The value and power of artificial intelligence (AI) is growing dramatically every year. AI-powered smart speaker is one of the fastest growing consumer technologies using AI. According to a Canalys report, the global smart speaker market is anticipated to grow to 56.3 million shipments in 2018.
US tech giants like Google, Amazon and Microsoft are making their marks in AI industry along with Asian tech firms such as Tencent and Baidu. Amongst them, Amazon and Google are the leaders in the race with their AI-based voice assistant Alexa and Google Assistant respectively. Amazon launched the Echo with their AI system, Alexa in 2014, followed by Google Home installed with Google Assistant which entered the market in 2016. A research firm CIRP estimated that Amazon Echo had 69% of the U.S. smart speaker market, with 31 million units sold, while Google Home had 31%, with 14 million units sold, in 2017.
Following the two leading AI players, Apple, Microsoft and Facebook are also entering the market, aiming to catch up in the AI front. Apple HomePod has recently appeared on the landscape, and Facebook's smart speaker will reportedly launch in later this year.
Besides smart speakers, AI technology has been applied in smart home, retail and even automotive manufacturing industry. Amazon bought Blink, a maker of smart doorbells and security cameras, showing its commitment to becoming the center of the smart home, while Google launched physical security packages run by Google Assistant. Additionally, Amazon recently began its operation of Amazon Go, an experimental convenience shop in Seattle in late January, using AI algorithms and video cameras to track what customers take off the shelves and out of the store. Amazon is also using the AI robots in its network of warehouses to monitor logistics system in real time and identify issues leveraging big data. It has also teamed up with car manufacturers such as Ford, BMW and Toyota to incorporate a range of features powered by Alexa.
In Korea, SK Telecom is leading the AI industry with a focus on AI speakers. Since its launch of AI voice assistant, NUGU, the company collected three million active users who involved in hundreds of millions of conversations every month. This allows the company to secure a competitive edge against rivals and set a footstone for the development of a Korean-language AI ecosystem. SK Telecom is also spearheading efforts integrate NUGU into a wide range of areas such as T map, its mobile navigation app, kids phone, and set-top box as well.
Furthermore, SK Telecom recently announced its commitment for development in the AI industry by creating AI Research Center with Yoon Kim, leading the team. At the recent New ICT Forum hosted by the company in April, the head of the team described initiatives the company will pursue in the field of artificial intelligence. First, he announced that SK Telecom will seek to attract the best talent to implement a technology that’s focused on people. Moreover, the leader reaffirmed its dedication to keep up with the rapid technological advancements evolving in the field of AI and promised to concentrate on its AI R&D capabilities. Through utilizing AI, SK Telecom also reiterated its aim to develop services optimized for 5G which will influence every aspect of their customers lives.
SK Telecom’s dedication in the field of AI also goes along with its array of social contribution activities. The company consistently focuses on nurturing people and cultivating talents who will lead the company and local communities which ties in with its emphasis on bringing and developing the best talent in AI. The firm also sees a need to share its technological knowledge in order to ensure growth in the innovation field. In fact, the company just announced that it joined forces with KOTRA to assist the growth of domestic startups by hosting a seminar where SK Telecom’s insights were shared with a number of growing technology firms. Through these efforts, SK Telecom will move beyond leading just the telecom industry to embrace all changes occurring in the era of technology.