Appier to Set Up R&D Centre in Singapore
Appier, a technology company which aims to provide artificial intelligence (AI) platforms to help enterprises solve their most challenging business problems, is planning a Research & Development (R&D) Centre in Singapore, its first outside of Taiwan to better leverage the abundance of AI talent, related regional resources and to connect with research institutes in the country.
Dr Hsuan-tien Lin, Chief Data Scientist, Appier, a former associate professor at National Taiwan University and co-author of the Amazon bestseller Learning from Data, said that the centre would be launched in the coming months and that the current Appier office in Singapore is likely to expand when the time comes.
The Singapore government is supportive of AI, he said, with the National Research Foundation (NRF) launching a S$150 million national programme in AI to catalyse, synergise and boost Singapore’s AI capabilities as recently as May 2017. In addition to government support, Dr Lin pointed out that there is a high concentration of highly educated people, multinationals, regional hubs and respected research institutes in a small space – the ingredients for R&D success.
The company’s current product approach moves away from the traditional definition of trying to make artificial intelligence as human-like as possible to using AI to make technology more frictionless. Dr Lin, who led the AI development on Aixon, Appier’s enterprise solution, said that the focus of AI research at Appier is around making goals easier to accomplish. “We should design AI components to make (something) easy to use,” he said.
AI can already do better than humans in perception and so replace them in tasks like real-time object recognition across large datasets today, though they still fail at making connections between objects in a scene or inferring intention, Dr Lin said. They can be more precise, unbiased and consistent in their actions, and work longer than humans. This is why AI is ideal for surveillance and processing data from the Internet of Things, he explained.
At Appier, AI is used in Appier’s Aixon – launched July 2017 in Japan – to sift through large volumes of data and attribute mobile device behaviour across different devices to a single user, he said. As a result, Aixon produces marketing intelligence which can be used for ad targeting, marketing and customer relationship management (CRM), as well as data intelligence for business insights and predictions. Such predictions include who is most likely to buy or to leave, and what topics they are interested in, Dr Lin said.
A combination of factors could allow AI to go mainstream, unlike the “AI winters” in 1974-1970 and 1987-1993, when AI could not meet expectations and project goals, Dr Lin added. Today, the goals are more realistic, there are tens of years of research on AI techniques, an abundance of suitable data is available for training the AI and compute power is more powerful, he said, predicting that from 2016-2020 he expects AI to become commercially competitive with other technologies, and a necessity in our lives thereafter. “We are solving specific problems than expecting that it can do everything,” he said.
According to Dr Lin, AI is unlikely to replace humans altogether, instead allowing us to shift to work on more creative tasks and added leisure time. “(AI is) shifting us from tasks that we don’t do that well and some systematic ones to free us to more higher level tasks,” he said. “We need to have humans to work with AI on what it means to be ‘easier to use’.”Appier’s Singapore investors include Pavilion Capital, UOB Venture Management and EDBi. It serves around 1,000 global brands and agencies from offices in 14 markets across Asia, including Taipei in Taiwan, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Tokyo and Osaka in Japan, Sydney, Australia, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Manila in the Philippines, Hong Kong, Mumbai and New Delhi in India, Jakarta, Indonesia, Seoul, Korea and Bangkok in Thailand. Appier customers in the Asia Pacific region include Singapore Airlines, Taiwan energy company Gogoro, Shiseido, UOB, ANZ, HSBC, and Taiwan Cooperative Bank.