Unilever accelerates AI, graph technology with new global lab

The latest step in Unilever’s new corporate strategy includes the opening of its first global artificial intelligence lab, where it intends to accelerate the technology’s use across a range of functions.

The lab, located in Toronto and known as Horizon3 Labs, will initially focus on forecasting and modeling data relationships with graph technology, the latter of which will be a new application for the company.

Gary Bogdani, Unilever’s head of data science for North America and Canada D&A, said the ability of graph technology to represent complex data in simple ways can facilitate visual representation of data and relationships, among other benefits.

“They can also power recommendation engines by identifying connections between consumers and products and support collaborative and social applications by efficiently managing connections between users, posts and interactions,” he noted in a statement.

Horizon3 Labs will also focus on generating insights for trends, patterns and predictions. In addition to the three initial applications are No. 6 publicly owned consumer goods company has identified 15 core focus areas for AI.

Unilever currently has more than 400 uses of artificial intelligence, including combining artificial intelligence with imaging technology within 50,000 ice cream freezers to help the company’s retail partners manage their inventory and place new orders. The technology, which has reportedly boosted sales by up to 35% for retailers, also enables sellers to leverage the data for promotions.

Unilever said it is also using generative artificial intelligence in customer service and marketing, as well as advanced analytics and machine learning in the supply chain and logistics.

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Horizon3 Labs model

Initiatives at Horizon3 Labs will follow a “hybrid” model, embedding academic researchers and executives from startups, and the work will eventually be incorporated across Unilever’s global business.

Andy Hill, Unilver Chief Data Officer, said in a statement that the establishment of the laboratory in Toronto will provide access to top technology talent and business partners.

“Unilever is making a significant investment in developing and deploying AI technology across the business and the launch of the Unilever AI Lab will accelerate the progress we are making globally and enable us to have the right focus on technological innovation,” he noted.

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