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Telenor establishes AI lab and plans Norwegian IoT network

Steve Rogerson
August 24, 2016
 
In collaboration with research institute Sintef, Telenor is establishing a laboratory focused on artificial intelligence and big data at the Norwegian University of Science & Technology (NTNU) in Trondheim, Norway. Telenor also plans to develop and launch a dedicated, next-generation IoT network in several Norwegian cities.
 
Norwegian start-ups and students will get cost-free access to the IoT network to develop and test their products and services. The first pilot will be located in Oslo, in collaboration with StartupLab.
 
“We need to build critical competencies within artificial intelligence and we want to give Norwegian start-ups the resources they need to succeed,” said Sigve Brekke, president and CEO of Telenor. “This is imperative for our ability to seize digital opportunities and contribute to creating new jobs. Start-ups play a key role in net job creation. We aim to stimulate productivity in Norway by developing new competencies and supporting the start-up community.”
 
The AI lab at NTNU will conduct research and run innovation programmes within artificial intelligence and big data. The lab will research how machines can contribute to developing services by identifying structures and hidden knowledge in large data sets. It will rely in part on data from next generation Iota networks such as the one Telenor will pilot with StartupLab.
 
“Internet of things is changing everything,” said Per Einar Dybvik, partner at StartupLab. “With the availability of tiny, affordable sensors, we observe how today’s start-ups assume all products will be connected to the internet at some point. This is why providing them with cost-free access to a next-generation IoT network from Telenor is of critical importance. StartupLab hosts more than 100 start-ups every year and the availability of the Telenor network has been warmly received in our community.”
 
To support Norwegian companies aiming at taking an international position within artificial intelligence, the lab will work closely with the industry, research institutions, academia and the start-up community. Sintef will contribute actively to projects at the lab and ensure tight integration with the Norwegian industry at large.
 
“Digitalisation, big data, internet of things and artificial intelligence are strategic focus areas where Sintef already possess considerable capabilities,” said Alexandra Bech Gjørv, president of Sintef. “The Norwegian research community plays a central role in introducing new digital competencies that contribute to increased competitive thrust for Norwegian industry. By creating an AI lab in collaboration with Telenor and NTNU, we provide Norway with new capacity in leveraging the value of big data.”
 
Telenor’s agreements with NTNU, Sintef and StartupLab have an initial horizon of five years. The total cost is estimated at more than NOK50m over a five-year period.
 
“The AI Lab allows us to strengthen research and innovation within artificial intelligence and big data,” said Gunnar Bovim, rector at NTNU. “More resources, equipment and research positions empower us to solve projects that provide Norwegian companies with competitive advantages on the international, digital arena. The collaboration will accelerate Norway´s journey towards a digital future and elevate our academic capabilities within areas where Norway must play in the top league internationally.”
 
These initiatives are the latest addition to Telenor’s broad global approach to supporting start-ups, including accelerator programmes across eight of its markets with a total of 70 start-ups supported in 2016 alone.
 
“Over the next 20 years, artificial intelligence will be the driving force behind all processes, shape all services and become integrated in most products across industries and usage areas,” said Bjørn-Taale Sandberg, head of Telenor Research. “With every day that passes, with every search in Google, purchase in Amazon or Like on Facebook, the AI of a handful of dominant players make it increasingly less interesting for consumers to test out alternatives. There is a real risk that the most fundamental technology of the 21st century will be dominated by a few large companies unless we take the necessary steps. By launching the AI lab at NTNU and by empowering our start-ups, we contribute directly to taking those steps.”