Telefónica and Microsoft team up on AI, blockchain and edge computing

Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella, left, and Telefónica CEO and Chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete announce their new partnership at Mobile World Congress. (Telefónica)(Microsoft/Telefónica)

Telefónica is deepening its relationship with Microsoft to expand the use of Microsoft Azure for artificial intelligence into customers' homes.

The expanded partnership between Microsoft and Spain-based Telefónica will include a new AI-powered, in-home experience for customer engagement and work to help transform Telefónica’s network by using AI, blockchain, 5G, and edge computing.

Microsoft will work toward helping Telefónica improve its customer engagement and business processes by expanding the use of Azure Cognitive Services closer to the network edge.

“Telefónica is applying cutting-edge technology to its ongoing transformation, pioneering virtualization and softwarization to develop smart, liquid networks ready to be powered by AI," said Telefónica CEO and Chairman José María Álvarez-Pallete in a prepared statement. "Specifically, we are already using AI to enhance our customer relationships and are really excited to work with Microsoft to further harness the power of Azure AI. This agreement strengthens our relationship and our common belief that AI technology and the use of data should be based on solid ethical principles and empower people to control their digital lives.”

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While today's announcement lacked specific details on how some of the projects will be enabled, it did provide a broad overview of several key areas of collaboration. The two companies will look at developing Telefónica's Home as a Computer platform to use Microsoft Cognitive Services and Azure AI services with other Telefónica services.

Telefónica and Microsoft will also look at the creation of an ecosystem of "Apps built on Azure" that will run on all Telefónica devices in home. The apps will allow customers to interact with their devices to do daily activities.

Microsoft and Telefónica will also work on identifying opportunities that pair AI with blockchain, 5G and edge computing. The two companies will collaborate through the creation of a joint working team to explore how AI and machine learning can be applied to optimize its network and reduce costs. The goal is to create proof of concepts to demonstrate how the services and applications can be used for predictive provisioning and demand capacity, among other use cases.

“Telefónica has been a leader in using AI to transform customer engagement, and the strategic partnership we announced today builds on this history of innovation,” said Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft, in the statement. “Together, we will apply the power of Azure and Azure AI to create new, innovative experiences for millions of Telefónica customers around the world and shape the future of Telefónica’s network.”