KT to invest $5.4bn in AI service developments by 2027

Song Jae-ho, head of KT's AI/DX Convergence Business Division, present's the company's AI strategy at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea.

Song Jae-ho, head of KT's AI/DX Convergence Business Division, present's the company's AI strategy at a press conference in Seoul, South Korea.

  • KT (Korea Telecom) has outlined its latest AI-enabled services plans
  • It is focusing its developments on robotics, social and health care and education
  • The South Korean operator is investing US$5.4bn in AI service R&D over the next five years 
  • It is targeting annual AI-driven services revenues of at least US$773m by 2025

For telcos looking to their peers for AI-native inspiration, look no further than South Korea: It is home not only to SK Telecom, which has been developing new AI and extended reality services and brokering multiple industry partnerships for years as part of its strategy to become an AI company, but also to KT Corp. (Korea Telecom), which has just updated its AI-driven service development strategy and set a target to generate annual revenues of at least 1tn South Korean won (KRW) (US$773m) from its customised AI services by 2025.  

KT has been developing AI-enabled applications and services for several years already. In the first quarter of this year, it reported revenues of KRW112.1bn (US$86.5m) from its ‘AI/New Biz’ services (a 4.4% year-on-year increase). This includes not only robotics, logistics and AI-enabled contact centres but a myriad of other applications, including video security, blockchain, ‘smart-space’ services and more. 

In total to date, KT noted in its AI strategy announcement (in Korean) that its cumulative AI-related revenues have totalled KRW800bn (US$618m) and that its “AI business is growing rapidly”.

But now it’s taking its AI strategy to the next level – with a particular focus on robotics, social and health care and education services. It plans to invest KRW7tn (US$5.4bn) by 2027 “to strengthen [our] AI competitiveness for future growth” and has set itself a target of “exceeding KRW1tn in annual sales [from] customised AI businesses, such as AICC [contact centre], AI logistics, AI robots, AI care, and AI training by 2025.”  

To support its goals, KT is developing and relying upon what it calls an “AI full stack” of supporting technology, such as “advanced” cloud platforms and datacentres, AI chips and security systems to help it provision its planned services and develop new AI-enabled business opportunities.

“KT, as Korea’s leading AI company, will apply its accumulated experience, capabilities, infrastructure and know-how to the AI ​​business… to establish itself as a customer-oriented AI service provider,” noted the head of the operator’s AI/DX Convergence Business Division, Song Jae-ho. “We will do our best to raise the level of competitiveness of the AI ​​industry in Korea as a whole, as well as [fuel] KT’s future growth.”

KT points out that its robotics business is focused on services rather than developing hardware products, and is developing its offerings as an ‘AI Robot Service Provider’ based on “integrated control, service intelligence, and core technology scalability.” 

The ​​integrated control platform “collects data from thousands of robots in seconds and analyses 60 million data [points] per day to perform optimisation tasks from installation to operation.” Service intelligence enables “optimised interlocking services for various sites by linking with various solutions such as [the] network environment… kiosk, elevator, and automatic door,” while KT’s robot middleware and heterogeneous multi-robot control technology will enable customers to “easily use robots from various manufacturers with a consistent” user interface and experience, according to KT.  

“The AI ​​robot product lineup is expanding. In addition to the current serving robots, quarantine robots, and indoor delivery robots, we are expanding the outdoor delivery robot service that connects various stores and various residential and office spaces in line with the revision of the robot public road driving law expected in the second half of this year, and inside factories and distribution centres… Furthermore, the goal is to [develop] a ‘customised AI robot service’ that actively responds to the needs of various customers,” the telco added. 

KT’s AI care service will include the launch of a chronic disease-focused remote care service that enables the development of care plans from the analysis of data obtained through apps and smart devices. Its 'AI Food Tag' technology will help with diet management, which is “the core of chronic disease management… applied to remote care services. AI food tag technology allows patients to easily record their dietary intake and “analyse nutritional components with just one picture,” thus avoiding the need to input data. KT’s platform currently recognises “about 1,000 types of Korean food with an accuracy of 96%,” and there are plans to increase this number to about 2,000 (including processed food and meals cooked by third parties such as restaurants) using large data analysis tools. 

KT is also preparing to launch the Genie TV Care service, which will expand the AI Care Service to TV for “care of the vulnerable, such as the elderly living alone. It analyses TV viewing patterns to detect abnormal situations of the elderly” and delivers data to the KT Telecop control centre, local government officials, and guardians.

In response to South Korea’s policy changes that focus on education using digital experiences, KT is developing an educational platform that “reduces the burden on teachers by automating tasks based on digital learning tools, and enables customised learning guidance by automating teaching design, creating customised materials recommended by AI, and automatically analysing learning diagnosis,” while students will be able to customise their own learning plans using the system. 

And, like its local rival SK Telecom, KT isn’t limiting its ambitions to its domestic market:

It is working with Singaporean operator Singtel and a local logistics specialist to develop “an AI transportation platform in Singapore, the logistics hub of East Asia.”

And in Vietnam it plans to establish KT Healthcare Vina “to commercialise AI care services for cancer patients and chronic disease patients” in the second half of this year. 

- Ray Le Maistre, Editorial Director, TelecomTV