Thales Creates New Artificial Intelligence Hub in Montreal

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Thales SA, whose products range from aerospace to defense, security and transportation, is opening an artificial intelligence center Montreal and will hire 50 people for the new facility.

The new hub, called the Centre of Research and Technology in Artificial Intelligence eXpertise (cortAIx), will focus on creating solutions for airlines, satellite operators, air traffic controllers, rail operators, armed forces and critical infrastructure managers, Thales said in a statement.

Thales will be committing about C$25 million ($20 million) to the center over the next four to five years, Philippe Keryer, the company’s executive vice-president, strategy, research and technology, said in an interview after a press conference in Montreal. The company chose Montreal due to the wealth of scientists, PhD candidates and universities working in AI. Labor costs in the city are also about 30 percent lower than in the U.S. and government subsidies makes the city an attractive investment, according to Keryer.

Canada is becoming a destination for foreign companies working in AI. San Francisco-based Uber Technologies Inc. set up shop in Toronto earlier this year to help improve its autonomous vehicle software, while Alphabet Inc.’s Google also has an AI presence in Toronto and Montreal. Facebook Inc. and Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd. have also opened AI research labs in the Montreal, Canada’s second-most populous city.

AI is a "national priority" in Canada, Keryer said. The new center will be working with the Google-backed Vector Institute of Toronto, the Artificial Intelligence Institute of Quebec and the Institute of Data Valorization.

Thales’ Montreal facility will also focus on automated trains, an area of interest for Germany’s Deutsche Bahn and France’s SNCF, which are both looking for autonomous train solutions by 2022 or 2023, said Keryer.

“Automated trains are not a myth,” Keryer said. “It’s a project, a road map, a reality.”

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