News In Context

IBM And Google Enter Race To Offer Enterprise-Grade Generative AI

IBM, Google and Stability AI are gearing up to offer generative AI services to enterprise customers such as Deutsche Bank, Wendy’s, NASA and Koch Industries.

Many corporates have spent the past few months grappling with how and where they can leverage the new capabilities of generative AI and large language models, or LLMs.  The worry is that generative AI, like the iPhone, has the potential to disrupt entire industries. The dawn of online streaming spelled the end of home-video-rental companies such as Blockbuster, while cameras on phones helped render photo processing obsolete and helped spark Apple’s rise and Kodak’s  decline.

“The technology is changing so fast in front of our eyes that I think it’s almost like the limit is ourselves and being able to rationalize it,”  Marco Argenti, chief information officer of Goldman Sachs Group, which is currently piloting the technology, told the Wall Street Journal.

Investors, too, are gauging the extent to which AI’s arrival will upend companies, industries and contemporary business practices—and placing bets accordingly, reports the Wall Street Journal. That has sent stocks swinging wildly in both directions: Chip maker Nvidia’s shares are surging, while shares of study-materials company Chegg have plummeted. Enthusiasm for the potential of AI is one reason big tech companies are among this year’s strongest performers.

Artificial intelligence is “almost certainly over-hyped in its initial implementation,” Michael Green, chief strategist at Simplify Asset Management told The Wall Street Journal. “But the longer-term ramifications are probably greater than we can imagine.”

Fear of missing out is prompting more and more corporates to embrace the technology.

One of the companies deepening its work with Google while still relying on Microsoft for productivity tools is Deutsche Bank. Bernd Leukert, its chief technology, data and innovation officer, told Reuters the bank is targeting a range of tasks to automate with the help of Google’s engineers and its  large language models.

Deutsche Bank wants AI to lower costs in call centers where it needed temporary personnel for peak periods and workers to handle menial tasks, he said in an interview. And it is exploring if Google’s AI can craft research drawing from economic data, market reports and other content, to give the bank’s customers and staff,  Leukert told Reuters.

“The faster you can consume this huge amount of external information, condense it and draw the conclusion out of it, the better it is,” he said. Asked about errors by AI, Leukert said research analysts would have to validate and edit material pre-publication, as the bank would take “a very conservative approach.”Deutsche Bank will decide by October which of these projects are mature enough to move forward, he said.

Customers are applying Google’s technology in ways both expected, such as a customer-service chatbot for Uber, and unusual, including using AI to handle drive-thru orders at a Wendy’s  fast-food restaurant in Ohio.

Google also this week launched a revamped search engine powered by artificial intelligence, as it rushes to make up lost ground in the race to bring powerful new language models to the internet search business. The US tech group on May 10 unveiled an overhaul of its search engine to incorporate AI advances that have been sweeping through the tech world since the launch of Microsoft-backed OpenAI’s ChatGPT six months ago. “With generative AI, we are taking the next step with a bold and responsible approach,” Sundar Pichai, Google chief executive, said at a May 10 presentation. At its annual conference for developers, Google said it would offer millions of users a feature within search that will include AI-generated summaries to queries similar to those given by chatbots such as ChatGPT. The search feature will initially only be available in the U.S. through a waiting list system. Google said it would then look to roll out the feature more widely in the coming months.

IBM is aiming to demonstrate that it, too, can compete for AI customers with Microsoft’s Azure, which plays host to OpenAI’s services. IBM’s new WatsonX model, which was launched this week, includes a development studio for companies to “train, tune and deploy” machine-learning models. The platform includes a feature for AI-generated code, an AI governance toolkit, and a library of thousands of large-scale AI models, trained on language, geospatial data, IT events and code, according to a release. IBM is partnering with HuggingFace, an AI startup and open source platform that reached a $2 billion valuation last year.

The new offering is part of a larger strategy shift, as IBM seeks to take the lead on user-friendly platforms for companies looking to introduce AI into their business models, in part because there’s a massive shortage of human talent in the AI market. IBM is focusing its AI efforts on areas where it has experience and credibility with customers—automation, customer service and the application of AI to information-technology operations, Rob Thomas, IBM senior vice president for software and chief commercial officer told the Wall Street Journal. The company has built three foundational large language models that can be customized for customers, using their data as well as other sources, he said.

In a question-and-answer session with reporters on May 8, IBM CEO Arvind Krishna said companies can come in with a model they want to build and then let WatsonX get to work.“We allow an enterprise to use their own code to adapt the model to how they want to run their playbooks and their code,” Krishna said. “Then they can deploy it for themselves without any danger of their code leaking.”Clients and collaborators so far include SAP and NASA.  The platform will be available in the third quarter, IBM told CNBC.

Meanwhile, San Francisco-based  Scale AI, a  startup  which has created  a data platform for AI, providing high quality training data for leading machine learning teams. said it is launching a “full-stack” generative AI platform that it says will allow large enterprise customers (big corporations, government agencies, etc.) to capture the benefits of LLMs without having to send proprietary data out to a third party AI company.The Scale AI solution, called Enterprise AI Platform, lets the customer host the LLM within its own walls, says Scale AI CEO Alexandr Wang. Scale AI recently unveiled two platforms tailored for governments and enterprises: Scale Donovan and Scale EGP. Fox Corporation and Koch Industries are already utilizing  Scale EGP technology in their operations.



Toyota Flags Possible Leak Of Vehicle Data

Toyota Motor said May 12 that the vehicle data of about 2.15 million users was left publicly available in Japan because of setting errors in the cloud environment, for about a decade from November 2013 to April 2023. Leaked details could have included identification numbers for vehicle devices and the location of vehicles, but there have been no reports of malicious use, the company said.

Siemens and SAP Say EU Draft Data Act Puts Trade Secrets At Risk

German business software maker SAP  and German engineering company Siemens have joined U.S. tech giants in criticizing draft EU laws on the use of data generated by smart gadgets and other consumer goods. EU countries and EU lawmakers are working on the details of the Data Act, proposed by the European Commission last year before it can be adopted as legislation.The draft law, covering EU consumer and corporate data, is part of a set of legislation aimed at curbing the power of U.S. tech giants and helping the EU to achieve its digital and green objectives. U.S. criticisms have included that the proposed law is too restrictive, while the German companies say a provision forcing companies to share data with third parties to provide aftermarket or other data-driven services could endanger trade secrets.”It risks undermining European competitiveness by mandating data sharing – including core know-how and design data – with not only the user, but also third parties,” the companies wrote in a joint letter to Commission President President Ursula von der Leyen, EU antitrust chief Margrethe Vestager and EU industrial chief Thierry Breton.


Uber Moves To Become Travel Super App

Uber has launched flight bookings to its UK app as part of the ride-booking giant’s push to become a travel “super app”, allowing customers to book a complete journey across multiple forms of transport. The San Francisco-based group has started rolling out the new booking tool for domestic and international flights to UK customers, and plans to expand it to users across the country in the coming weeks. Andrew Brem, Uber’s UK general manager, told the Financial Times the launch of commercial flight bookings was “the latest and most ambitious step” in the company’s strategy to expand its core ride-booking business into a wider travel booking platform. The UK, one of Uber’s biggest markets outside North America, is serving as a test ground for these ambitions, and Uber has already rolled out domestic train, Eurostar and coach ticket bookings in the country.


Startup Claims First Fusion Plant Is Five Years Away

 MIT Technology Review reports that a startup called Helion, backed by Sam Altman, claims it’s on track to flip on the world’s first fusion power plant in five years. That’s a dramatically short timeline for a carbon-free energy source that’s eluded scientists for three-quarters of a century.Helion has signed a deal with Microsoft for it to buy power generated by its Washington-based plant once it goes online in 2028. If it pulls it off, it’d be a huge deal. Fusion plants could deliver a steady stream of clean electricity to help meet soaring electricity demand as the world races to cut pollution from transportation, homes, office buildings, and industry. However, the company hasn’t said, and won’t comment, on whether it’s passed the first big test for fusion: getting more energy out of the process than it takes to drive .

The Most Valuable U.S. Power Company Is Making A Huge Bet On Hydrogen

NextEra Energy – which has become the most valuable power company in the U.S.  by investing early in wind and solar farms n- ow says it sees the potential to invest more than $20 billion in  green hydrogen after the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides significant tax credits for such projects. There is a limited market for green hydrogen currently, and NextEra is hoping the new law, coupled with an increasing push to cut carbon emissions, will simultaneously create supply and demand.


FBI Disrupts Russian Government-Controlled Cyber Espionage Network

The Federal Bureau of Investigation disrupted a Russian government-controlled malware network that compromised hundreds of computers belonging to NATO-member governments and other Russian targets of interest, including journalists, the Justice Department said May 9..

The disruption effort, called Operation Medusa, took the malware offline “on or about May 8,” the department said. A unit within Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, successor to the Soviet-era KGB, developed and deployed a malware codenamed Snake as far back as 2004, a federal search warrant request shows. The unit, called Turla, used the malware to selectively target high-value devices used by allied foreign ministries and governments.The software was able to record every keystroke a victim made, a capacity known as keylogging, and send it back to Turla’s control center.The department said Snake was Russia’s “premier long-term cyberespionage malware” and disrupting it was part of an effort by U.S. law enforcement to protect victims around the world.

TechnologyOne Becomes Latest Victim Of Spate Of Cyber Attacks On Australia’s Corporate Sector

Australia’s TechnologyOne   said May 10  it had detected an unauthorized third-party access to its back-office systems, becoming the latest target in a series of cyber attacks that has bogged companies in the country since last year. The software maker immediately went on a trading halt after the announcement, and said it has isolated the affected systems and will contact the impacted customers after an investigation is conducted. Starting with the Optus breach last September, a spate of cyber attacks on Australia’s corporate sector has exposed data from tens of millions of customers online and led the government to set up a new cyber security body and overhaul rules the home minister has called “bloody useless”.Major firms such as top grocer Woolworth, and telecoms Telstra and TPG Telecom have reported data breaches and unauthorized access, bringing to light corporate vulnerability to cyber attacks.

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About the author

Jennifer L. Schenker

Jennifer L. Schenker, an award-winning journalist, has been covering the global tech industry from Europe since 1985, working full-time, at various points in her career for the Wall Street Journal Europe, Time Magazine, International Herald Tribune, Red Herring and BusinessWeek. She is currently the editor-in-chief of The Innovator, an English-language global publication about the digital transformation of business. Jennifer was voted one of the 50 most inspiring women in technology in Europe in 2015 and 2016 and was named by Forbes Magazine in 2018 as one of the 30 women leaders disrupting tech in France. She has been a World Economic Forum Tech Pioneers judge for 20 years. She lives in Paris and has dual U.S. and French citizenship.