India’s largest telecom service provider Bharti Airtel, is in advanced stages to set up a digital innovation lab in Bengaluru to work on emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) as part of its broader strategy to develop strong in-house technology capabilities, reported Economic Times (ET).

Airtel has identified these technologies (AI, IoT, AR and VR) as a big focus area, and will establish the lab in Bengaluru under its digital innovation project -- Project Next -- for which it will invest $2,000 crore (~ US$307 million apprx.) over three years to bring digital solutions to the market, said the ET report.

The new innovation lab, which will house 150-odd tech specialists, will help the Airtel to develop and identify new use cases around AI, IoT and other emerging technologies.

Bharti Airtel, which is headed by Sunil Mittal, is also looking to collaborate with tech startups to share learnings from the lab and co-create solutions.

Additionally, Airtel is also looking at some of India’s top engineering colleges to get talent on board and may even tap talent from the Silicon Valley.

The ET report also said that Airtel is bringing the AI technology first in the call centres to really help Airtel customer-care executives to resolve customer issues by bringing predictability. With this, Airtel customer-care executives know the problem before the customers start to face it. In addition, there will be a lot of AI-based applications as well.

Bharti Airtel is also planning to enter the home automation or smart home segment with its IoT and machine-to-machine solutions in a move aimed at expanding its revenue base.

Airtel is currently transforming itself into a major digital operator in India especially at times when its 4G rival Reliance Jio, with its free plans, is fast outracing all other telecom operators in India

Notably, few days back Reliance Jio and Samsung Electronics have joined hands to set up a cellular Internet of Things (IoT) network across India. The companies have said they will continue their partnership to bring LTE coverage to 99% of the Indian population and significantly improve network capacity across India. Both the companies are touting it as India's first IoT Network.

To recall, last year in February, Tata Telecommunications and American multinational IT firm Hewlett Packard (HP) have had announced that both are working together to build an IoT network in India and this will be and this will be the world’s largest IoT network.

Coming back to Airtel strategies related to startups in the country, in June last year, the telco had rolled out a first of its kind dedicated digital platform to aid the development of SMBs and startups in the India.

Later in September, it launched 'Office-In-a-Box’, a suite of connectivity solutions specially designed for start-ups, available to over 1000 start-ups registered with the Karnataka Start-Up Cell.

Few months back from this, Airtel also acquired a strategic equity stake in Seynse, a fintech startup based out of Goa.

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