Grab forges cloud partnership with Microsoft

Grab forges cloud partnership with Microsoft

The companies plan to work together on technology projects, in areas including big data and AI in an attempt to transform the delivery and mobility solutions in Southeast Asia.

Southeast Asia, home to some 640 million people, is shaping up as a battleground for global technology giants such as Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd, JD.com, Alphabet Inc's Google and SoftBank, particularly in ride-hailing, online payments and e-commerce.

Grab, Uber Technologies Inc's biggest ride-hailing competitor in Southeast Asia, said it expects to raise $2.5 billion in its latest financing round that will help bolster its leading position in the region and grow its payments platform.

Grad, which is operational in in eight Southeast Asian countries and whose digital wallet, GrabPay, is the leading player in Southeast Asia, will aim to leverage Microsoft's machine learning and AI capabilities, and will adopt Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud platform. Microsoft has a history of partnering up with ride-hailing services, the company invested and partnered with Uber in the year 2015 and in 2017, it started working with Ola to build a connected vehicle platform and also to provide in-car entertainment through its Azure cloud-computing service.

The huge commercial potential of Grab has prompted Microsoft to also invest money, as well as technology, into the company.

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"Our partnership with Grab opens up new opportunities to innovate in both a rapidly evolving industry and growth region", added Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Microsoft.

To improve interactive experiences for customers, the companies will develop AI chatbots using Microsoft's natural language processing services.

As agreed, Grab will work with Microsoft to use facial recognition when verifying passengers and drivers using embedded AI technology.

For example, passengers will be able to take a photo of their current location and have it translated into an actual address for the driver. This will advance the recommendation engine for customers, improve driver pickup experience, and enhance the map creation and quality.

According to a press release by Microsoft, the companies would also collaborate on Microsoft Outlook integration where Grab would be providing ride booking options to Outlook users to hail rides directly through the app and be alerted by calendar reminders.

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