Salesforce Research opens in SG, eyes growth of AI researchers in Asia

Salesforce Research has begun its international expansion with the opening of Salesforce Research Asia in Singapore. Looking to grow and develop the ecosystem of artificial intelligence (AI) researchers in Asia, the organisation will partner Singapore universities to train up to 100 postgraduate students over the next three years in AI.

Led by managing director Steven Hoi, Salesforce Research Asia aims to build a world-class research team committed to delivering cutting-edge peer-reviewed research through global collaboration to help define the future of AI innovation in business.

Salesforce chief scientist Richard Socher said in a press statement, “Singapore is a natural choice to set up an AI research hub with its diversity of talent and its world-class universities.”

One key research area will be natural language processing, which enables humans to work side-by-side with machines in more advanced ways. While users do not think much of Google or Siri answering their queries with decent responses nowadays, Socher said that the technologies and commercialised capabilities were only made possible due to breakthroughs in academic research.

Marketing applications

AI-powered image recognition is another area that Salesforce Research helped advance through  peer-reviewed research in deep learning and computer vision. Marketers can now easily uncover images relevant to their brand instead of manually sorting through thousands of images or analyse associated text to gain insights.

Jess O’Reilly, regional vice president, Marketing Cloud, Asia, Salesforce said in a statement to Marketing that the technology can help marketers gain new consumer insights, track their brands, and improve social customer service. Social media, which is now very much a visual medium, presents an abundance of opportunities to marketers through AI. She explained,
Photos on social media represent many consumer behaviours, preferences, wants and needs that are going undetected by marketers.

"If a person posts an image of a new product, but doesn't include text like the product's name, it's likely that social media monitoring won't capture it, meaning companies risk missing out on important opportunities to better understand their customers, improve customer engagement, resolve potential customer service issues and identify new key influencers and fans," added O’Reilly.

Additionally, AI can help marketers hyper-personalise content based on data they have on existing customers. Salesforce's recent State of the Connected Customer report found that 53% of customers now expect the offers they receive to always be personalised, and 62 percent expect companies to anticipate their needs.

"Personalisation is therefore job numero uno for marketers – by targeting audiences with microscopic granularity, organisations can give their customers exactly what they want. Analysing data to predict what customers want and offering it to them is one of the things AI does best," said O’Reilly.

During the launch of the centre, minister for communications and information S Iswaran said to businesses that AI is a technology that is "crucial for now and the future." He added that the government and private sector in Singapore have been making significant efforts to advance AI use and applications. However, it is important to also address the ethical and societal dimension of AI, as it is still not completely well understood.