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AI analyses fashion and retail markets, AI Act

The most interesting news in February in the field of data analytics came from an unexpected source. We are all used to M&As among IT businesses but this month demonstrated that every business is now an IT business and the most surprising deals were struck in areas far from technology.

New M&A deals

Belgian tanker giant Euronav has sold its Fleet Automatic Statistics and Tracking (FAST) platform to Danish vessel optimisation brand ZeroNorth. FAST collects advanced high-frequency data in real-time from sensors across Euronav’s fleet. The company has implemented the FAST platform across its fleet, using ship reporting, voyage optimisation, and ship optimisation using high-frequency data. According to the tanker player, the system has optimised vessel and fleet utilisation, reduced fuel consumption, and lowered OPEX while having a tangible positive impact on the company’s bottom-line results. Over time, the plan is for ZeroNorth and Euronav to integrate FAST’s data and full functionality with the ZeroNorth platform.

Mango, an apparel company, has invested in Flipflow, a market analytics and business data monitoring operation. Mango will finance Flipflow’s market analytics, real-time price monitoring and stock control in different marketplaces. Valencia-based Flipflow began in 2021, aiming to offer brands, manufacturers and distributors in retail a dashboard and an accurate, real-time image of the status of their products, competitors and categories in different marketplaces globally. It’s committed to creating a benchmark in market analytics and competitive intelligence to improve the management and monitoring of companies' business data.

Lesaka Technologies, a South African fintech company, announced that it had reached a definitive deal to acquire 100% of Touchsides, a data analytics, insights, and merchant services company, from Heineken, a beverages manufacturer. Touchsides, and Lesaka’s subsidiary Kazang, are complementary to each other, and the acquisition is likely to extend Kazang's footprint in South Africa's informal tavern business. Kazang is a provider of cash and digital solutions to merchants in Southern Africa's informal economies. Its solutions include value-added services (VAS), card acquiring, secure cash vaults and supplier payments platforms.

Databricks completed its third acquisition in seven months aimed at improving its generative AI capabilities, purchasing Einblick Analytics Inc. The startup's natural language processing capabilities enable users of varied skill levels to work with data. Its tools translate natural language to code so that business users can create and run AI and machine learning models that would otherwise require the skills of a data scientist to develop. What differentiates Einblick from other analytics vendors is that its NLP capabilities don't simply enable exploration and analysis.

Regulation on AI strengthens

Italian watchdog Garante said the Open AI’s generative AI platform ChatGPT has breached data privacy norms set by the EU. Garante investigates whether different companies and their AI platforms are complying with the EU’s data privacy regulations. While OpenAI didn’t respond to the queries, the watchdog has given the ChatGPT-maker 30 days to respond to the charges and prepare arguments in its defense.

The European Parliament’s negotiators have reached a provisional agreement on the proposal on harmonised rules on AI, the so-called artificial intelligence act. The draft regulation aims to ensure that AI systems placed on the European market and used in the EU are safe and respect fundamental rights and EU values. The fines for violations of the AI act were set as a percentage of the offending company’s global annual turnover in the previous financial year or a predetermined amount, whichever is higher. This would be €35 million or 7% for violations of the banned AI applications, €15 million or 3% for violations of the AI act’s obligations and €7,5 million or 1,5% for the supply of incorrect information.

Meanwhile Spain plans to build a foundational AI large language model trained in Spanish and in the country’s co-official languages. The Spanish LLM will be transparent and open source. While some AI models are trained on texts in multiple languages, more advanced AI features from US-based tech companies are often initially only available in English. Making the Spanish language model widely available could help Spanish and non-Spanish enterprises alike to develop new digital services.

The Australian government has named a panel of legal and scientific experts to advise on potential guardrails for the research, development and use of AI, its latest step toward mandatory regulation of the rapidly evolving technology. However, the government is yet to announce a timeline for the regulations.

Product releases

Lumina Intelligence has launched Retail Navigator, a business intelligence tool that offers insights on UK retailers. The tool allows subscribers to access insights on more than 150 UK retailers as well as exclusive analysis and five-year forecasts, offering insights and data on sales performance, financials and SWOT analysis for the UK’s leading retailers.

Amazon introduced the Rufus chatbot, a shopping assistant. Customers can ask the tool product questions directly in the search bar of the company’s mobile app. The AI will then provide answers in a conversational tone. Rufus is now available to a subset of customers, and it will be rolled out to additional clientele in the coming weeks. The name of the chatbot came from a dog named Rufus, who was one of the first dogs to roam Amazon offices in the company’s early days.

Exasol, a vendor of high-performance analytics databases, unveiled Espresso AI. This is a set of three AI tools designed to democratize data analytics, making advanced AI-driven insights more affordable and within reach for organizations worldwide. The first, a distributed and parallel execution engine, offers unmatched speed and efficiency in processing big data, a crucial factor for time-sensitive analytics tasks. Secondly, the launch of Exasol AI Lab, a container-based solution, facilitates seamless integration of Exasol's database with data scientists' workflows. Lastly, by focusing on optimizing data preparation and integrating advanced AI technology, Espresso AI empowers enterprises to leverage AI and (ML) at scale.

Cisco has presented a cloud-based service that gives enterprise customers a centralized hub for managing generative AI elements such as large language models (LLM), security controls, APIs and more. Motific promises to help streamline and accelerate the creation, deployment and management of generative AI-based applications for the enterprise. Once in place, the service discovers any generative AI resources in the enterprise and lets customers set up patterns and policies for specific applications.

SQream, the scalable GPU data analytics platform, has announced a strategic integration with Dataiku, the platform for everyday AI. This collaboration brings together SQream's Big Data analytics technology with Dataiku's flexible and scalable data science and ML platform. Users can now harness SQream's analytics capabilities within the flexible and governed Dataiku environment. The integration allows users to seamlessly explore, prepare, and transform large datasets within SQream.

New projects

The Aston Martin Aramco Formula One Team and NetApp have continued their collaborative relationship. Since 2021, when Aston Martin Aramco marked its return to Formula One racing, NetApp has been a fundamental partner. The renewal builds on three years of successful partnership that has allowed Aston Martin Aramco to utilise NetApp's storage technology, promptly conserving, managing, and retrieving massive amounts of data that the team requires to enhance its performance. The speed at which Aston Martin Aramco can apply its stored data offers the team a distinct competitive advantage.

The Société de transport de Montréal (STM) and researchers from the Center for Suicide Intervention (CRISE) are developing an AI system as part of the public transit authority's suicide prevention strategy. The pilot project scans CCTV footage in the city's metro stations to detect warning signs that a person may be in distress. Once those indicators are recognized by the AI system, measures can immediately be taken to try and save the person from hurting themself. The system could warn the control room in real time, possibly the metro operators directly, allowing the trains to brake in advance and special constables to be deployed to the scene.

Google said it would halt the generation of images of people while it rejigged Gemini, its AI model, after accusation of incorrect operations. Users of Google Gemini complained that asking Gemini to create images of Vikings, German soldiers from 1943 or America’s Founding Fathers produced surprising results: hardly any of the people depicted were white. Gemini had been programmed to show a range of ethnicities. Other image-generation tools have been criticised because they tend to show white men when asked for images of entrepreneurs or doctors. Google wanted Gemini to avoid this trap; instead, it fell into another one, depicting George Washington as black and the pope as an Asian woman. Some observers likened Gemini’s ahistorical diversity to “Hamilton” or “Bridgerton”. It seemed that Google had merely made a well-meaning mistake.

On June 6, 2024, the professional IT community Global CIO held an annual meeting with IT leaders from Uzbekistan. The event named “CIO of Uzbekistan as part of Global IT community” took place at the International Hotel in Tashkent. The meeting was aimed to exchange best practices, experiences and get together IT leaders from Central Asia.

The Global CIO professional IT community has conducted its annual survey of IT executives and would like to thank all the community members who helped realise this work. This survey explores the key challenges that CIOs face from their companies, as well as the CIO's personal view of their areas of responsibility. The survey included 100 respondents heading IT departments in companies.

The events of the past two years have shown how important it is not only to have a long-term strategy, but also to be able to quickly 'reformat' it to new circumstances. The metaphor of the whale and the Strategy methodology were created specifically for this process.

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