Softbank gets hard for data-powered AI
“Those who rule chips will rule the entire world. Those who rule data will rule the entire world. That’s what people of the future will say.”
The words of Softbank’s founder and CEO Masayoshi Son, who was bigging up his company at a presentation in Tokyo and laying down some future plans that artificial intelligence (AI) and data are very much at the heart of the company.
According to the Associated Press (AP), who sat in on the event, Son, like quite a few other people, says “AI combined with data gathered by billions of sensors will bring on an ‘information revolution’, that will benefit people more than the 19th century Industrial Revolution”.
During a nearly three-hour presentation, AP says Son introduced some of the ventures he is partnering. Some were not related to fintech, but AP points out that Softbank “already offers one of the most sophisticated companion robots on the market, the chatty, childlike Pepper”.
According to AP, Son seemed a bit protective of his flagship robot, saying those who have criticised it are “not too smart” as they haven’t seen what he has planned.
In terms of data – Son says “data gathered from such omnipresent sensors will be far greater than what can be gotten from mobile phones or computers”.
The bank has also been up to lots of other things.
It was the first carrier to offer the iPhone in Japan. As reported last year, it bought UK mobile chip designer ARM in a bid to position itself at the centre of the internet of things (IoT) revolution.
In June, it acquired Boston Dynamics from Google/Alphabet – where perhaps the interest in robotics could lead to AI developments for fintech. In the same month, Softbank upped its investment in security firm Cybereason, for an AI focus.
While in May, it pumped $502 million into UK cloud VR start-up Improbable. It also brought the wow factor with its first major close with $93 billion of committed capital, and the promise to hit $100 billion within six months.
Softbank has also made a notable investment in Chinese e-commerce company Alibaba.
All these events, and the latest presentation in Tokyo, point to Softbank saying it loud and clear about where its ambitions lie. Ain’t that the truth.