LG wants to put artificial intelligence in everything, and the South Korean electronics manufacturer is partnering with the University of Toronto to build a research lab to help further that goal.
The financial terms of the five-year deal were not disclosed; LG president and chief technology officer Dr. I.P. Park would only say that the research lab on Toronto’s College Street near the university campus represents a “multi-million dollar” commitment.
Park said that the research in artificial intelligence is part of a much larger shift for the multinational electronics giant.
LG makes smartphones and TVs, but also automotive parts, vacuum cleaners, refrigerators and more, and Park said the goal is to embed artificial intelligence into everything.
“All of our home machines are currently 100 per cent Wi-Fi enabled,” Park said.
“Our aim is to provide a very seamless AI experience across all these devices because we think in order to provide the best AI services, we are right there with multiple touchpoints.”
This is the “internet of things” that technology companies have promised for years, with all manner of devices connected to the internet, controlled by your phone, and enabled with artificial intelligence, Park said.
“Eventually LG will not just remain as a product or a manufacturing type of company, but also a total solution, and I would like to call it a lifestyle company we’re trying to evolve into,” he said. “AI will be one of the key components in that.”
Park said that this is part of a larger trend in the technology industry, away from selling a product that the customer pays for for once, and towards selling a service that creates an ongoing relationship between the customer and the service provider.
“I think in the future we have a bigger opportunity in the services area,” Park said.
“Whether the services come through our products or somebody else’s products doesn’t really matter.”
Dr. Vivek Goel, vice-president of research and innovation with U of T, said that along with the lab for AI research that LG is setting up, the five-year partnership means more projects and work experience for Canadian researchers.
“The bulk of that funding will flow to support graduates and postdoctoral fellows, so the benefit I would see for Canada is that it increases our capacity to train highly qualified personnel, and those individuals as well as our faculty will not only advance their fundamental research, but they get exposed to this global network through LG,” Goel said.
“We need that kind of exposure if we’re going to build Canadian companies. When we talk about what is missing in our innovation ecosystem, it is often this lack of skill in how you scale to global companies.”
Goel said he views this partnership as an endorsement of Toronto’s place in the global technology world.
“It’s a really important signal of what I would describe as the coming-of-age of Toronto and Ontario and Canada’s innovation ecosystem,” he said.
“On the global stage, we are seen as a centre with significant capacity, and I think it’s something for us to really celebrate.”
This article originally appeared in The Financial Post