SenseTime, a Chinese startup specialized in facial recognition and artificial intelligence just closed a $600 million round, led by the Chinese giant Alibaba.
SenseTime, the Chinese unicorn startup specialized in artificial intelligence and facial recognition; just raised $600 million. In July 2017, it also had closed a $410 million rounds. The society is now worth more than 3 billions and just broke the record of the biggest valorisation for an AI company. This round has been led by Alibaba, followed by Temasek (a Singaporean sovereign fund) and Suning, a Chinese household appliances distributor.
Funded in 2014, this startup develops facial recognition technologies, allowing the authorities to recognize cars, objects or people. Its platform Viper processes in real-time and simultaneously data from thousands of surveillance cameras.
The company is planning on collaborating with more than 400 Chinese municipalities. As for today, China counts more than 170 million cameras on its territory. Furthermore, when a citizen reaches the age of 16, he has to register with a photo ID card on the national registers. When synchronized with Viper, allows the authorities to monitor the entire population of the country. An element explaining why the Chinese police forces are that interested with SenseTime.
China, the new global AI leader ?
In July 2017, Peking announced a national development plan dedicated to artificial intelligence. Its goal : speed up the development of related projets and generate 20 billions dollars by 2020, and 60 billions by 2025.
Alibaba leading this new round is far from insignificant. Alibaba is not only an e-commerce giant in China, but also a Cloud services leader there. With these additional funds, SenseTime will, indeed, need more powerful tools to get a well-functioning platform.
On the other hand, Alibaba could easily use some of the startup’s services and tools to improve its own. Recently, Jack Ma’s society launched the Smile to Pay service in a KFC restaurant. Thanks to facial recognition, the Hangzhou’s KFC clients only have to smile in front of a camera to pay their bills. This kind of client experience is only possible thanks to technological breakthroughs companies such as SenseTime are making nowadays.
These additional funds should allow SenseTime to grow from 1.500 to 2.000 collaborators by the end of the year, but also to expand its international radiance and find new fields in which its services could be used (banks, autonomous vehicles, retail…)