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INVESTMENT: SenseTime. Emerging As the Largest AI Player in the World
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SenseTime
Emerging As the Largest AI Player in the World
By Morgan Brandy

photo dr xu li introducing product

Xu Li, SenseTime’s CEO

      如果这样向你介绍:SenseTime(商汤科技)是一家致力于引领人工智能核心“深度学习”的技术突破,构建人工智能、大数据分析行业解决方案的科技创新公司。你可能会一脸迷茫地耸肩:这跟我有什么关系?那我们换个说法:如果你使用过美图、Faceu、小咖秀等一些美颜APP里可爱的面部特效,用过小米手机的人脸分类相册、在中国移动、京东钱包、招商银行等平台使用过人脸扫描功能进行过身份验证,那么实际上你已经是商汤的用户了——在这些应用背后,商汤默默提供算法支持。2017年7月,商汤宣布完成4.1亿美元B轮融资,创下公开报道中全球人工智能领域单轮融资最高纪录。商汤用亿级的用户体量和百亿级人民币估值,再次证明人工智能的商业化应用“钱途无量”。

      商汤强大的技术,已经吸引了包括云南省公安厅、广州市某公安局、国家卫星气象中心、国家测绘地理信息局卫星测绘应用中心、海航集、Oppo手机、vivo手机、奇酷科技、微博、分众金融、苏宁等大型单位及企业成为了他们的用户。除了上述客户,商汤还在智慧安防领域布局,与东方网力、公安三所等合作,屡屡破获重大案件。

      商汤基于自主研发的深度学习平台,输出全套人工智能视觉技术,包括成像处理、感知、识别,服务于金融、平安城市、机器人、无人驾驶等多个行业。在传统金融及互联网方面,商汤科技则推出了基于人脸识别的远程身份验证云服务,通过获取人脸照片(现场或远程)和证件照片上传至云端进行人证比对,用于判别是否为同一人。因安全需要,商汤科技的活体认证可通过设备端不断抵御和过滤身份认证云平台攻击,以确认用户是否被假冒。票据识别系统解决方案可帮助商场、电商识别消费者的重要消费信息。如客户不希望数据存在其他公司的云中,商汤会提供无线解决方案,将云服务器交给客户。商汤公司高层在分享中介绍,深度学习主要要做到四点:1、首先要有优秀的网络设计,调参师;2、大量的应用场景数据,就好比炼丹所需要的大量原材料;3、大规模集群训练平台,相当于深度学习的“炼丹炉”;4、优秀的应用端性能优化能力——应用平台,能够消化并提升深度学习成果。


      商汤的产品也用实力向我们证明了其深度学习的成功和领先地位。

sensetime 1China’s objective is to move from a manufacturing economy to an economy where technology is among the leading sectors, if not the leading one. And the country seems to be well on its way to achieving this goal. Currently, the leading technology sector is artificial intelligence (AI), which is enabling machines to learn on their own and perform more and more sophisticated tasks. Chinese companies are showing great potential in this area, particularly SenseTime, an AI unicorn, which is emerging at the top as one of the most prominent ones.


SenseTime Wins Big In Its Funding Rounds


SenseTime was founded in 2014 by a professor named Tang Xiaoou at the Chinese University in Hong Kong, and his team of scientists and engineers. Recently it has become the highest valued AI Company in the world. Last April, the company secured $600 million in funding, whereas last year it secured $410 million. The most recent fundraising round estimated the value of the company to be at $4.5 billion. Among the investors are the technology giant Alibaba (which can support SenseTime with its cloud services), the Singaporean state investment firm Temasek Holdings, and retailer sunning.com.

investment 01SenseTime’s Rise to the Top


SenseTime specializes in analyzing both faces and images, and works in the surveillance arena. Its surveillance software is used in more than 100 billion mobile devices made in China and its system is regarded as being the world’s biggest surveillance system. The company also provides other technologies such as autonomous driving, text recognition, medical image recognition, remote sensing, and video analysis. In its three years of operation, it managed to attract major clients from the public and private sectors such as the Chinese ministry of public security, China Mobile, HNA group, Nvidia, Honda, UnionPay, and Huawei technologies. Globally it has a large base of around 400 customers.


The company’s role is vital in achieving Beijing’s strategy of becoming a leader in AI by the year 2030. It now has offices in Beijing, Shenzhen, Shanghai, Hangzhou, Chengdu, Kyoto and Tokyo, whereas its headquarters are located in Hong Kong.


Back in 2017, the company had plans to conduct an IPO and open a research and development center in the United States. The IPO still has not taken place yet, and the firm is not in a hurry, given the amount of funding it has received in both rounds and its appeal to investors. Earlier in 2017, the company had signed an agreement with U.S. Chip manufacturer to make AI-enhanced chips.

SenseTime Co Founder Xu Chiheng demonstrates surveillance software of his company on a laptop at

SenseTime Co-Founder Xu Chiheng demonstrates surveillance software of his company on a laptop


Parrot: The Deep Learning Platform


SenseTime has its own deep learning platform called Parrot. It supports industries in leveraging deep learning by supporting wide-scale networks, mega data studies, and complex applications. This platform is supported by a supercomputing center that significantly increases the efficiency of R&D in AI by reducing costs and supporting intensive research in algorithms. The combination of strong hardware and software enables the company to maintain its leadership in the AI sector. AI technology provided by SenseTime is used by different industries such as financial services, healthcare industry, education, retail, and smart phone.

SenseTime teams up with Qualcomm to extend AI into more devices

SenseTime teams up with Qualcomm to extend AI into more devices


SenseTime Is Outperforming Its Rivals


Companies like Google and Facebook, have technologies that are similar to SenseTime. However, the Chinese AI leader outperforms the two in terms of revenue, number of clients, and business domains. In terms of Chinese companies, SenseTime has also become larger than giants like Baidu, Alibaba, and Tencent holdings, even though they are all developing facial recognition technology. China has many AI specialized companies, such as Mobovi, Face++/Megvi, and Yitu, but SenseTime remains the biggest in terms of valuation.


The company’s performance since its inception has been nothing short of outstanding, with a rate of growth in revenue at 400% per year. The company’s payback period ended in 2017 when it turned profitable. It currently plans to increase its headcount to around 2000 by the end of this year (2018) from around 1300 employees. Other plans include building five supercomputers in many cities to support its services.


China’s Plan to Become a Global Leader in the AI Sector


Last year, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology announced its plans to develop the AI sector in a document that it published. The overarching goal was to increase manufacturing efficiency by 10% by the year 2020. The Chinese government hopes that developments in AI will enable machines and robots to handle different types of tasks such as helping disabled people, reading X-ray images, and making manufacturing eco-friendlier, ultimately leading to wide-spreading benefits that penetrate into all aspects of economic activity.


Companies like SenseTime and other companies working in the sector are major players in this plan and are likely to receive support from the government along the way.


Conclusion


China is poised to become a world leader in the AI sector. The biggest companies in this sector are performing well and are faring better than their foreign counterparts. SenseTime has become the largest player in the sector and it is currently building the required infrastructure to support the government’s vision for the year 2020. There is no shortage of investors who are willing to hold a stake at a thriving company, and the company is definitely promising in terms of revenue and future growth.

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