How Taiwan Is Becoming A Top Destination For Artificial Intelligence In Asia

Artificial Intelligence
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Attendees head in and out of Microsoft’s annual Build conference for software developers on May 7, 2018, in Seattle. Microsoft expects to do more artificial intelligence research in Taiwan. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Artificial brains threaten to outnumber real ones in Taiwan, as the island’s prowess in artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow. Global players such as Google, IBM and Microsoft have all expressed their intentions of developing either AI R&D centers or similar initiatives in Taiwan. These companies could have selected other tech-savvy locations in Asia like South Korea and Shenzhen, China, but they chose Taiwan. Why?

“Taiwan has a lot going for it with AI research,” says William Foreman, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei. “Companies can hire top-quality engineering talent that has earned a reputation for being more loyal and stable, less likely to be poached, compared to others in places like China, where the competition for talent is absolutely fierce." He also points out the island’s other key advantage is its tech ecosystem that was built up over the decades with support from universities, a tech-centered culture and internet infrastructure.

Talent match

Taiwan’s universities graduate a total of 10,000 computer scientists and information systems management people per year. This conveyor belt of talent reflects Taiwan’s reliance since the 1980s on high-tech, though mostly hardware, as a source of economic growth. “You need to have the people to get the innovation, and the labor is relatively inexpensive,” says Wu Hui-ling, research fellow with Taipei-based think tank Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research. New graduates make an average of $1,084 per month, per this local media report in March.

Salaries in Taiwan for AI research probably equal one-fifth of U.S. counterparts, says Jamie Lin, founding partner of AppWorks Ventures, a startup accelerator in Taipei. But universities aren’t short on talent, he says.

“Taiwanese universities are constantly ranked among the top in terms of generating AI research results,” Lin says. Among the top are National Chiao Tung University and National Ching Hua University, both near high-tech centers in Hsinchu County. Talent outside Taiwan is “equally good” but costs more to hire, he says. The same staffers overseas might not speak Chinese, which helps to reach into China as needed.

Twenty startups from AppWorks’ latest batch of 33 are working on AI or internet of things technology, which are often related. One is targeting autonomous cars; another helping factories predict supply chains and better plan out inventory, to name just two cases.

Meanwhile, local companies are showing signs of steady progress with their own AI programs. Startup thingnario is developing AI-inspired software that calculates the best times to clean solar panels, increasing power generation by more than 15%, according to Taiwanese media outlet Business Next. Taiwanese information services firm Systex Corp. will provide anti-money laundering technology to Graphen as the American startup develops artificial intelligence. Taiwanese PC firm Acer has developed AI to help taxi drivers pick the best streets to find waiting passengers.

Full suite of hardware

And for AI to be truly useful, it needs hardware. A tech firm with “deep connections” in Taiwan will best find the hardware to supply data for AI algorithms, says Helen Chiang, general manager with market research firm IDC in Taipei.

AI is about 30 years old, but it’s capturing developer attention now because “massive” amounts of data are available and computers have the power to process it, Acer CEO Jason Chen says. Chen has assigned part of his staff at the Taiwanese PC developer to develop AI technology even though it’s not the company’s staple. Its system for taxi drivers can locate passengers at 83% accuracy within one kilometer.

Potential local connections for AI developers include builders of PCs and smartphones, the likes of HTC and Compal Electronics. Google has illustrated this trend for years by working closely with HTC on Android smartphones. In January, Google acquired 2,000 HTC engineers, designers and other technical staffers. Separately, the Silicon Valley firm says it plans to hire 300 people in Taiwan this year and train 5,000 students in artificial intelligence for machines.

Senior vice president of hardware for Google, Rick Osterloh, second from left, speaks during a press conference in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Sept. 21, 2017. Google acquired a stake in smartphone developer HTC earlier this year. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

Taiwan itself offers other kinds of hardware that AI investors like. The cost of living comes in below other industrialized markets in Asia, while internet bandwidth ranks among the top five in the region. You can fly within four hours to anywhere else in East Asia, another perk for multinational investors.

The island calls itself a proving ground for AI schemes, too. Its Government Information Open Platform publishes, for anyone, data on 27,000 categories in fields such as air quality and property registration. That data gives Taiwan a “key advantage” to “development of AI applications in the future,” the government’s Board of Science and Technology says in a statement for this post.

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Attendees head in and out of Microsoft’s annual Build conference for software developers on May 7, 2018, in Seattle. Microsoft expects to do more artificial intelligence research in Taiwan. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

Artificial brains threaten to outnumber real ones in Taiwan, as the island’s prowess in artificial intelligence (AI) continues to grow. Global players such as Google, IBM and Microsoft have all expressed their intentions of developing either AI R&D centers or similar initiatives in Taiwan. These companies could have selected other tech-savvy locations in Asia like South Korea and Shenzhen, China, but they chose Taiwan. Why?

“Taiwan has a lot going for it with AI research,” says William Foreman, president of the American Chamber of Commerce in Taipei. “Companies can hire top-quality engineering talent that has earned a reputation for being more loyal and stable, less likely to be poached, compared to others in places like China, where the competition for talent is absolutely fierce.” He also points out the island’s other key advantage is its tech ecosystem that was built up over the decades with support from universities, a tech-centered culture and internet infrastructure.

Talent match

Taiwan’s universities graduate a total of 10,000 computer scientists and information systems management people per year. This conveyor belt of talent reflects Taiwan’s reliance since the 1980s on high-tech, though mostly hardware, as a source of economic growth. “You need to have the people to get the innovation, and the labor is relatively inexpensive,” says Wu Hui-ling, research fellow with Taipei-based think tank Chung-Hua Institution for Economic Research. New graduates make an average of $1,084 per month, per this local media report in March.

Salaries in Taiwan for AI research probably equal one-fifth of U.S. counterparts, says Jamie Lin, founding partner of AppWorks Ventures, a startup accelerator in Taipei. But universities aren’t short on talent, he says.

“Taiwanese universities are constantly ranked among the top in terms of generating AI research results,” Lin says. Among the top are National Chiao Tung University and National Ching Hua University, both near high-tech centers in Hsinchu County. Talent outside Taiwan is “equally good” but costs more to hire, he says. The same staffers overseas might not speak Chinese, which helps to reach into China as needed.

Twenty startups from AppWorks’ latest batch of 33 are working on AI or internet of things technology, which are often related. One is targeting autonomous cars; another helping factories predict supply chains and better plan out inventory, to name just two cases.

Meanwhile, local companies are showing signs of steady progress with their own AI programs. Startup thingnario is developing AI-inspired software that calculates the best times to clean solar panels, increasing power generation by more than 15%, according to Taiwanese media outlet Business Next. Taiwanese information services firm Systex Corp. will provide anti-money laundering technology to Graphen as the American startup develops artificial intelligence. Taiwanese PC firm Acer has developed AI to help taxi drivers pick the best streets to find waiting passengers.

Full suite of hardware

And for AI to be truly useful, it needs hardware. A tech firm with “deep connections” in Taiwan will best find the hardware to supply data for AI algorithms, says Helen Chiang, general manager with market research firm IDC in Taipei.

AI is about 30 years old, but it’s capturing developer attention now because “massive” amounts of data are available and computers have the power to process it, Acer CEO Jason Chen says. Chen has assigned part of his staff at the Taiwanese PC developer to develop AI technology even though it’s not the company’s staple. Its system for taxi drivers can locate passengers at 83% accuracy within one kilometer.

Potential local connections for AI developers include builders of PCs and smartphones, the likes of HTC and Compal Electronics. Google has illustrated this trend for years by working closely with HTC on Android smartphones. In January, Google acquired 2,000 HTC engineers, designers and other technical staffers. Separately, the Silicon Valley firm says it plans to hire 300 people in Taiwan this year and train 5,000 students in artificial intelligence for machines.

Senior vice president of hardware for Google, Rick Osterloh, second from left, speaks during a press conference in New Taipei City, Taiwan, on Sept. 21, 2017. Google acquired a stake in smartphone developer HTC earlier this year. (AP Photo/Johnson Lai)

Taiwan itself offers other kinds of hardware that AI investors like. The cost of living comes in below other industrialized markets in Asia, while internet bandwidth ranks among the top five in the region. You can fly within four hours to anywhere else in East Asia, another perk for multinational investors.

The island calls itself a proving ground for AI schemes, too. Its Government Information Open Platform publishes, for anyone, data on 27,000 categories in fields such as air quality and property registration. That data gives Taiwan a “key advantage” to “development of AI applications in the future,” the government’s Board of Science and Technology says in a statement for this post.

(Excerpt) Read more Here | 2018-09-29 19:10:00