The 15th edition of the Rakuten Technology Conference focused on the company’s bold plans for ‘AI-nization’, with Sharad Sriwastawa, Co-CEO of Rakuten Mobile, sharing his take on the ways that artificial intelligence can streamline the company’s mobile operations and improve customer service.
Rakuten’s expansive, consolidated data lake provides the internet services company with a leading edge in developing applications for artificial intelligence network operations (AIOps) and generative AI, Rakuten Mobile Co-CEO Sharad Sriwastawa said during a fireside chat with Handelsblatt’s Martin Koelling titled AI Operations in a Next Generation Network.
The session took place during the 15th edition of the Rakuten Technology Conference at Rakuten’s Tokyo HQ which brought together a variety of AI-focused talks from global business leaders and tech experts.
“We integrate our diverse data into a unified data lake. With our capacity to gather and synchronize vast data sets, we are well positioned for a major leap ahead of other operators in the AI landscape.”Sharad Sriwastawa, Co-CEO, Rakuten Mobile
Sriwastawa also used the opportunity to underline the operator’s wide-reaching opportunities in AI and outline his vision for Rakuten Mobile to become a global leader in sustainable and customer-centric network operations through the use of AI technology.
AI is only as good as your data
“Our biggest advantage is the uniqueness of our network,” he said. “The distinctiveness of our network lies in our unified data lake. It’s a single database that combines data from a range of services. The ability to combine all this data where data sets can interact with each other is our biggest advantage and it’s crucial for generative AI. AI is only as good as your data. If your data is in silos, the silos don’t talk to each other and that doesn’t yield much benefit. It’s the elimination of these data silos that gives us a significant edge in the AI space.”
Rakuten Mobile: A level ahead in its automation journey
Sriwastawa went on to compare Rakuten Mobile’s quest for optimal automation and AI use to that of the automotive industry. “Our final aim is similar to that of connected car makers,” he said. “Let’s say there are levels one to five in an automation journey – while others are at level three, I believe Rakuten Mobile is at level four. We are not there yet, where things are completely autonomous – that’s what I’d call level five – but we are working towards it. What is changing now inside the company is an attempt to make use of generative AI to optimize internal processes. People expected robotics to come before connected cars, but connected cars came first. So, between where we are today and reaching a point of artificial general intelligence, I think there’ll be something in between.”
Improving the customer experience with AI
Enhancing the customer experience was another key area that Sriwastawa highlighted as being ripe for improvement with AI tools. “With access to comprehensive data, we can proactively identify customers at risk of churn by analyzing network performance, handset issues, billing irregularities and customer complaints,” he said “This holistic data perspective is unattainable in legacy systems.”
“Rakuten Mobile is committed to harnessing AI to dramatically lower power consumption across our network.”
He went on to highlight the actionable benefits of this data integration, “With all this data centralized, we can leverage generative AI for channel prediction. This enables us to anticipate customer behavior and take preemptive measures to mitigate churn. Based on these insights, our marketing team can tailor promotions or initiate contact to address potential issues, thereby enhancing the overall customer experience on our network.”
Rakuten Mobile is transforming the way customer experiences are managed, predicting and addressing issues to improve overall service quality for its customers.
The power consumption question
Advanced analytics tools can also be used to reduce Rakuten Mobile’s power consumption and become a global leader in sustainable network operations, Sriwastawa said. “How can we improve our operational efficiency? We are exploring ways to leverage AI to significantly reduce power usage in our sites and data centers. Just as light sensors in buildings adjust to the level of activity, we believe our network should be able to do the same. For Rakuten Mobile, we have to reduce power consumption by using AI. We aim to achieve 20-30% power savings by strategically shutting down servers during off-peak periods. By intelligently managing our power consumption based on user activity, we can significantly improve our operational efficiency, reduce costs and also contribute to sustainability efforts.”
Sriwastawa also emphasized the potential of Rakuten AI for Business, the new platform powered by Open AI. “From a Rakuten mobile perspective, we are using a rich communication system. We have a vision to have an AI agent within our ‘Link’ mobile application to evolve into a personal agent for each customer by leveraging AI’s learning capabilities and the wealth of data we possess. This personal AI agent could provide hyper personalized recommendations, proactive issue resolution and tailored communication. It could even understand the best times to interact with each user, ensuring that our communication is not only personalized, but also timely, providing a uniquely tailored mobile experience for each Rakuten user.”