Chinese online retail giant Alibaba is leading a funding round that seeks to raise $600 million for surveillance systems firm SenseTime Group Ltd. The surveillance systems company whose clients include law enforcement agencies among others currently enjoys a valuation of over $3 billion making it the most valuable AI startup in the world.
SenseTime was founded four years ago and has specialized in image and facial recognition technology. The funding will assist the startup in bolstering its AI efforts and consequently advancing the technological innovation of the company and giving rise to new business opportunities.
In 2017 SenseTime disclosed that it had entered into a partnership with Japanese car manufacturer Honda aimed at developing a driverless car technology. SenseTime has also been collaborating with chipmaker Qualcomm with a view to integrating the algorithms of the startup in smart devices including smartphones. Additionally SenseTime has been working with Suning, a Chinese consumer electronics giant in developing facial recognition tools that could be used in cashier-less shopping.
SenseTime also focuses on medical imaging where it develops tools that are used in diagnosis and analysis by taking visual representations from inside the human body. Deep learning is also another area that SenseTime specializes in.
One of the major products that SenseTime is working on is ‘Viper’ which is capable of parsing data generating by live camera feeds numbering in the thousands. Viper will be used for mass surveillance by law enforcement agencies with a view to tracking crime, accidents and criminal suspects. It can also be used in traffic cameras and ATMs
Tech firms in China have been investing heavily in the development of artificial intelligence technology as the leadership of the country has said it wants to be a leader in the field across the globe. With a large online consumer base and privacy laws that are not restrictive China generates huge data amounts and these can be utilized in understanding consumption and behavioral patterns.
“In China there is an advantage in areas like facial recognition because of the privacy that exists in the U.S. and elsewhere in the EU, and some of the very best facial recognition technology in the world that I’ve seen is in China,” the founder of Breyer Capital and a SenseTime indirect investor, Jim Breyer, said.
Per iResearch a consultancy based in Beijing, the market for artificial intelligence-related services ranging from early-stage diagnosis tools to chatbots will grow from $203 million in 2015 to $1.3 billion by 2020.