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Sizing up Singapore's Artificial Intelligence Ambitions

Singapore’s status as a premier destination for investment in artificial intelligence (AI) is rising — and shows no signs of stopping.

Speaking at an MSNBC event in San Francisco in January 2018, Google CEO Mr Sundar Pichai had this to say about the future of tech and humanity: “AI is one of the most important things humanity is working on. It is more profound than electricity or fire.”

As one of the biggest employers of AI researchers in the world, Google is not the only player taking notice of AI’s power to disrupt and transform. Many other companies made strides towards capturing opportunities. In a 2017 report by McKinsey Global Institute, the potential value pool created in ASEAN by proactive AI adoption is estimated at S$1.2 trillion (US$897 billion).

Countries want to help businesses capture AI-driven business opportunities in the region. City-state Singapore is currently leading the region in AI experimentation across multiple industries, investing heavily in a bid to become a regional giant in AI innovation and adoption.

“The future is exciting. Every member of ASEAN is already engaging in some level of AI research and publicly committing to working collaboratively to advance technology adoption,” says Ms Xiangwen Liu, Senior Director of Alibaba Technology Strategy Department.

A hotbed for AI talent

Apart from multinational superstars, top AI professionals and innovators have also found themselves a home in Singapore.

Veteran intelligence expert Mr Drew Perez is CEO of Singapore-based Adatos.AI. With 26 years of intelligence experience with the United States Department of Defense, Mr Perez specialises in mapping AI-driven intelligence analytics to real-world applications.

Through genetic programming, or more simply, AI that builds AI, Adatos creates data analysis algorithms that outperform humans in speed and accuracy, enabling data-driven investment decisions in diverse industries. The company is focusing its efforts on improving productivity in agriculture and forestry through precision agriculture.

Co-founder Jonathan Paul says, “Whether you are a North American pension fund with a million spruce trees or an Indonesian palm oil company, both can make more informed decisions with better data about what is happening with their soil and their plants.”

“For me, Singapore is one of the best countries in the world,” Mr Perez says. “There is a willingness to lead in helping incubate technologies.”

Singapore may not be known as an agricultural powerhouse, but this did not stop Adatos from picking Singapore as its launch pad for global strategic resource intelligence solutions.

“We incubate the capabilities here, and the beneficiaries are our neighbouring countries and the rest of the world,” Mr Perez explains. “We cannot be constrained by thinking that Singapore is only this size of a country, and that we cannot influence at a really global level. Yes, you can. Singapore can make an impact on global problems such as food security and the global community.”


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