While China is taking a leading role in artificial intelligence (AI) worldwide, many Southeast Asian countries have also been emerging as a strong region for its immense potential for this new technology.
Among the 10 countries in this region (Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos), Singapore is the primary driver in AI in line with its industrial transformation policy called Industry 4.0 revolution.
Robotics, artificial intelligence, and additive manufacturing are transforming the way products are built, how operations are managed, and how value chains are defined. It will connect interconnected networks of suppliers, partners, and customers, spur innovation and create new jobs, where human work in collaboration with machines to manage smart facilities. Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister Tharman Shanmugaratnam said at the Industrial Transformation Asia Pacific exhibition.
Alongside Singapore’s innovation as a hub for AI, other industries are also emerging and bring tangible changes to the economic development in Southeast Asia.
According to the McKinsey’s Panorama Fintech database, already some 300 fintech startups have emerged in Southeast Asia to improve customer experience in financial services. Through data collection and basic digitization, they provide solutions in payments, micro and peer-to-peer lending, and wealth management. In particular, this will also help disadvantaged people with no access to credit solutions to have better access to financial services. For example, CompareAsiaGroup – a Hong Kong-based startup that operates in five Southeast Asian countries – is committed to helping people to save time and money using machine learning to match customers with financial, telecom, and utility services across Asia.
Over the years, countries like Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand have achieved big business in E-commerce especially in the retail industry. More and more people in Thailand are using their mobile phones to get advice on personalized purchasing recommendations for shopping. With the key to building customer loyalty, retailers are using AI to work to meet consumers’ expectations by using big data which contains consumer profiles, activity history, and behaviour. This new technology also provides a new way of communication between stores and consumers using chatbots rather than human sales assistants. Among these companies, Lazada Group is the number-one online shopping and selling platform founded by Rocket Internet from Singapore in 2012 and now owned by China-based Alibaba Group. It operates in Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines with the US $1.36 billion in annual sales.
As agriculture is the biggest driver of their economic development in many countries in Southeast Asia, people are embracing the new AI tools in the agriculture sector. Technologies like machine learning, image recognition, and predictive modelling are being applied in the agricultural industry as a solution to improved productivity and efficiency. Sero.ai is a Vietnamese startup using AI for the agricultural sector aiming to solve the problem of erratic crop production. Through mobile internet, it connects farmers and agriculture experts. It also encourages farmers to take a photo of sick crops and upload them online helping farmers to identify crop diseases and to provide preventive recommendations via their computer vision technology.
Many cities in Southeast Asia are facing accelerating urbanization. More and more people are moving to urban areas which led to major problems of urban congestion and pollution. To solve some of the region’s most pressing challenges, AI became to play an important role to collect the data and create a new way of the solution such as how many people are using public transportation daily, how many free parking lots are available, or where the most congested areas are.
A Singapore-based startup, Grab launched AI laboratory in partnership with National University of Singapore (NUS). It was aimed to develop solutions that can transform urban transportation and prepare for smarter cities across Southeast Asia.
“Grab has a bold mission to solve Southeast Asia’s most complex challenges, especially the congestion that stifles our cities. The lab will harness the power of Grab’s data and machine learning with research and talent from a world-leading institution, to become a valuable tool for governments who are bringing smarter transport to their cities in Southeast Asia.” Grab co-Founder and Group CEO, Anthony Tan said.
By collecting the data from the AI lab, the Grab platform will be able to highlight traffic patterns and identify better methods to reduce travel times, especially during peak hours.
It is said the lab will also focus on developing new systems to better serve passengers through more personalized services, such as matching drivers to the jobs they prefer, improving driving safety, and improving precision and accuracy in mapping pick-up points.
For the last few years, the potential area for AI in health care has been demonstrated in many ways. Using deep learning, AI enables to help predict your medical needs, customize your healthcare plan and increase your access to medical advice. It also helps to review data relating to serious illness in a fast and secure way, allowing doctors to diagnose and treat patients more efficiently than before. Ucare.ai is a Singapore-based healthcare startup that uses AI to optimize healthcare resources and reduce healthcare costs across the industry. It focuses on three distinct audiences based on what they call the 3P’s: patients, providers such as hospitals and payers (like private insurance). The startup uses deep learning and neural network algorithms built on existing healthcare data to “help priorities healthcare resources to reduce preventable hospitalization”.
What do you think about this growing market of AI in Southeast Asia?