Artificial Intelligence

ServiceNow buys artificial intelligence pioneer Element AI


ServiceNow Inc. is beefing up its artificial intelligence development capabilities with the acquisition today of a company called Element AI Inc. that’s widely known as one of the pioneers in the field.

Montreal-based Element AI launched back in 2016 as a professional services firm focused on helping traditional enterprises implement machine learning. The startup garnered significant industry attention from the outset thanks in part to its high-profile co-founder, the well-known deep learning researcher Yoshua Bengio, who won the Turing Award in 2018 for his contributions to the field.

Element AI has gradually expanded its focus since its launch by creating a fund to support fellow machine learning companies and introducing ready-made AI tools.

The company’s offerings include Knowledge Scout, a search engine for manufacturers that speeds up the diagnosis and repair of production line issues by giving technicians relevant information about previous incidents with similar characteristics. Another product, Task Orchestration, provides suggestions for streamlining day-to-day operations at retail stores.

ServiceNow, which sells cloud automation tools that help enterprises automate parts of their business that involve service delivery and other functions, said the acquisition will enable it to enhance its Now Platform. The company made AI a key ingredient of its popular IT Service Management Pro, Customer Service Management Pro and HR Service Delivery Pro products with its Now Platform Orlando release in March.

Those new capabilities, called Now Intelligence, make it easier for customers to surface relevant information more easily, understand content and conversations, make predictions and recommendations based on what it finds, and automate manual tasks.

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“Element AI’s powerful capabilities will empower customers to focus on areas where only humans excel, such as creative thinking, customer interactions and unpredictable work,”said ServiceNow Chief AI Officer Vijay Narayanan. “That’s a smarter way to workflow.”

The company will also create a new AI Innovation Hub at Element AI’s base in Montreal that will focus on accelerating customer-focused AI innovation within its main Now Platform. Bengio, meanwhile, will serve as a technical adviser for ServiceNow.

Constellation Research Inc. analyst Holger Mueller likens AI in enterprise software to the advent of dynamite in mining and construction, saying it has the potential to be a game changer with massive upsides, yet equally deep challenges.

“Enterprise software vendors know they need to up their AI game in order to automate digital transformation, and that is happening today with ServiceNow buying Element AI, a pioneer in AI research,” Mueller said. “This acquisition gives ServiceNow some immediate new platform AI capabilities in addition to a well respected research team. The next step is for the company to apply this to the future of workflow, which changes the future of work.”

Many of ServiceNow’s existing AI capabilities come from acquisitions. In January it bought a company called Loom Systems Ltd. that sold AI software used to monitor information technology infrastructure. It also acquired a chatbot development company called Passage AI Inc. that same month, and in June, it bought Sweagle NV for its configuration data management platform.

ServiceNow said it hopes to complete the acquisition of Element AI early next year.

Image: ServiceNow

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