Panasonic India is scouting for companies to acquire in the next 69 months to develop artificial intelligence (AI) and Machine learning technologies, which it wants to integrate with its future smartphones to differentiate from rival vendors in the crowded yet fast growing market. The handset vendor has already set aside an initial corpus of $10 million for the development of this technology through a merger and acquisition or a joint venture.
“The budget is in tune of $10 million to start with, and as we see progress on this front and things go in right direction, then there will be no constraint on the budget part. We can spend as high as possible. Some part of this budget has been generated from the India business, while some portion has been allocated from Japan,” Pankaj Rana, head of mobility division, India, South Asia, Middle East and Africa at Panasonic, told ET.
“Our team would be traveling to Silicon Valley soon. We will have new products ready with AI in 912 months. In the last three months, we have finalized what we will do and budgets have been allocated from Panasonic Japan and Panasonic India. Now we have to find a partner and start working on timeline, while understanding the market,” he said. At the global level, a USbased crowdfunded startup, Nextbit, the makers of Robin smartphone, is already using inbuilt artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning technologies in their smartphone. Robin, a recent entrant to India, will shift any excess data and even apps on the smartphone to cloud, based on the user’s usage patterns.
Rana said that the company has some Japanese capability for the technology, and it is now looking at outsourcing a lot of capabilities. Panasonic is currently finalizing its concept of AI and will call it Panasonic AI assistant. It is planning to bring its first smartphone embedded with the AI within this year.” In the mobile phones we are still 2yearold company. And, people don’t connect with us as a mobile phone company. We don’t want to say that we are a primarily mobile phone company.
We want to be called a technology company in near future. AI is the future of Panasonic. We want to integrate all future technologies based on AI,” Rana said, adding that the technology will help it garner larger market share in India. The executive said that the AI technology will help Panasonic customize the user experience by analyzing the usage pattern on smartphones.
Panasonic has an inhouse team of 10 people, which it wants to increase to 60 in six months. The team will work closely with new firms that the company wants to collaborate with on the AI technology. Besides AI technology, Panasonic also plans to diversify into the Internet of Things segment by launching products in the home automation and personal healthcare space. Home automation is initial focus. Home automation includes control of appliances, security and surveillance and lighting. Rana said that Panasonic being a consumer durable company already has a lot of things in place, and the next step is the integration of mobility through smartphones.
On the personal healthcare front, Panasonic is in discussions with a few partners who are developing products like Smart thermometer and smart blood pressure meter that can work with the company’s smartphones.