May 19, 2020

Why the ACCC is blocking Uber's new competition iHail

3 min
Why the ACCC is blocking Uber's new competition iHail

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has effectively denied authorization of the new ride-sharing app iHail, which is a proposed taxi service that would allow users to request the nearest cab regardless of company.

The app is a partnership between Aussie taxi networks, and was attempting to become the industry’s answer to Uber. However, the ACCC has blocked it due to the belief that would have significant public detriments and would potentially increase prices and hurt the quality of service.

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Uber and other new competitors have put a lot of pressure on the traditional taxi industry to become more innovative in a pursuit to take a piece of the global market. But unlike Uber and other ride-service apps, iHail would allow passengers to book a cab at a future time while also allowing them to find one close by using GPS services.

“The iHail app would have a significant impact on competition in the taxi industry, which could impact prices and quality of service,” said ACCC chairman Rod Sims.

The ACCC anticipates iHail would entail more than half of the nation’s taxis, and possibly an even higher percentage in major cities it would operate in. The app’s initial partners were set to include Yellow Cabs, Silver Top, White Cabs and Cabcharge.

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In addition, the ACCC is against iHail’s intentions of allowing users to pay more upfront in exchange for priority taxi access as it would reduce access to the lower-class sections of cities.

Although the ACCC acknowledged the service would be a much more conducive method of requesting a cab, the consumer watchdog believes the affect it would have on competition is more important.

Now, iHail chief operating officer Nick Kings says the app has begun working closely with ACCC to make some changes to the proposed service, and expects a favourable finale decision. One of the possible changes would be giving customers the ability to choose between taxi companies to encourage competition between its members.

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The rival service Cabcharge, which owns about a 10 per cent stake in iHail and would have provided its startup funding, says the ACCC’s decision won’t affect its own apps and payment services.

While iHail has been ready to launch since July, the ACCC has issued a draft determination of the app and will make a final decision before the end of the year.

In the meantime, ACCC will seek input from iHail and other ride-service companies before coming to a conclusion.

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Jul 18, 2021

Beyond Limits: Cognitive AI in APAC

3 min
Artificial intelligence startup Beyond Limits and global investment company Mitsui have partnered up to bring AI to the energy industry

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.


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