Thales becomes Newest global giant to Start AI Laboratory in Montreal

French industrial giant Thales SA has been the latest in a slew of foreign multinationals to start an artificial intelligence research laboratory in Montreal.

The company, which employs 1,800 people in Canada, is announcing Tuesday it will open a laboratory in Montreal early next year in cooperation with the Montreal Institute for Learning Algorithms (MILA), with plans to hire 50 AI scientists from mid-2019. Thales’ AI-related study is focused in Paris, where it employs 120 AI research scientists and scientists. The business currently employs 15 AI professionals in its operations in Toronto and Quebec City.

“We want to produce new technologies based on AI which we are able to industrialize in our verticals and market to the world,” said Siegfried Usal, vice-president of plan, research and technologies with Thales’ Canadian operation, which generates $500-million in annual earnings from these ventures as building mass transit signalling engineering and management systems for business jets. He said the lab will create AI software for use by its own airline, air traffic, satellite railroad military and infrastructure clients. “What we suggest…is to bring AI into the physical world{}”

Thales is the fourth overseas giant since August to announce a brand new AI laboratory in Montreal, home to Yoshua Bengio, a pioneering AI academic with University of Montreal and a driving force behind the development of the city’s AI-focused associations, such as MILA and the Institute of Data Valorization (IVADO). Last month, Renowned McGill University professor Joelle Pineau to head its laboratory in town, along with her colleague Doina Precup was hired to direct a Montreal laboratory for DeepMind Technologies Ltd, the British AI company owned by Google parent Alphabet Inc.. Samsung Electronics’ Advanced Institute of Technology opened an AI laboratory at the University of Montreal in August. Microsoft Corp. this year purchased Montreal AI startup Maluuba and endorsed local AI startup Element AI in its own fundraising.

Recent breakthroughs in such regions of AI as “deep learning” and “reinforcement learning” — a lot of it created by academics either trained or established in Canada — have turned the area into one of the trendiest areas of engineering, enabling machines to recognize patterns and make predictions based on vast troves of information. Many global tech giants have spent heavily in AI — hiring up most of the top academics in Canada and elsewhere — in the hopes of creating leadership in what’s expected to be a dominant, general-purpose technology.

Thales already uses AI to get a selection of applications, including helping air-traffic managers more efficiently manage the heavens and suggesting efficient flight programs for aircraft to help operators reduce gas prices. The company recently built a management center in Mexico City to assist police more swiftly collect images of offenses in movement to reduce their response times. Thales already supports both IVADO and the Vector Institute, a new AI-focused research firm in Toronto.

Mr. Bengio stated while the current moves by multinationals to open AI labs in Montreal helps bolster the standing of town and Canada as a global AI hub, “the drawback is that I do not feel it’s by those firms that Canada will emerge as a world leader in AI. Those foreign companies may do research here [but] the goods will be manufactured or marketed from everywhere, and the gains for those products will be taxed in different countries, so it is not going to help Canada make the transition that is likely going to happen within the next decade because of automation and AI.

“The only way we will develop into a true world leader in this subject is if we have enough Canadian firms becoming strong players{}”

Courtesy: The Globe And Mail

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