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Samsung Electronics is speeding up its plan to connect everything via its artificial intelligence (AI) voice assistant, Bixby, by taking over a local chatbot startup, Fluenty.

Starting this year, the tech titan has identified “connectivity” as its new catchword, seeking to connect all of the firm’s internet of things (IoT) devices via AI software.

This is part of the company’s efforts to catch up with the AI-driven new paradigm shift in the global tech industry. The company also understands the importance of the connected platform to reduce its heavy reliance on its hardware businesses, such as chips and refrigerators.

On Tuesday, the company announced its acquisition of the Seoul-based startup which holds expertise in natural language learning and big data technologies. The company, established in 2015, consists of a group of nine software developers from the nation’s leading tech companies, including Naver, LG Electronics and KT.

This marked the first time that the company acquired a local startup. Samsung Electronics did not unveil the exact value of the deal.

“The acquisition came as part of our group-wide efforts to connect everything via Bixby,” a Samsung Electronics spokeswoman said. “Toward that end, we need to make a more accurate and natural AI service for which the startup is expected to contribute a lot.”

In October last year, Samsung also took over a U.S. -based AI startup, Viv Labs, seeking to take advantage of its data management and language understanding technology.

At that time, the company unveiled its long-term vision of building an open AI ecosystem under which users will be able to control all their home appliances – including TVs, refrigerators and washing machines – simply by talking to Bixby.

With the debut of the Galaxy S8 this year, the first device equipped with Bixby, Samsung began to crystallize its vision.
Last month, Samsung Electronics’ mobile chief Koh Dong-jin also underlined the importance of so-called “connected thinking” at this year’s Samsung Developer Conference 2017 in San Francisco.

Delivering a keynote speech there, he pledged the company will connect all devices in a more convenient way by teaming up with developers in an open ecosystem.

“Samsung Electronics will join forces with developers here and abroad to build the innovative ecosystem where billions of devices and services can be connected in a safer and faster way,” he said.

“The connected thinking will give a fresh sense of inspiration and infinite experience to the next generation. Developers and business people can also benefit from the infinite opportunities in the connected era.”

To enhance its AI research capabilities, the company also established the AI lab at the University of Montreal in Canada in August as part of its efforts to remain agile in attracting global talent and strengthening its technological expertise in this trendy tech area.

Last year, a consortium, led by the Samsung Strategy and Innovation Center, and Bosch, invested $30 million in U.K. -based AI chipset manufacturer, Graphcore.

Samsung plans to launch Bixby 2.0 in the next few months by making up for some of the shortcomings of the original launched this past May. The upgraded version will be equipped with core technologies from Viv Labs, allowing the platform to understand even more complex sentences with more accuracy.

Samsung’s two core businesses – mobile and consumer electronics – will undergo the biggest AI-driven paradigm shift.
But the firm’s biggest revenue generator, its memory chip business, will also likely enjoy benefits from the rise of AI in the global tech industry. This is because demands for memory chips will continue to rise in line with the development of the industry which requires enormous amounts of big datasets.

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