India arm of AWS is looking to add AI services such as speech recognition, text-to-voice services, visual search and image analysis, plus video services, to its base infrastructure on which startups, enterprises and developers can build their products.
“Essentially if you look at the whole AI piece, it’s tough for an individual developer to build everything from the start,” said Bikram Bedi, MD at Amazon Internet Services. “We build for scale, so whether you have a small application or a large set up… mobile or website or whatever, we give you the scale,” he told ET.
Early last month, when Amazon declared its fourth quarter earnings, it said India was one of its most heavily-invested geographies. Amazon’s increased focus on AI — or building applications that mimic human-like behaviour, making them more intuitive and useful to the end consumer — is not surprising. In fact, all technology giants including Google, Facebook and Microsoft are putting in major investments to build capacity in this area.
Research firm IDC said last year that widespread adoption of cognitive systems and AI across a broad range of industries will drive their worldwide revenues from nearly $8 billion in 2016 to more than $47 billion in 2020. Last year, banking, retail, healthcare and discrete manufacturing were the largest spenders in AI. In the future, education and process manufacturing are expected to drive more revenues.
In October last year, AWS announced a slew of AI-related services at its re:Invent conference, and hopes these will find favour with startups and enterprises, as they move to more customer-focused offerings.
Among these is Amazon Polly, a text-to-speech engine that is available in 47 voices (male and female), across 24 languages, that could ‘Spotify’ text — imagine hearing your emails and news site articles on your way to work instead of reading them. Then there is Lex, which is built on Amazon’s voice assistant Alexa and uses natural language understanding to help get the context of the text right.
For example, it could help travel sites by letting the user say they want to book an economy flight from Delhi to Mumbai on a particular day. Another service called Rekognition is built on image recognition and provides visual search and image analysis. According to Bedi, the service could help, for example, an offline retail store do real-time sentiment analysis of a product.
“We were talking to one of the ecommerce companies… (and they said it could) ensure that people don’t put inappropriate stuff on their catalogue, because you will have millions of sellers putting stuff up and you need some kind of automation to block what is not appropriate,” Bedi said.
AWS also launched a mobility service called Pinpoint that would help mobile apps send targeted notification that is relevant to each person, by profiling what a consumer is doing most on or through their app.
The other key focus area for the company in India is video. “They (media and entertainment team) picked up this whole video and over-the-top opportunity some 2.5-3 years ago.... and we started working with customers across the board because we knew this was going to be a massive opportunity for us,” said Bedi.
At present, most video streaming services in India — Hotstar, Voot, Balaji Telefilms’ ALT Digital, NDTV.com, Malayala Manorama, Punjab Kesari, and Tata Sky — run on AWS.
With broadband penetration and access to high-speed Internet improving, video has taken off in a big way in the country. Amazon Internet has a share of the market in nearly all areas related to video, from video storage and encoding to distribution of content.
“We see huge growth this year (in video),” said Bedi, adding that now that Amazon has helped build these video platforms, the next opportunity is video analytics, and the ability to monetise content by helping them figure out how to build user profiles, advertising and so on, he said.
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