MediaMonks utilized a WebGL experience to provide customers with all aspects of its construction. To give them a comprehensive view of the innovative construction process, MediaMonks came up with the idea to create a virtual tour to this ‘future factory’. Customers are able to freely explore the facets of the factory online and get a deep understanding of its key features and highlights.

According to Technical Director for MediaMonks Shanghai Ron Lee, the virtual factory environment was achieved with the combination of aerial and ground photography footage built upon a 3D modelling technique called photogrammetry. 

“On the fly through experience, we enabled our digital visitors to navigate across a 3D modeled factory represented in the clean, modern aesthetic of minimalism,” Lee said. 

Lee further explains that visitors can now explore interactive hotspots. Alongside the archived time lapse videos, customers can choose to watch a live camera feed for a real-time look at the factory’s construction, and finally, a dedicated news tab keeps customers up to date with relevant information.

Ramzi Chaabane, also a head of strategy for the Shanghai team, said, “The factory of the future is characterized by the integration of digital technologies into manufacturing processes. The ‘smart factory’ – or Factory 4.0 – aims to achieve further competitiveness and will rely on the convergence between the industrial and digital worlds.”

“This is hinged on existing tools and creativity – sensors, automation, big data, IOT, cloud computing – being propelled, and the arrival of new activities in energy, green products, robotics, molecular biology, genetics adding value and innovation to marketing. This thinking will empower Midea and its partners and help future-proof and create lasting business impact,” Chaabane adds.

The Midea Vision

Meanwhile, the Midea Vision, which is under the air conditioning line of Midea, is a digital interactive platform, which will be the integrated home to all the latest RAC and Light Commercial Air-Conditioner (LCAC) products, as well as core technologies, branding, manufacturing and company information. It will also be including the RAC Canton Fair virtual center, enabling Midea RAC to connect all global business customers closely by utilizing a cutting-edge AR product launch event, interactive live streaming and immersive product experiences. 

“Midea is a category leader when it comes to R&D, manufacturing, and shipping to name a few. The ambition is to build a solution to solve ongoing business challenges and pave the path for the future. The core of what we try to deliver is to allow users to have more discovery moments and information touchpoints to create a seamless experience,” said January Zhang, head of marketing department at Midea RAC OSC.

As part of the efforts with Midea Vision, MediaMonks will also be building Mia – Midea’s holistic AI solution – which will help solve a host of business challenges. In the near future, Mia is targeted to be a tech that helps achieve a variety of things not seen before, such as knowing customer insights and applying them on behalf of every user to improve R&D, and engaging directly with customers and managing manufacturing, shipments, logistics and production lines to improve the sales experience.

Midea Vision is already live and Mia 1.0 has already been launched this month. Meanwhile, the Thailand Smart Factory is slated to open in October 2021.

SME Featured Southeast Asia

Credit bureau CIBI partners with ADVANCE.AI to give AI-driven biz intel to PH firms

Manila, Philippines – CIBI, a local credit bureau agency, has announced a partnership with AI and data company ADVANCE.AI to use innovative AI and computer vision technology to expand business intelligence support and services for local businesses in the Philippines.

CIBI, which was first established in 1982, provides data, credit reporting, and information management services and analytics for consumers and business entities. Meanwhile, ADVANCE.AI aims to solve digital transformation, fraud prevention, and process automation for enterprise clients.

Marlo R. Cruz, president and CEO of CIBI said, “As a forward-looking and digital-first organization, CIBI always looks to be one step ahead. This partnership with ADVANCE.AI facilitates our mission to give Filipino businesses easier access to a range of business intelligence services, including credit and data reporting through a more efficient internal system. This marks the beginning of more opportunities for CIBI, as our partners enrich our capabilities and innovations.”

ADVANCE.AI’s holistic suite of products covers three key areas: digital identity verification and eKYC customer onboarding, risk management and digital lending solutions. It is now expanding into markets such as Mexico, UK, Europe, and the US.

Meanwhile, Dong Shou, CEO of ADVANCE.AI, commented: “Our market-leading AI and computer vision technology will allow CIBI to expand its range of critical business data and intelligence reporting solutions, with the ultimate aim of better supporting underbanked and underserved businesses in the Philippines.” 

He added, “This is more important than ever in the current COVID landscape, as we help accelerate the digitalization of the economy, and in doing so, help millions of Filipinos and businesses gain access to new financial products and services.”