France is looking to become a “global champion of digital technology” by honing in on one aspect of its tech scene: artificial intelligence. Some of Silicon Valley’s largest tech companies are setting their sights on the capital city of Paris as plans to expand and build AI-dedicated labs are underway. While Paris may be poised to be Europe’s new AI hub, some of the continent’s largest software companies are looking at cities all across France, investing billions in research and development over the next five years as part of a plan to place France—and Europe—at the forefront of AI innovation. Let’s take a look at the plans unfolding in Paris and how some of Europe’s more cash-strapped cities can adopt these advancements in AI to drive forward their own digital infrastructure.-Bruno De Man
AI progress in Paris
Two major players in the AI game—Alphabet Inc.’s Google and Facebook Inc.—recently announced plans for AI expansion in Paris, with Facebook pledging to invest €10 million over the next five years in its current AI lab in Paris, improving equipment hardware and doubling its team to 100 people by 2022. Google, meanwhile, plans to create an AI lab that is similar to its current team of engineers in Paris working on development for Chrome and YouTube, focusing on research areas like automatic learning, language and a computer’s ability to see. According to Google Inc. CEO Sundar Pichai, France’s achievements in sciences, arts, and academia “make it an ideal home for an AI research hub.” Not only will France serve as a hub for AI development, Google is also setting up hubs across the country (the first of which will debut in Rennes later this year) offering free training to boost digital literacy with a goal of providing online skill training to 100,000 people per year.
The research and training programmes taking place in the capital may help other cities across Europe that have smaller budgets and lack the financial means to invest in development themselves. According to an article on Raconteur, “cities consume over two-thirds of world energy and account for 70 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions,” with infrastructure being one of the biggest hurdles in the process of making cities more sustainable. Take Malta’s capital of Valletta, for example. Malta is one of the top urbanized nations in the world, but like many other cities in rapidly developing countries, Valletta’s infrastructure “urgently needs improving.” Upgrades are underway as the city invested almost €11 million to ready itself as 2018 Capital of Culture. But as AI development progresses, this technology may help cities such as this one take advantage of existing data to develop better infrastructure design without the issue of finance stepping in the way.