Machine learning and AI have undoubtedly been among the most dominant tech trends in the ASEAN region in 2018 so far. From personal experience, most of the events we have covered have had at least some mention of the technology. Although machine learning is by no means new, it is now well on its way towards becoming mainstream. Experts such as Deloitte have gone on record to predict that the business use of machine learning will double in 2018 compared to the year before, and double again by the year 2020, with enterprise applications such as voice recognition, natural language processing (NLP) and fraud detection truly picking up in the coming years.
Even Google has seen the growth in demand for machine learning and AI, so much so that they have made these areas of technology the main focus for this year’s Cloud OnBoard event. Cloud OnBoard is Google’s free instructor-led training event held in various locations worldwide that aims to provide attendees with a technical introduction to the Google Cloud Platform. Speaking at a media roundtable during the KL leg of the event, Google Cloud Asia's Head of Solution Engineering, Anish Malhotra, mentioned that Google Cloud Platform provides a way for organisations, be it startup, large enterprise or government, to take advantage of Google’s investments in infrastructure and data processing innovation over the last 20 years.
According to Anish, customers are moving to Google and they’re moving really fast due to Google’s commitment to innovation and openness. As we have said before, although Google is playing catch up with the likes of Amazon and Microsoft in the cloud space globally, they are quite popular in Malaysia and the region (winning our own DSA Awards twice in a row, for example) and thus APAC has become a very important part of their cloud business.
As to why ASEAN companies are seriously considering the new technologies and turning to the cloud for access to these technologies, he said, “Every industry is going through a change. If they do not imbibe these technologies, chances of somebody coming in and shaking them up will happen soon. And if u look at the common themes that our customers spoke about today, it’s all about personalisation and knowing their customers. Using the technologies that are available today just on premise will not allow them to enable themselves. And that’s why we want to get them excited about going back and learning more and more about these technologies, and then looking at how they can apply it to their business and make an impact to their business.”
For that reason, he said, Google Cloud has built large teams in Malaysia and the region because of the significant interest in the technologies, especially when it comes to machine learning and AI. The cloud continues to evolve and today, it is about offering managed services to provide completely elastic storage, processing and machine learning so that organisations can invest their energy in great apps. However, he also admitted that although the adoption of the cloud in Malaysia is growing, it is still nowhere near maturity.
The media roundtable featured several local companies that have employed machine learning through Google Cloud Platform to greatly improve the end-to-end performance of their operations as well as customer experience. Malaysian telecommunication company, Digi, for example, built their own chatbot in-house to deal with customer enquiries more efficiently. According to Digi’s Head of Digital Exploration & Design, Tan Siew Meai, Digi’s exploration team, with a background in programming, was able to self-learn the required programming and coding skills to build the chatbot with support and help from the Google team.
“The Google team was collaborating closely with us. And because it’s a new technology (we believe that everyone is still at the learning stage), we might as well personally go in and get our hands dirty - to try, learn, and fail fast. There were many versions that we came up with before we actually came to the beta stage, and it took us about 4 months to develop the chatbot in-house. So we’re super proud and glad that the team was given the empowerment to upscale themselves, to pick up new technology, and they were so passionate and curious to try it out.” Tan added, “So this is part of what we’re doing now. To support our digital ambition, we need to upscale people. Rather than exchange them with another person, why not give them the platform to [grow], like online learning, learning through collaboration with partners, real live hands-on experience, etc. So we do see the staff changing and picking up new things and we expect that they can contribute, develop and build more new things in the future.”
So we asked the representatives of the companies present, like Digi, AirAsia and MUV Marketplace, why they chose Google for their cloud and machine learning needs over the other cloud vendors. Besides the continuous support, infrastructure and innovation that Google has to offer, they mentioned the price and Google’s ability to deliver great performance at scale as some of the deciding factors for them. Indeed, one of the things Google is most proud of is the CloudHarmony recognition that it has received for having the highest reliability in the industry.
What’s certain is that Google is committed to its cloud platform and has invested over 29 billion dollars over the last few years. But with great rivals such as Amazon also spending record breaking amounts of cash on R&D, things are definitely heating up in the cloud space. Whether Google will be able to challenge Amazon’s dominance, only time will tell. But they’re definitely doing the right things and investing in the right technologies to win more and more customers over.