Artificial intelligence is on the rise in Southeast Asia, helping everyone from fashion designers to rice growers – South China Morning Post

Lingga Madu desires that at some point his firm will design and promote modern garments at a value everyone can afford. Born of previous expertise, it is a enterprise imaginative and prescient very a lot targeted on embracing the future.

Having grown up in Jogja – the place the common each day wage of US$three means it ranks as one in every of Indonesia’s poorest cities – the 32-year-outdated software program engineer recalled how the newest fashions had been past the attain of most individuals.

That reminiscence stayed with him and in 2014 Madu based Sale Inventory, a Jakarta-primarily based e-commerce firm the place the tenet is to make extra by charging much less.

The system? A moneymaking marriage between fashion design and synthetic intelligence (AI) permitting the newest AI know-how to mine and analyse market information and buyer behaviour to a degree past human functionality, thereby figuring out designs that can promote and tailoring manufacturing accordingly.

The corporate claims elevated gross sales coupled with the financial savings made by an AI-targeted screening out of designs doubtless to fail permits its merchandise to be priced two-thirds extra cheaply. Utilizing this method means the firm has extra information scientists than fashion designers.

“We are literally an AI firm; we simply occur to promote garments,” Madu stated.

This marriage between AI and fashion is a vivid instance of how companies in Southeast Asia are embracing machine studying to advance their operations.

The race for AI superiority is headed by the United States and China.

In September, US lawmakers authorised laws that can imply up to 25,000 autonomous automobiles hit the street in 2018. The cap will then rise over three years to 100,000 models yearly.

In China, an bold plan to roll out AI has begun with hospitals utilizing digital docs to learn CT scans and factories staffing manufacturing strains with robots. Even a public bathroom in Beijing has embraced AI, managers there using facial recognition options to catch individuals who steal bathroom paper.


Analysts declare AI will unlock enterprise alternatives and enhance effectivity. A current report by McKinsey, a worldwide consultancy agency, estimated AI adoption in Southeast Asian factories may improve earnings by as a lot as US$311 billion per 12 months.

McKinsey famous one-third of the area’s main companies talked about phrases similar to “AI” and “machine studying” in their annual monetary stories final 12 months. Against this, solely 6 per cent of them did so in 2011.

The push in the direction of AI know-how has made Southeast Asia residence to a few of the world’s most slicing-edge options. In Thailand, for instance, Bumrungrad Worldwide Hospital is the first medical establishment exterior North America to deploy IBM Watson for Oncology, an AI assemble developed to advance and optimise most cancers care.

In the meantime, residence-grown applied sciences have flourished. AI begin-ups have discovered their method into monetary institutes, logistic companies, and even much less tech-savvy sectors similar to agriculture.

In Vietnam, a crop intelligence begin-up referred to as Sero has inspired rice growers to snap a photograph of sick crops and add it on-line. These photographs are used to educate computer systems how to establish crop ailments.

The corporate claims its digital scientist is able to figuring out 20 crop ailments with an accuracy of 70 to 90 per cent. As soon as the know-how has developed additional, it should ship farmers crop illness analysis and urged therapy choices by way of a smartphone app.

For now, farmers in Vietnam largely rely on their expertise to deal with crop ailments, typically ending up spraying too many chemical substances – in addition to their exhausting-earned cash – into rice paddies.

At its core, although, AI is about cash, males, ladies and machines and which mixture of the 4 is greatest for enterprise.


“One human agent can deal with one buyer at a time, whereas chatbots [could handle] 1000's and even tens of 1000's of shoppers at the similar time,” stated Irzan Raditya, co-founding father of Kata, a Jakarta-primarily based chatbot developer.

Raditya stated his purchasers have saved no less than 30 per cent in operation prices by “hiring” chatbots for buyer companies as a substitute of relying on human brokers.

One such shopper is Telkomsel, Indonesia’s main telecom community operator, which now makes use of chatbots to reply 96 per cent of its inquiries.

However a rise in AI deployment means fewer jobs for individuals and the potential human price of AI is one thing corporations aren't fairly so eager to talk about. For now, the speak is of retraining and “job upgrades’’ for laid-off staff , who pays for the retraining and for what jobs stays unclear.

In Malaysia, the authorities lately revised its objective of introducing ,500 information professionals by 2020 up to 16,000, as the demand for expertise has elevated in line with rising AI adoption.


Up to now, market observers declare, the use of AI has not led to vital job losses.

“The journey simply began and it will likely be very exhausting [to replace humans with AI],” stated Tak Lo, founding father of Zeroth, an Asia-targeted AI begin-up accelerator primarily based in Hong Kong.

Raja Hamzah Abidin, a accomplice of funding agency RHL Ventures in Kuala Lumpur, agreed. He cited the “reluctance of corporations embracing change [and] an abundance of low-cost labour” as main boundaries going through the area in AI adoption. However in locations like Singapore, the place labour prices are comparatively excessive, one in 5 producers are already contemplating deploying robots and AI options, in accordance to a 2017 survey.

But it might nonetheless take time till AI builders give you appropriate options. Some corporations clarify they battle to get adequate information wanted for machine studying, due to an absence of information-amassing infrastructure and issues about privateness.

Others complain that traders in Southeast Asia are reluctant to pour cash into novel applied sciences, making it difficult for AI begin-ups to elevate funds and advance their answer.

On high of that is the situation of expertise shortages. Whereas international locations in Southeast Asia are scrambling to practice extra AI professionals, corporations insist that personnel is nonetheless in brief provide.

“I've to fly to Silicon Valley to deliver again expertise,” stated Madu, of Sale Inventory. Whereas luring expertise away from the US takes effort and time, Madu stated the excellent news is that “all of them know e-commerce is choosing up in Southeast Asia and one thing huge is coming”.

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Artificial intelligence is on the rise in Southeast Asia, helping everyone from fashion designers to rice growers - South China Morning Post