- The world’s most valuable AI startup is a Chinese company specializing in real-time surveillance.
- China wants to use AI-powered surveillance to help ‘manage society’ and is very mature in facial recognition type solutions.
- SenseTime, is now worth $4.5 billion fresh off a $600 million fundraising round topped off by Alibaba.
CHINA THE FUTURE LEADER IN ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE?
Chinese facial recognition technology developer SenseTime Group Ltd may be worth as much as $4.5 billion. Multiple reports indicate that this means it is the highest-valued AI startup in the world.
Of course, the the company has claimed it “set a world record” for the amount raised in a single funding round by an AI firm.
What’s striking in the story is that this coincides with a time when China’s leadership has prioritized AI in its future plans.
At $4.5 billion, it would be the most valuable AI startup in the world, at a time when China’s government is making noises about becoming an “international leader” in AI by 2025, according to Business Insider.
Google executive chairman Eric Schmidt is among those who does believe China has the potential to quickly scale to be among the leaders or the leader in AI.
Russian president Vladimir Putin too among others, believes the country that leads in AI in the future could dominate the world. Silicon Valley CEOs on a regular basis say AI is the key moving forwards to their strategy including Google, Microsoft and others.
I myself wrote a 40 min (reading time) article on why China can out-compete America in the future of artificial intelligence.
Facial recognition is already a strong point of China with Alibaba having a smile to pay option, and police authorities having access to glasses with sophisticated facial recognition integration that can ID citizens in a matters of seconds, as reported early in 2018.
SenseTime specializes in systems that analyze faces and images on an enormous scale. The Facial recognition police glasses, are a solution of LLVision, that leverages China’s surveillance efforts to a whole new level. Considering the push for autonomous vehicles, computer vision is making decent progress all over the world.
SenseTime is also profitable already, a fear achieved in 2017 that is almost unheard of in startup world having just been founded just three years earlier by researchers at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
In terms of AI startups no in stealth mode, it is really a company that directly aligns with the kinds of application the Chinese government is sure to prioritize. Backed by Qualcomm Inc., it underscores its status as one of a crop of homegrown firms spearheading Beijing’s ambition to become the leader in AI by 2030. China has been able to track down citizens in mere seconds already for a number of years, something that’s not necessarily the case elsewhere.
While China has a long ways to go, it’s important to note that as of 2018 they are already investing more in AI startups than the U.S. Their researchers are also contributing more each years to the field. SenseTime is also working with Honda to develop autonomous driving tech. Alibaba executives have noted:
They are “especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing”.
The $600 million round in addition to Alibaba leading it, included Chinese e-commerce company Suning.Com and Singapore state fund Temasek Holdings helped close its series-C fundraising round.
What’s important to recognize here in terms of AI, is that facial recognition and computer vision are scaling faster into society than we’re aware of.