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How Vodafone Turbocharges AI

Vodafone AI Booster Platform: Supercharging AI & ML at Scale

Vodafone, one of the largest telecommunications industries globally, leads in building next-generation connectivity and a sustainable digital future. With the innovative Vodafone AI Booster Platform, they’re pushing boundaries, investing in new technology to shape tomorrow’s digital landscape. For Vodafone, a key driver is the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), enabling predictive capabilities in enhancing the customer experienceimproving network performance, accelerating advances in research, and much more. 

Following 18 months of hard work, Vodafone has made a huge leap forward in advancing its AI capabilities at scale with the launch of its “AI Booster” AI / ML platform. Led by the Global Big Data & AI organization under Vodafone Commercial, the platform will use the latest Google technology to enable the next generation of AI use cases, such as optimizing customer experiences, customer loyalty, and product recommendations, contributing significantly to the company’s digital transformation.

Vodafone’s Commercial team has long focused on advancing its AI and ML capabilities to drive business results. Additionally, embedding AI/ML into organizations and deploying ML use cases at scale in regulated industries requires infrastructure, skills, and processes.

Having made meaningful strides in extracting value from data by moving it into a single source of truth on Google Cloud, Vodafone had already significantly increased efficiency, reduced data costs, and improved data quality. This enabled a plethora of use cases that generate business value using analytics and data science. The next step was building industrial scale ML capability, capable of handling thousands of ML models a day across 8+ countries, while streamlining data science processes and keeping up with technological growth. 

Knowing they had to do something drastically different to scale successfully, along came the idea for AI Booster. Subsequently, our vision was to enable rapid creation and scaling of use cases with an automated, standardized approach using new Google technology. This platform aimed to provide cutting-edge machine learning solutions tailored to our specific needs.

“We knew it wouldn’t be easy. People said, ‘Shoot for the stars and you might get off the ground…’ Today, we’re really proud that AI Booster is truly taking off, and went live in almost double the markets we had originally planned. Together, we’ve used the best possible ML Ops tools and created Vodafone’s “AI Booster Platform” to make data scientists’ lives easier, maximize value, and take co-creation and scaling of use cases globally to another level,” says Cornelia Schaurecker, Global Group Director for Big Data & AI at Vodafone, leveraging the power of Google Cloud technology.

AI Booster: A Scalable, Unified ML Platform Built Entirely on Google Cloud

Vodafone in AI

Google’s Vertex AI lets customers build, deploy, and scale ML models faster, with pre-trained and custom tooling within a unified platform. Built upon Vertex AI, Vodafone’s AI Booster is a fully managed cloud-native platform that integrates seamlessly with Vodafone’s Neuron platform, a data ocean built on Google Cloud. 

Ashish Vijayvargia, Vodafone’s Analytics Product Lead, emphasizes the significance of building a cutting-edge MLOps platform with Google Cloud.

Indeed, while Vertex AI serves as the cornerstone of the platform, it transcends mere functionality. Furthermore, Cloud Build, Artifact Registry and Cloud Functions automate tasks, driving efficiency and minimizing operational overhead and deployment times.

Presently, users simply complete an online form, and subsequently, within minutes, obtain a fully functional AI Booster environment complete with all the requisite guardrails, controls, and approvals. Previously, moving a model from PoC to production took months. Now, with MLOps, it’s faster, cost-effective, and secure. PoC-to-production can now be as little as four weeks, an 80% reduction.

Vodafone’s AI Booster Product Manager, Sebastian Mathalikunnel, highlights key features: a scalable ML platform for diverse business use cases.

For this, we needed innovative solutions to make it both technically and commercially feasible. Selecting a few highlights, we: 

  1. completely automated ML lifecycle compliance activities (drift / skew detection, explainability, auditability, etc.) via reusable pipelines, containers, and managed services; 
  2. embedded security by design into the heart of the platform;
  3. capitalized on Google-native ML tooling using BQML, AutoML, Vertex AI and others;
  4. accelerated adoption through standardized and embedded ML templates.”

For the last point, Datatonic, a Google Cloud data and AI partner, was instrumental in building reusable MLOps Turbo Templates, a reference implementation of Vertex Pipelines, to accelerate building a production-ready MLOps solution on Google Cloud.  

From the start, we knew the extent of change Vodafone was embarking on with AI Booster. Through this open-source codebase, we’ve created a common standard for deploying ML models at scale on Google Cloud.

Jamie Curtis, Datatonic’s MLOps Practice Lead, underscores the significant benefits that arise when scaling AI across hundreds of data scientists.

Reimagining the Data Scientist & Machine Learning Engineer Experience 

With the new technology platform in place, driving adoption across geographies and markets is the next challenge. The technology and process changes have a considerable impact on people’s roles, learning, and ways of working. For data scientists, non-core work now is supported by machines in the background—literally at the click of a button. They can spend time doing what they do best and discovering new tools to help them do the job. 

With AI Booster, data scientists and ML engineers have already started to drive greater value and collaborate on innovative solutions. Additionally, AI Booster, supported by Google Cloud, actively fosters a culture of experimentation and learning through instructor-led and on-demand learning paths.

Together We Can 

AI Booster, 18 months in development, owes its success to dedicated teams from Vodafone, Datatonic, and Google Cloud.

Cornelia attributes the achievement solely to Vodafone and Google Cloud’s remarkable technology and teams. Moreover, they exhibited flexibility by actively listening to their requirements and tweaking their products accordingly. Aligned with Vodafone’s ethos, they foster rapid experimentation, optimizing value for customers and the business effectively. Gratitude extends to Datatonic, an indispensable partner throughout this journey, as well as Intel for their invaluable funding contribution.

The Google & Vodafone partnership continues to go from strength to strength, and together, we are accelerating the digital future and finding new ways to keep people connected. 

The Vodafone AI Booster Platform revolutionizes telecommunications with cutting-edge artificial intelligence solutions. Moreover, by harnessing the power of AI, Vodafone empowers businesses to optimize their operations and enhance customer experiences.

“Vodafone’s flourishing relationship with Google Cloud is a vital aspect of our evolution toward becoming a world-leading tech communications company. Cengiz Ucbenli, Vodafone’s Global Head of Big Data and AI, emphasizes AI’s role in scalable solutions for business challenges.

Find out more about the work Google Cloud is doing to help Vodafone here. To learn more about how Vertex AI capabilities continue to evolve, read about our recent Applied ML Summit.

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