Facebook Ramps Up Its Israeli AI Operations With New R&D Center

The company’s engineers have already started using the Israeli unit's products, which would eventually be included in Facebook’s Workplace package

File Photo: Facebook's founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg speaks in Paris, France, May 24, 2018.
\ Charles Platiau/ REUTERS

Facebook is expanding its artificial intelligence operations in Israel with a new research and development center designed to aid the work of engineers and programmers at the U.S. company and beyond.

The center will be called Data.AI. Sources at the company say a significant chunk of Facebook’s operations in Israel will focus on artificial intelligence, alongside the fields that the Israeli offices already specialize in.

Over the past year, Facebook launched a new blockchain development unit in Israel and shuttered an Israel-based spyware app, Onavo, following an investigation alleging privacy violations.

Facebook’s Israeli research and development center has some 200 employees and is led by Joey Simhon. The R&D operations recently moved to a new office in Tel Aviv’s Azrieli Sarona Tower; the Israeli business operations will remain on the city’s Rothschild Boulevard.

The Israeli R&D center is part of global Facebook’s growth group, which develops products designed to help the company’s billions of users.

The new artificial intelligence development team focuses on crafting a tool for building and improving programs and systems for data processing. These are the tools that would aid the work of engineers and programmers.

Facebook says that if until now most of its AI efforts focused on improving products and the user experience, the Israeli team will now be leading a new angle – developing AI-based capabilities to improve the company’s “internal interfaces.”

The goal is to enable engineers to access relevant data more quickly and let them work more efficiently.

The Israeli team’s products are only in their initial stages of development, but Facebook’s engineers have already started using them. Down the line, the social media giant expects to make these products available to other companies.

The products will let companies improve their internal systems and interfaces, and will be included as part of the Facebook’s Workplace package.