As outlined in a joint statement, this will involve Grab adopting Microsoft Azure as its preferred cloud computing platform as it also taps into Microsoft’s artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities, which is a business sector that Microsoft is keen to grow.
“This partnership signals a deep collaboration with Microsoft on an array of technology projects, including big data and artificial intelligence, that will transform the delivery of everyday services and mobility solutions in Southeast Asia,” said Ming Maa, president of Grab.
Among the projects the two companies have in mind are plans to develop new authentication mechanisms, such as facial recognition with built-in AI, to help passengers and drivers recognise each other and so improve user safety.
Grab also plans to work with Microsoft to explore image recognition and computer vision technologies, which would mean passengers being able to take a photo of their current location and have it translated into an actual address for the driver.
Other plans to improve the customer experience include Grab using Microsoft’s real-time translation services and the creation of an AI chatbot to help users engage in interactive experiences.
“We look forward to collaborating with Microsoft in the pursuit of enhancing on-demand transportation and seamless online-to-offline experiences for users,” Ming Maa explained.
Although both companies declined to comment on the size of Microsoft’s investment, a source told the Financial Times that it was about $200m. Furthermore, details about debut investments from two other tech companies will be disclosed in the next few weeks.
News of the Microsoft partnership also comes just days after Reuters reported that SoftBank, the Japanese tech firm, was closing in on a deal to invest $500m in Grab, which so far this year has already raised $2bn from Toyota and institutional investors.
Ming Maa told CNBC that Grab, which operates in 235 cities across eight Southeast Asian countries, was on track to raise about $3bn in funds by the end of this year.
“We cannot comment on sizing but I think what’s probably more important for us is not the sizing, but the quality of the partners,” he said.
Sourced from Microsoft, Grab, Financial Times, Reuters, CNBC; additional content by WARC staff