Qualcomm Invests in A Chinese AI Startup

Leonard Bird November 15, 2017
Qualcomm Invests in A Chinese AI Startup

Qualcomm Inc. has invested in Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) start-up SenseTime Group, as part of a funding round that is going to close later this year.

SenseTime Group, a Hong Kong-based artificial intelligence company specializing in facial recognition, has secured an investment from US mobile chip giant Qualcomm Technologies in what could be the world’s biggest ever fundraising by an AI start-up.

The two companies had announced a strategic tie last month to collaborate on AI, which will see SenseTime's proprietary algorithms deployed in smart devices.

The investment is expected to help Qualcomm keep its leading position in the mobile chip industry with an estimated 1 billion smartphones expected to be shipped with on-device AI capabilities by 2020, a global trend initiated by the Apple with the adoption of facial recognition technology in its recently launched iPhone X.

SenseTime said the investment is part of its ongoing Series C funding round, reported to be US$500 million, which would accelerate development with Qualcomm of an “AI plus chip” as the “brains’ of the next generation smart devices.

The startup is one of several AI facial recognition firms in Greater China that are rapidly raising capital from local and foreign investors amid a multibillion dollar global drive to develop advanced facial recognition technology.

It raised $410 million in July in a funding round led by its main backer, Chinese buyout firm CDH Investments, and China's state-backed fund Sailing Capital.

SenseTime is developing technology that employs AI to quickly identify and analyze identities using cameras, and has been used in limited tests by Chinese authorities to track and capture suspects in public spaces such as airports and festivals.

The startup, which is based between Beijing and Hong Kong, counts 40 local Chinese governments as clients. It is seeking to expand overseas, including possible plans for an ASEAN headquarters in Singapore.

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Leonard Bird


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