Microsoft and Grab announce partnership for investment, facial recognition, and other upgrades

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Photo: Microsoft

Software giant Microsoft is investing millions into ride-hailing company Grab, in an unprecedented partnership deal that involves not only an infusion of cash but also facial recognition technology and other technological innovations.

The Financial Times reported that the total amount of Microsoft’s investment is around $200 million. However, Grab has denied that this figure is accurate, but has chosen not to disclose the amount of the investment.

Microsoft also stands to gain from this deal, since it stipulates that the South East Asian ride hailing company will be using Azure, Microsoft’s “preferred” cloud platform.

Among the technological innovations that Microsoft will help Grab develop is real time software for translation, along with facial recognition technologies that allow drivers and passengers to recognize each other.

The president of Grab, Ming Ma, said, “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.”

A spokesman for Microsoft said, “Grab is uniquely positioned to drive innovation in a market and industry that’s ripe with opportunity. We see great potential in Grab as an innovative tech player in the region, and look forward to partnering with them on a part of the advancement and adoption of digital services across Southeast Asia.”

While this is the first time Microsoft is investing in Grab, it has invested in ride-hailing companies in the past, such as Uber, in 2015. Last year, the tech giant invested in Ola Cabs, an online transportation network in India, for building in-car entertainment and a connected car platform through Azure, Microsoft’s service for cloud-computing.

Neither is Microsoft the only international investor that has inked a partnership with Grab. On October 5 Japan’s SoftBank announced that a $500 million investment into the company.

This would raise Grab’s valuation to nearly $12 billion, according to what sources told The Financial Times.