Big data just got bigger: Palantir’s Asian expansion
US big data company Palantir Technologies has established a new joint venture with Japanese insurer Sompo Holdings, signifying its first foray into the region.
Palantir Technologies Japan is to be a jointly-owned technology company, with a stated focus on the security, health and wellbeing of Japanese organisations and society. Like Palantir itself, Palantir Japan will operate platforms for data visualisation and analysis, albeit with a japanese focus.
Koichi Narasaki, Group Chief Digital Officer of Sompo Holdings and CEO of Palantir Japan said in a press release: “Real operational data, abundant in Japan, is transformed into scaled productivity and operational success in every business through the use of Palantir's technologies. I am committed to unleashing this digital transformation for all Japanese industries and helping them achieve their goals smarter and faster.”
Palantir’s primary offerings are its Gotham and Foundry platforms, which are able to demonstrate the linkages between and provenance of data points, as well as track changes over time via the concept of versioning. Describing what it does as ‘data-logic’, the digital transformation of data it provides has applications in fields as diverse as law enforcement, insurance, manufacturing and defence. Customers include the likes of Airbus, BP and the US Army.
Alexander Karp, Co-founder and CEO of Palantir said: “We have the privilege of partnering with some of the most innovative and enduring companies in the world including Sompo, a leader in its field whose business helped to define an industry. Our investment in Japan reflects our belief that the union of industrial expertise, built over decades on the front lines of business, with the right software will be the primary driver of economic outperformance moving forward.”
Perhaps curiously for a data company, and considering the company it keeps, Palantir also claims to be dedicated to privacy and civil liberties. That’s certainly an interest of Chairman and co-founder Peter Thiel, who made his fortune as a co-founder of PayPal. One of libertarian Thiel’s initiatives involves offering young people $100,000 to drop out of university.
Beyond Limits: Cognitive AI in APAC
Courtesy of current estimates, it looks like Asia-Pacific AI will be worth US$136bn by 2025. Its governments and corporations invest more money than the rest of the world in AI tech, the data of its citizens is considered fair game, and its pilots are small-scale and, as a result, ruthlessly effective. This is why, according to Jeff Olson, Cognizant’s Associate Vice President for Projects, AI and Analytics, Digital Business and Technology, the APAC region ‘is right on the edge of an AI explosion’.
Now, startup Beyond Limits is pushing the boundaries of what AI can do, mirroring humans in its ability to find solutions with even limited information. As of this July, it’s partnered up with Mitsui, a global trading and investment company, to expand its impact in APAC.
How Does Beyond Limits Work?
Most AI companies claim that they can help businesses make better decisions. But many need astoundingly large stores of data to feed their information-hungry algorithms. Beyond Limits, in contrast, takes a different tack. Perfect data, after all, is largely a pipe dream kept alive by PhD students. In reality, systems must often make decisions from small, incomplete sets of intel.
But Beyond Limits’ AI is no black box. ‘When little to no data is available, Beyond Limits symbolic technologies rely on deductive, inductive, and abductive reasoning capabilities’, explained Clare Walker, Industry Analyst at Frost & Sullivan. While making these leaps in logic, however, the system also keeps track, ensuring that humans can review the AI’s ‘thought process’.
Why Partner With Mitsui?
Beyond Limits is built for specific applications such as energy, utilities, and healthcare—but lacks the extensive industry network of Mitsui. Partnering allows Beyond Limits to access a portfolio of firms specialising in minerals and metals, energy, infrastructure, and chemicals. ‘We’ve been working on this deal for several years’, said Mitsui’s Deputy General Manager Hiroki Tanabe. ‘Mitsui’s global portfolio and Beyond Limits’ AI technology will...deliver impact’.
In the first test of that dramatic statement, Liquified Natural Gas (LNG) will soon deploy Beyond Limits’ new system. If everything goes according to plan, LNG will optimise how it extracts and refines energy, making money for both itself and investors—including Mitsui. This, in fact, is Mitsui’s strategy: go digital and don’t look back.
Why Does This Matter?
Forty-five percent of Asia-Pacific companies surveyed in Cognizant’s thought leadership ebook consider themselves AI leaders. Positivity bias, that oh-so-common tendency of humans to position themselves as above average as compared to others, strikes again. (Most small companies fail to launch successful AI projects on their own.) And partly, this is because firms fail to integrate AI with industry expertise.
‘A large part of the focus on talent for AI today has been getting the people who are strong in mathematics, AI, and technologies’, said Olson. ‘But where you make your money out of AI projects is when you apply them to your business’. In short: APAC nations looking for ways to bridge the gap might follow Beyond Limits and Mitsui’s playbook—coupling startup AI with a corporate network.