Korean IT firms vie to take lead in hyperscale AI for survival
Published: Aug 09, 2023 04:20 PM
Photo: Xinhua

Photo: Xinhua

 LG, KT, Naver, Kakao and other Korean tech companies have unveiled, or are set to introduce, their own hyperscale AI platforms in a bid to survive in the AI era, which will revolutionize the industry just like the internet and smartphones did, according to industry officials and experts, Wednesday.

Hyperscale AI, which is best known through U.S. AI company OpenAI's ChatGPT, refers to AI that thinks, learns and judges by learning large amounts of data on its own.

The companies are seeking to survive on their own without relying on the platforms of global Big Tech firms. Their survival is dependent on taking on new opportunities, the experts said, adding that the companies' own platforms will allow them to target new business opportunities based on Korean and other languages.

Those firms are striving to develop platforms forecasting AI's large language model (LLM) services to bring new business opportunities in both business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) areas, in fields such as finance, law, healthcare, education, administration and manufacturing, they added.

"It seems that many domestic IT companies have decided that they should not miss the opportunity in the AI market, which is called the 'ChatGPT moment' following the 'iPhone moment,'" Kim Keun-kyo, head of Brand & Communication at local AI company, Upstage, said. "Not only domestic companies, but also Apple has reportedly jumped into the development of an LLM service. Many companies have decided that if they lose the lead in the AI business now, they will face difficulties in the future."

Kim Kyung-joong, a professor at the Department of Computer Science and Engineering at Sejong University, said that it is easier for domestic companies to develop their own platforms without relying on the services of businesses overseas and to explore new opportunities in markets abroad, as well as with Korean consumers and B2B customers.

"Companies can launch various services for consumers and business customers with their own AI platform, and they can more easily protect sensitive internal information," the professor said. "In addition, Korean companies are better able to provide Korean language services, but these companies can also launch AI services based on other foreign languages. By developing these platforms, they are not just targeting the Korean market, but they are actively going overseas."

Kim added that developing platforms is an essential way for companies to survive the competition, as the applications of AI business are endless.

"Domestic companies are developing their own LLMs instead of relying on overseas services, in order to survive. Once such a platform is well developed, its utilization will be infinite. For B2C, companies will be able to provide more advanced services by applying the platform to the businesses they currently serve. For B2B, they can create another business opportunity by providing a platform for security-conscious companies or by offering customized services for specific companies," he said.
Among the big players here, LG unveiled its latest hyperscale AI platform EXAONE 2.0 on July 19, faster than its local competitors.

Compared to the original version released in 2021, the 2.0 version achieved a 25 percent decline in processing time and a 70 percent reduction in memory usage, according to LG AI Research, the AI arm of LG Group that developed the platform. EXAONE 2.0 has learned about 45 million specialized documents, including patents and articles, and 350 million images. It can understand and answer questions in both Korean and English.

LG is applying EXAONE to its affiliates. The group's beauty and health care arm, LG Household & Health Care, used EXAONE to design packages for beauty brand products.

"It is important for AI technology to prove itself in commercialization, not just research," Bae Kyung-hoon, head of LG AI Research, said. "We are pushing for commercialization with our affiliates by delivering AI models to them and discovering business models."

KT plans to launch its hyperscale AI platform, Mi:dm, in the second half of this year. The mobile carrier expects Mi:dm to be used in various fields, such as finance, law, medicine, counseling, education, administration and more.

The company is looking to close the gap with global leaders through aggressive investments as it already announced this year that it will invest 7 trillion won ($5.46 billion) over the next five years. It aims to achieve 1 trillion won in revenues from the AI business within two years.

Naver is also scheduled to unveil its hyperscale AI platform, HyperCLOVA X, on Aug. 24. The internet giant said HyperCLOVA X is particularly adept in Korean data learning capacity and voiced confidence that its platform will be the largest Korean language AI platform specializing in commerce, finance, law and education.

"We will apply HyperCLOVA X not only to search engines, but also to all Naver services, and we will also introduce AI services for B2B enterprises," Choi Soo-yeon, CEO of Naver, said during a first quarter earnings call, May 8.

Naver is not just thinking about services through AI-powered language models as Naver Labs, an R&D subsidiary, is expected to unveil an AI-powered robot as early as this year.

"In addition to wireless communication like 5G networks and cloud computing, the application of AI neural networks, called foundation models, is essential for robots to work. This is different from HyperCLOVA X, because it is AI that learns from human movement," a Naver spokesman said.

Kakao Brain, the AI arm of internet company Kakao, is also set to unveil KoGPT 2.0, an upgraded version of its hyperscale AI model, KoGPT, in the second half of this year. Based on this platform, Kakao Brain plans to launch an AI chatbot service called KoChat GPT in the second half of this year.

Startups are joining the AI race, and some have already made considerable progress.

Upstage announced on Tuesday that its generative AI model took first place on the Open LLM Leaderboard operated by the AI platform, Hugging Face, with the highest score of 72.3, edging out ChatGPT.

"We are pleased to see Upstage's generative AI model outperform ChatGPT, confirming our world-class technology," Kim Sung-hoon, CEO of Upstage, said. "Upstage will continue to improve its dominance in the domestic and international private AI markets based on its overwhelming technological capabilities."