Arthur J. Villasanta – Fourth Estate Contributor
Redmond, WA, United States (4E) – Microsoft Corporation has invested an undisclosed sum in Singapore-based GrabTaxi Holdings Pte. Ltd to advance their common interests in technology projects such as art6iificial intelligence (AI).
Grab is better known in Asia as a ride-hailing and ride-sharing firm. It has a virtual monopoly on these services in the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Myanmar and Cambodia.
It bought out Uber’s Southeast Asian operations last March. Grab now operates in 235 cities in eight countries in Southeast Asia.
Since its founding in 2012, Grab has transitioned into a tech company and a few years ago opened a $100 million research and development facility in the Central Business District of Singapore. It also operates a development center in Seattle but has no intention of competing against Uber in ride hailing in the United States.
The partnership with Microsoft will allow Grab to continue its transformation into a consumer technology group. In this role, Grab will offer services such as electronic money transfers, micro-loans, mobile payments and food and parcel deliveries.
Under their five year-long deal, Grab will work with Microsoft to advance mobile facial recognition, image recognition and computer vision technologies to improve the pick-up experience. Among the partners’ goals is to allow Uber ride hailing passengers to take a photo of their current location and have the photo translated into an actual address for the Grab driver.
Grab will adopt Microsoft’s Azure as its preferred cloud platform and use it for data analytics and fraud detection services.
Southeast Asia is turning into an epicenter for global technology giants such as Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd, JD.com, Google and SoftBank. The prize being sought lies in ride-hailing, online payments and e-commerce.
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