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SK Telecom to put AI assistants in CU stores

July 25,2017
A staff of a CU convenience store uses SK Telecom’s voice-powered assistant Nugu to answer questions of customers on Friday. [SK TELECOM]
SK Telecom has signed a deal with BGF Retail, which operates the major convenient store chain CU, to provide artificial-intelligence assistants to help staff at stores across Korea, the mobile carrier said on Monday.

The first step will be to install SK Telecom’s voice-powered assistant, Nugu, at each CU shop so that instead of calling shop owners, employees can simply ask Nugu questions such as, “How much does it cost for parcel delivery from Seoul to Jeju?”

Also, when headquarter guidelines are updated or new promotion events on products are decided, Nugu can immediately notify workers using its lamp light.

“Due to the nature of working conditions at convenience stores, workers at shops frequently change,” a spokesperson from BGF Retail said. “With an AI assistant, newbies can easily jump into the job and we expect operation efficiency and customer satisfaction will improve.”

According to the mobile carrier, its AI assistant may also be able to alert police stations or hospitals of emergency situations, though the device will not be able to make calls without an employee’s authorization.

Released last September, Nugu offers over 20 services to home users, including music and announcing the results of sports games. Test services will start during the first half of next year.

“We hope to constantly upgrade AI-based retail services at convenient stores in cooperation with BGF Retail,” said Lee Sang-ho, head of AI business at SK Telecom.

The AI speaker market has become a battlefield for Korean telecommunications companies and IT giants such as Naver and Kakao. While these speakers have mostly focused on home services, tough competition is set to help the market diversify.

Kakao, which will roll out its first AI assistant during the third quarter this year, announced earlier this month that it will create an interface that fits not only homes but also cars and offices.


BY KIM JEE-HEE [kim.jeehee@joongang.co.kr]


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