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On March 24-26, 215 booths showcased the latest artificial intelligence technology at AI Expo Korea – Korea’s only artificial intelligence exhibition. 

Photo: AI Times

Organized by Korea Artificial Intelligence Association, Seoul Messe, and Artificial Intelligence Times, AI Expo Korea 2021 took place at Coex Convention Center for people to discover and celebrate companies pioneering in the local AI industry. 

This year, 150+ companies including Naver, Microsoft, and Megazone Cloud participated from various industries

  • AI Elemental Technologies: AI Chip/CPU/GPU/FPGA/TPU/BPU, Machine learning, Natural language processing, Deep learning, Reasoning & learning function, Image recognition, AI computing, AI solution, AI platform, etc.
  • AI Applications & Services: Smart data, Medical & Healthcare, Financial business, Security, Secretary, Predictive Maintenance, AI Consulting, AI Marketing & Advertisement, Smart education systems, etc.
  • AI Telecom & Mobile: Smart retail, Smart home platform, 5G network/cloud, Financial intelligent device, Hardware/Software development platform, VR/AR, etc.
  • AI IoT & Manufacturing: Smart Factory, Production lines, Industrial robots, IoT, Manufacturing/Distribution/Retail, etc.
  • AI Smart City & IoT: Autonomous driving, Smart energy, Smart city construction, Smart building, Smart agriculture, Smart logistics, etc.
  • AI & Robotics: AI service robot, Agricultural robot, Security robot, Disaster relief robot, Medical robot, Special robot, etc.

*Disclaimer: The logos have been used to visually guide and showcase descriptions of some of the participating companies but I do not own the rights.  

Through AI Expo Korea, event participants were able to grasp the imminent impact of artificial intelligence on society with specific business strategies, use cases and implementation discussed and showcased throughout the exhibition. This year in particular, there was a special zone called ‘Untact AI’ that covered COVID19-related technologies such as thermal cameras for COVID-19 fever detection and online education solutions. 

Photo: The Korea Industry Daily

Investment Matching IR Competition ‘AI Rocket Launcher Day Season 1’ also launched during the exhibition, allowing 24 Korean AI startups to pitch their ideas to potential investors. 

What is the significance of having an AI exhibition in Korea? The International Data Corporation (IDC), a market research company based in Framingham, Massachusetts, predicts that global revenues will surpass $300 billion in 2024. In 2020, South Korea was one of the top 3 countries leading in AI patent applications (532), with China (4636) and USA (1416) leading the industry. LG Electronics – a South Korean multinational electronics company – was the top company globally leading the way in patent application filings in 2020 with 731 applications. However, South Korea ranks lower when counting the number of AI startups: It did not make it to the top 10 list by RS Components

What does this imply? To see how AI is being used or perceived in different sectors, the Korea Development Institute (KDI) conducted a survey of 1,000 companies. The report published in January 2021 revealed that Korean conglomerates made up 91.7 percent of all AI-using companies – which also means 8.3 percent of small and medium-sized enterprises have adopted artificial intelligence technology. However, the most shocking revelation was the fact that only 3.6 percent of Korean companies have adopted artificial intelligence technology.

Many countries see AI as providing a competitive edge, not only economically, but militarily, says Husain. He likens the competition in AI to the Space Race of the mid-twentieth century, in which the US and the Soviet Union vied to be the first to achieve milestones in space travel. “The Space Race yielded contributions that differentiated the American technological ecosystem from all others for decades to come,” says Husain. “If a country invests heavily in this area, it will yield technologies that will form the pillar of defence capability and economic differentiation for the rest of the century (Nature, Dec 9, 2020).” 

Hosting events like AI Expo Korea is crucial because it encourages the nation to diversify its AI industry and potential horizontally as well as vertically. Low adoption rate of AI technology should be a wakeup call but also an opportunity. With some of the biggest Korean conglomerates leading the way with artificial intelligence, the country should nurture an ecosystem where smaller companies feel confident and competent to solve problems using the latest technology. Whether it be providing research and development support, offering training for AI personnel, or building proper infrastructure and improving regulations, Korea will hopefully be seeing a lot of changes in the future before the next AI Expo Korea.  

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