Artificial intelligence is revolutionizing industries and businesses generating demand for AI engineers and artificial intelligence solution providers. From virtual personal assistants, face recognition and grammar checkers to smart home devices, smart cars, and robotic servants – AI-based solutions are taking over our personal and business lives.
According to Statista, artificial intelligence market will only continue to expand and generate bigger revenues in the future.
Meanwhile, businesses often face difficulties in implementing AI solutions because developing this expertise in-house is cost- and time-consuming. Also, there is great demand for software developers experienced in artificial intelligence and thus the competition for talent is extremely strong. Therefore, many companies start cooperation with AI development vendors and hire extended teams of engineers.
Indeed, outsourcing AI development gives a plethora of advantages. First of all, you get access to a larger pool of AI and machine learning experts. Secondly, offshore vendors usually offer a better price-quality ratio. Also, this gives businesses more flexibility and reduces time to market.
Since there are many software development vendors who claim to have vast AI engineering expertise, we have tried to establish some criteria for choosing the most competent provider and factors that are going to determine the success of the project.
Artificial intelligence solution providers in Europe
During recent years, Europe has made colossal progress in developing AI and machine learning expertise. According to State of European Tech 2017, Europe is positioned to become a world leader in AI engineering. Also, European AI companies have raised more than $4.6B since 2012 for more than 1,000 deals.
Source: The State of European Tech 2017 Full Report
As for AI engineers who drive the industry growth, they mostly work for innovative AI startups and Big Techs which have large R&D centres and invest heavily in this technology.
As a result, it’s difficult for medium-sized and especially non-tech companies to compete for these scarce specialists. Even large enterprises usually don’t go into trouble building their own AI engineering teams. Instead, they partner with software development vendors who can cover this expertise for them.
AI solution development in Eastern Europe
While Western Europe boasts a lot of experienced AI engineers, Eastern European countries offer an additional talent pool and lower development costs. There are many established IT outsourcing companies that have developed solid AI expertise in the region.
Some IT providers offer a vast variety of software development services including machine learning and artificial intelligence (e.g., N-iX, one of the leading software development companies in Eastern Europe). Others have a narrow focus on AI, machine learning, and related technologies (e.g., BotsCrew, a software development company specializing primarily in chatbot development).
Therefore, Eastern Europe is becoming more and more attractive to those who outsource their software development. It has a good business climate, talented developers, rapid IT market growth, and cultural proximity to Western Europe and the USA.
Moreover, the number of artificial intelligence solution providers in this region is growing rapidly. The Clutch data shows that such countries as Ukraine and Poland have leading positions by the number of AI providers even compared to the Western European countries.
So, let’s take a closer look at Ukraine and Poland – popular software outsourcing destinations in CEE with quite a few AI development vendors.
AI engineering market. Ukraine
Software development market in Ukraine is evolving rapidly and so does artificial intelligence. There are more and more vendors offering different AI solutions for businesses.
According to Clutch, 28 Ukrainian companies deliver artificial intelligence solutions compared to 226 vendors worldwide. Meanwhile, LinkedIn shows that there are over 2,000 software developers in Ukraine specializing in artificial intelligence.
The community of AI engineers in Ukraine is growing year by year. There are many conferences devoted to artificial intelligence and machine learning such as AI & Big Data Day, AI Ukraine – International conference on artificial intelligence, BotCamp Kyiv, etc. Their increasing number shows the interest in the technology and growth of the AI development community.
Moreover, several renowned Ukrainian startups actively use AI in their solutions. For instance, the US-Ukrainian startup Grammarly has Natural Language Processing technology at its core. It has one of the leading positions worldwide as a writing-enhancement tool. Also, Petcube, a highly crowdfunded Ukrainian startup, uses machine learning and artificial intelligence for its pet detection technology.
AI engineering market. Poland
The Polish artificial intelligence market is not lagging behind. In Poland, AI investment is mainly driven by venture capital and grants. It reached 11 million euro in 2016 that is almost equal to AI seed and venture-capital investment in Sweden, a well-known tech hub.
The country has vast potential in artificial intelligence since there are many STEM graduates as well as evolving startup environment. Also, there is a number of Polish startups present internationally. One of them is IVONA. Acquired by Amazon in 2013, it develops high-quality text to speech technology and the voice guide. Also, there is Nethone – a Poland-based startup offering fraud prevention.
Clutch database contains 24 software development companies offering AI-based solutions in Poland. Meanwhile, according to LinkedIn, there are around 3,350 artificial intelligence developers in Poland.
The Polish AI community is developing actively so there are many conferences and events in Poland on AI. They include International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Soft Computing (ICAISC), International Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Pattern Recognition, International Symposium Advances in Artificial Intelligence and Applications, to name a few.
Cooperation with AI solution providers: success stories
There are many companies which outsourced their artificial intelligence development to IT vendors in Eastern Europe and gained benefits from such cooperation. Let’s take a look at some examples.
Mercanto is a London-based company providing drag-and-drop AI personalization for email marketing. Mercanto’s machine learning engine makes it possible to build personalized e-mail campaigns and thus boosts customer engagement and conversion rates.
The company started cooperation with N-iX – one of the leading software development providers in Eastern Europe in 2017. Besides AI and Machine Learning expertise, the company has considerable experience in Data Science, Big Data, Business Intelligence, fraud detection, intelligent cybersecurity, and more.
The dedicated development team provides by N-iX to deliver Mercanto project consists of senior Scala developers, machine learning and AI programmers, front-end developers, and QA engineers. N-iX team is building machine learning algorithms as well as advanced NLP software for the platform.
Musement is a platform that allows travelers to book tickets to museums, shows, art events, etc. The company teamed with BotsCrew, a chatbot development company with offices in Lviv (Ukraine) and London.
The outsourcing provider developed a chatbot for Facebook Messenger for Musement. The chatbot enables users to search for attractions and buy tickets just in one click. Also, it understands misspellings and mistakes as well as “what” and “where” searches. As a result, the vendor helped open a new channel for Musement users.
Gogo, a North-American leader in in-flight connectivity, is another company that partnered with N-iX and set up a team extension in Eastern Europe.
N-iX gathered a dedicated team of developers experienced in AWS, Apache Spark, Tableau, Hadoop, R, Scala, and other technologies to deliver solutions for its partner. N-iX specialists are engaged in Big Data, Data Science, BI, and data analytics.
What to consider when choosing AI solution provider
A company needs to consider a number of factors when choosing an artificial intelligence solution provider. Here are some of them:
Proven AI engineering experience
To choose a competent AI development vendor, you will have to sift through many companies which claim to have vast AI expertise. As this is a relatively new but very hot field, many companies lack practical experience in AI engineering but still want to jump on the bandwagon of AI. Therefore, it’s important to do thorough research.
First of all, you should study the portfolio and case studies of the company. You need to find out what exactly a software development vendor worked on and which artificial intelligence solutions they delivered. Check out whether a provider has any experience in different kinds of machine learning (supervised, unsupervised, and reinforcement), data structures and algorithms, computer vision, NLP, etc.
Moreover, learn about the industries the company vendor works in. Every industry has its specifics so it’s preferable that the software development provider has relevant experience in your industry.
Expertise in AI technologies
Artificial intelligence encompasses a vast variety of technologies and development practices. When choosing an AI solution provider, make sure the engineers have expertise in different programming languages and frameworks. They include Python, R (two most common languages for writing machine learning algorithms), C (good for computer vision), Scala (has great scalability), Hadoop, Lisp, TensorFlow, Caffe, Torch, etc.
When it comes to a development team, make sure there are professional data scientists and data engineers. Data scientists are responsible for cleaning and organizing data, and deploying algorithms. Data engineers develop architectures for the project and ensure the system scalability. Also, if you need to build an image recognition or speech recognition model, you should have computer vision engineers and speech recognition engineers on your team.
Capacities to scale a team
It is essential to choose the provider with enough resources and capabilities to manage your requirements. This factor is going to affect not only your primary needs but also the potential growth of your company. When you scale up, you would also need more engineers. Therefore, consider the vendor’s ability to scale your team in the future, its employer image, retention rate, and access to the talent pool.
Choose the right cooperation model
Another factor that plays an important role is the cooperation model your potential vendor may offer. The cost common ones are Fixed Price, Tima and Material, and Team Augmentation. With the fixed price model, all your requirements such as budget, deadlines, the scope of work, and others have to pre-defined from the start. However, when it comes to AI projects, they always require a lot of R&D, so it is hard to determine everything at the initial stage.
Therefore, you need a team fully focused on your project with high level of flexibility and scalability. In this case, team augmentation, or dedicated development team would be the best choice. Most companies prefer it when planning long-term projects with evolving requirements.
Building an in-house AI development team is not always feasible. AI engineering resources are scarce and expensive. Moreover, setting up and managing R&D is going to take a lot of time a company could spend on developing its core expertise. And although finding a qualified AI solution provider is not easy, outsourcing offers tangible benefits for businesses.
So when choosing an AI development vendor, consider its ability to allocate the necessary resources, its experience in delivering AI solutions, knowledge of your domain, technological expertise as well as its capabilities to satisfy your business requirements.
If you’d like to find out more about AI solution development in Eastern Europe, contact our experts.