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Role of AI in the development of the largest ecosystems

August 28, 2020|
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On Tuesday ICT.Moscow published a review of the development areas of three ecosystems: Yandex, Sberbank and Mail.ru Group. The monitoring includes the analysis of 242 publications from November 2019 to August 2020. One of the conclusions of the review was the fact that the areas for development of such business model are defined by the specialization of the parent company, around which the ecosystem is built.

There was a significant number of publications dedicated to the use of artificial intelligence, as well as on voice assistants, robotics and unmanned vehicles. Sberbank has about 32 mentions of different AI technologies out of 86 publications included in the monitoring, Yandex - 25 out of 81, Mail.ru Group - 18 out of 75.

The most common areas of AI use include voice assistants and other speech processing and synthesis systems, unmanned vehicles, and biometric systems.

Sberbank: joint development of AI

Sberbank was mentioned for joint work with other companies: either within the framework of the joint venture (Cognitive Pilot, Mail.ru Group), or in the context of the companies included in its ecosystem (MDG, VisionLabs). However, Sberbank began to develop its own practices for working with AI. This is also due to the launch of the Christophari supercomputer: in March its AI Cloud platform was certified to work with personal data.

During the pandemic, Sberbank was on the agenda more frequently: from March to July inclusive, 11 publications related to coronavirus were found. Artificial intelligence was mentioned in 5 cases. The company also developed its own AI model for diagnosing COVID-19 and provided the regions with free access to it.

Currently, voice assistants are the main segment of AI, which is practically not covered by Sberbank (as demonstrated by the materials found). The ecosystem of the bank includes Speech Technology Center (STC), which is developing solutions in the field of natural language processing (NLP), but Sberbank still does not have its own analogue of Alice or Marusya.

But the company is actively developing self-driving vehicles, working in two areas at once. One is Cognitive Pilot, a joint venture with Cognitive Technologies, which was announced in November. It took the companies only six months to begin the industrial implementation of unmanned systems in agricultural machinery. The second direction of work is the company’s own development, and nothing is known about it yet, only the fact that the company carries out the corresponding development activities.

Yandex: working in all directions

Yandex, on the other hand, develops its own AI projects, rarely getting involved in joint ventures. In 2020, the company concluded partnership with Sberbank and reorganized Yandex.Money and Yandex.Market services. However, there are exceptions: Yandex and NVIDIA announced joint support for AI startups in their acceleration programs.

In general, the company strives to scale its developments and services independently. For example, Yandex launched a cloud-based framework for developing machine learning models last year. It was is aimed at involving third-party developers in their own ecosystem, a significant part of which is built on artificial intelligence technologies.

Today Yandex carries out development work in every area of AI. There were not many noticeable news items about the voice assistant “Alice” - two publications were selected as part of the monitoring. In November 2019, the assistant first learned to speak a foreign language - Turkish. And at the beginning of the year, the developer integrated Alice even deeper into its own ecosystem and added the ability to call Yandex.Taxi with its help.

However,  the main area of work, according to the head of the company Arkady Volozh, is driverless vehicles. From November 2019 to August 2020, there were at least 9 important news items for the company in two areas of drones development. The first was self-driving cars (the fourth generation was introduced, and the company’s cars entered the world top-3 in terms of mileage). The second was the robotic courier Yandex.Rover, which was announced to be tested in November, and in April it was already put into commercial operation at Skolkovo.

Mail.ru Group: AI through social networks

In terms of developing its own services, Mail.ru Group combines the approaches of both Sberbank and Yandex. But from the point of view of AI integration, the company’s model of work resembles Yandex more. Mail.ru Group has recently been actively working in the field of voice assistants:  the smart speaker "Capsule" was presented at the end of 2019, and in April 2020 this speaker equipped with “Marusya” voice assistant went on sale.

The main difference between Mail.ru Group and its competitors is that the company puts social networks at the center of its ecosystem (as stated in its development strategy). So it is not surprising that the company begins to actively use artificial intelligence in this area as well. Thus, it is planned to integrate VKontakte voice calls and several other services with Capsule. And in Odnoklassniki (both social networks are owned by Mail.ru Group) in March, a profile recovery function using face recognition technology was launched.

Like Yandex, Mail.ru Group develops all areas of artificial intelligence, but with one major exception. Driverless vehicles are not on the Mail.ru Group agenda yet, and the plans of the company for the development of this area are still unknown.

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It should also be noted that all the three companies are expected to develop the area of scientific and technical activities. In December, they signed a code of ethics for working with big data, and a month before that they had announced plans to create an alliance for the development of artificial intelligence. Companies also invest in education in this area, entering into partnerships for the training of specialists: for example, Sberbank and NUST MISIS or Yandex and ITMO University.

In general, the role of artificial intelligence in Russian ecosystems corresponds to the general trends of the IT market. At the beginning of the year, ICT.Moscow found out that most of the world’s major analytical companies (including Gartner, IDC and KPMG) named AI as one of the leading trends. Today, the active use of AI by Sberbank, Yandex and Mail.ru Group shows that analysts were right: services using AI are embedded in the life of businesses and end consumers.

You can study the overview of the development of Russian ecosystems from November 2019 to August 2020 in this article.

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