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11 October 2018, 09:53 | Casey Mitchell
A woman stands outside the Grab transport office in Singapore
"Grab has already made a significant difference in the way people across Southeast Asia get to places safely, order and enjoy food, and securely process payments", a Microsoft representative told me.
As part of the agreement, Microsoft will also make a strategic investment in Grab, with the latter claiming the partnership would attempt to transform the delivery of digital services and mobility in Southeast Asia. The two companies will also collaborate in areas such as big data and artificial intelligence (AI), while Grab will begin using Microsoft products, including Azurecloud computing service.
Grab competes with the likes of Uber, the world's largest ride-hailing service, and Indonesia's Go-Jek in Southeast Asia, which is fast becoming a battleground for startups vying for the attention of about 600 million people.
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"We see so many companies that use tech in new, unique ways to build businesses in the region", Peggy Johnson, Microsoft's executive vice president of business development, said in a joint interview with Grab president Ming Maa.
Together, the companies will work on several technology projects to improve the experience for users, driver-partners, merchants and agents.
New authentication mechanisms like AI-powered mobile facial recognition will be developed to replace checking IDs for drivers and passengers.
The companies plan to leverage Microsoft'snatural language processing capabilities to provide customers with contextualised real-time translations and create an AI chatbot so Grab users can engage in interactive experiences. "We look forward to collaborating with Microsoft in the pursuit of enhancing on-demand transportation and seamless online-to-offline experiences for users".
They will also develop improved maps, an "advanced recommendation engine" to curate content for Grab app users, and fraud detection services.
In June, Grab launched a new innovation arm, Grab Ventures, aimed at uncovering disruptive companies and regional talent in Southeast Asia, as well as Velocity, an accelerator programme for growth-stage start-ups. It anticipates that with the help of machine learning and image recognition, the passengers would be able to share their location with the driver by sharing the pictures of the surrounding which the system would identify and convert into the address.
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