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AI in Telecoms – high demands, great innovation

Karim Hussami

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AI in Telecoms

In light of the increasing demands for higher quality services and better customer experience, telecom operators are utilizing artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning. AI in telecoms is a growing market and used in key areas such as network optimization, preventive maintenance, virtual assistants, robotic process automation (RPA) and chatbots.

South Korea is an advancing digital economy with very high mobile and mobile broadband penetration, as well as ranking 2nd out of 34 with an Asian Telecoms Maturity Index score of 93 (BuddeComm’s Asian Telecoms Maturity Index). In the recent news, an AI-powered phone calling application has been launched by SK Telecom Co., South Korea’s largest mobile carrier, seeking to strengthen its presence in the AI technology market.

The application criteria

So how does the new application work? An NUGU AI platform, used in smart home devices, is integrated with its T Phone app, according to the South Korean telco, which allows voice commands for tasks such as searching for contacts and checking phone and messaging records.

More tasks are aligned and productivity optimized with the AI-assistant features such as weather information and schedule management. Moreover, it is able to recommend personalized content like music, based on usage patterns.

Adopting AI in telecoms to enhance services will increase the number of users; T Phone registered 12 million monthly active users as of September, according to SK telecom. To further broaden their scope, the South Korean telco plans to launch the NUGU Buds, AI-powered wireless earphones, next month, allowing users to better access its phone app.

In addition, SK wants to add AI recommendation-based shopping features by the first half of 2022, facilitating the process of making reservations, ordering and making payments on the phone app.

New products/apps powered by AI

Meanwhile, the world is witnessing an abundance of innovative AI solutions for the telecoms industry. For example, Vodafone introduced its chatbot TOBi, resulting in a 68 percent improvement in customer satisfaction. The cutting-edge chatbot is able to offer speech and voice service functionalities through artificial intelligence and machine learning.

The way it works is that it analyses the requests, learns to route and escalate customer queries if necessary, identify sales opportunities and give notifications to the customer about other products and services that might be of interest to them – all without human involvement.

Benefits of AI services

The benefits and advantages for the AI-powered voice remote services, include, helping individuals with disabilities, as it provides customers with an option to navigate “search” through their voice command rather than hitting buttons on a device. This process also cuts down the costs by automating workflows, attend more customers in less time and free up resources; with limited errors and limitless opportunities.

One of the most famous and popular AI apps and virtual assistant from Apple is Siri which uses voice queries and a natural language user interface (UI) to function. Its main functions are to make calls, send text messages, answer questions, and offer recommendations.

Another similar example is the AI-powered virtual assistant from Amazon, Alexa. Its features include using voice queries, natural language processing, etc. to offer many services, as well as creating to-do lists, set up alarms, stream podcasts, play audiobooks and much more.

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Journalist for 7 years in print media, with a bachelor degree in Political Science and International Affairs. Masters in Media communications.

Technology

UAE’s ICT regulator adds ‘digital government’ among duties as it rebrands

Inside Telecom Staff

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digital government

The UAE’s Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) announced on Monday a new brand identity that reflects its organization of the telecoms sector.

The announcement – which was made in a virtual press conference – is in line with a decree published in September 2020 including the addition of the “digital government” to its responsibilities and changed its name, which was voted upon by the regulator’s board back in December of the same year.

“Today we launch the new identity of the Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority, which expresses the Authority’s aspirations for the next 50 years. It is embodied in the investment of the Fourth Industrial Revolution and 5G potential for enabling digital government and achieving digital transformation,” Hamad Obaid, Director General of the authority said in a statement.

According to a statement by the regulator, the new identity reflects the central role of TDRA in line with the orientation of the UAE over the next fifty years – which includes accelerating the pace of digital transformation in the country and shaping a future based on advanced technology supported by artificial intelligence, smart cities, and a knowledge-based society and economy.

“Digital transformation is now a strategic social and economic program aimed at facilitating people’s lives and providing them with quick solutions and services around the clock,” Al Mansoori added.

During the virtual conference, TDRA’s head highlighted that the added responsibility of “digital government” is a completely different concept, as it goes beyond providing services. “It seeks to enhance the quality of life … employ digital data and technologies supported by artificial intelligence in people’s transactions, relationships and lives,” Al Mansoori explained.

“We are witnessing a full digital transformation […] electronic government was started before 2000, mobile government was started in 2013 and today we are talking about a digital government supported by data and [the] Fourth Industrial Revolution,” Al Mansoori, told reporters on Monday.

The effects of the novel COVID-19 pandemic have skyrocketed the use of digital services within the UAE and the world due companies adopting a remote working policy to keep businesses going. In parallel, the country had temporary lifted a ban on voice-over-Internet protocol applications and other video conferencing software to boost the new working norm.

“We think digitally, interact digitally, design digitally, work digitally and present our products digitally. This becomes an integral part of the daily life of individuals in the government or in the private sector as they are working more remotely due to the pandemic,” Al Mansoori added.

According to numbers provided by the regulator, the total number of Internet subscriptions in the UAE totaled nearly 3 million in December, almost the same as in November; TDRA also reported that there are almost 33 broadband Internet connections per 100 residents within the country.

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Late president’s book outlines vision for Japan’s Nintendo

Associated Press

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Late president's book outlines vision for Japan's Nintendo

Nintendo’s late president Satoru Iwata oversaw the video-game maker’s global growth as Super Mario and Pokemon became household names.

“Ask Iwata” was published after his death from cancer in 2015 at age 55. This month, VIZ Media is publishing the English translation of the book, which came out in Japanese in 2019.

“On my business card, I am a corporate president. In my mind, I am a game developer. But in my heart, I am a gamer,” Iwata once said, one of many quotes that stand out in the book.

Throughout the book, Iwata outlines his vision for Nintendo Co., which was to offer entertainment that everyone in the family could enjoy, regardless of age, gender and game playing skills. The company culture he fostered encouraged individual game creators, showing he was one of them at heart.

Iwata was of a younger generation than the vanguard of Japanese manufacturing leaders who have grabbed global attention: Soichiro Honda, founder of the automaker that carries his name; Momofuku Ando, inventor of the instant noodle; Akio Morita, who started Sony in a repair shop amid bombed out rubble.

Kyoto-based Nintendo started out making traditional Japanese playing cards. Iwata took over in 2002, and presided over video game offerings like the Wii console and the Nintendo DS handheld, as well as games played on cell phones.

The company’s performance has had ups and downs like a Super Mario roller-coaster ride, but has done well lately as people stuck at home due to the pandemic turned to games. Profits for the nine months through December doubled from a year earlier to nearly 377 billion yen ($3.4 billion).

That good fortune might not last as normal activities resume with vaccine rollouts, a change likely to crimp sales to the casual game users who make up Nintendo players, rather than the core gamers rival consoles tend to attract.

The hoped-for end to the pandemic is likely to coincide, analysts say, with a peak in the so-called “life cycle,” or duration of consumer appeal, of Nintendo’s console offerings like the Switch. Questions also remain about Nintendo’s ability to monetize on the growing sector of mobile games.

Consoles could continue to evolve, such as those with virtual reality, analysts say. Nintendo also has intellectual property, driving lucrative businesses such as merchandizing and theme parks.

All those businesses thrived under Iwata’s presidency.

Kenshu Kikuzawa, professor of business administration at Keio University, believes that Japanese companies’ strengths come from its traditional practices like lifetime employment and pay raises by seniority, which still characterize major Japanese companies including Nintendo.

That in turns, breeds employee loyalty, which Kikuzawa believes is important in the creative work that drives Nintendo.

Japanese companies should stick to being Japanese, doing what they do best, craftsmanship-like manufacturing, Kikuzawa said, exactly as Iwata led Nintendo.

“Nintendo is in many ways a very old-fashioned Japanese company,” he said. “Ultimately, Nintendo employees just really love Nintendo. Loyalty to the company is fierce.”

That kind of emotional commitment allows a company to overcome difficulties, even during periods of financial losses, as employees hang on and work hard for a turnaround, he said.

Iwata showed talent for programming as a youngster. He was working part-time at Japan’s HAL Laboratory, known for the “Kirby” games and collaborating with Nintendo, before he graduated from the prestigious Tokyo Institute of Technology. He first made games for Nintendo Famicom machines, which came out in the 1980’s.

Iwata was promoted to head HAL before taking the helm at Nintendo. His colleagues say he was a good listener, interviewing everyone at the company twice a year, trying to be fair and respectful.

“My plan was to be a sounding board and to get a sense of what was happening, but when I sat down with each person individually, I was blown away by how much I was learning,” Iwata wrote.

Shigesato Itoi, a writer, actor and creator of Nintendo’s “EarthBound” game series, featured comments from Iwata’s book on his personal website, and deeply admired him.

“I have never seen him blame anyone or speak ill of anyone,” said Itoi, who knew Iwata for 25 years, and says he loved him like a younger brother.

Instead of Hollywood-style grand battles, Japan excels at more peaceful blockbusters, like Nintendo’s “Animal Crossing,” Itoi said. He likened the game, which simulates living in a village, to children playing house.

“It wasn’t exactly something that many experts in the game industry expected the world to find fun,” he said. “What Japan has to offer still has great potential.”

Iwata sought to appeal to people who’d never played games before and to those who used to play but quit, said Kensuke Yabe, professor at Chukyo University’s School of Global Studies.

“He had superbly good instincts about what was happening on the ground. To maximize their appeal, he made sure Nintendo consoles were designed for the living room,” said Yabe.

When the Wii came out, Iwata insisted the controller be called a “remote,” a more familiar term evoking TV sets, rather than “controller.” He liked games for learning English, hanging out with a dog and cooking food.

“A video game is interesting when you can have fun simply watching someone play,” Iwata wrote.


TOKYO (AP) — By YURI KAGEYAMA

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Domino’s collaborates with Nuro on test launch of autonomous pizza delivery

Inside Telecom Staff

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autonomous pizza delivery

Global pizza giant Domino’s and Nuro, a top self-driving delivery company, are launching a test autonomous pizza delivery vehicle in Houston, Texas, the companies announced on Monday.

Beginning this week, select customers who place a pre-paid order through the Domino’s website on certain days and times from the Domino’s in Woodland Heights, located at 3209 Houston Ave., can choose to have their pizza delivered by Nuro’s R2 robot.

Nuro’s R2 is the first completely autonomous, occupantless on-road delivery vehicle with a regulatory approval by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

This collaboration between Domino’s and Nuro will introduce an entirely new delivery experience to pizza lovers.

How it works

Select customers who place a pre-paid website order from the participating Domino’s store can opt to have their pizza delivered by R2. Customers who are selected will receive text alerts, which will update them on R2’s location and provide them with a unique PIN to retrieve their order.

Customers may also track the vehicle via GPS tracking on their order confirmation page. Once R2 arrives, customers will be prompted to enter their PIN on the bot’s touchscreen. R2’s doors will then gently open upward, revealing the customer’s hot Domino’s pizza, the companies said in a joint statement.

“We’re excited to continue innovating the delivery experience for Domino’s customers by testing autonomous delivery with Nuro in Houston,” said Dennis Maloney, Domino’s senior vice president and chief innovation officer.

“There is still so much for our brand to learn about the autonomous delivery space. This program will allow us to better understand how customers respond to the deliveries, how they interact with the robot and how it affects store operations,” Maloney added. “The growing demand for great-tasting pizza creates the need for more deliveries, and we look forward to seeing how autonomous delivery can work along with Domino’s existing delivery experts to better support the customers’ needs.”

Nuro notes of itself that its mission is to better everyday life through robotics. The company’s custom autonomous vehicles are designed to bring the things customers, from produce to prescriptions, right to the home.

“Nuro’s mission is to better everyday life through robotics. Now, for the first time, we’re launching real world, autonomous deliveries with R2 and Domino’s,” said Dave Ferguson, Nuro co-founder and president. “We’re excited to introduce our autonomous delivery bots to a select set of Domino’s customers in Houston. We can’t wait to see what they think.”

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