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Chinese Biometrics Leader ‘SenseTime’ Becomes Highest Valued AI Startup

AI startup has global ambitions; portfolio spanning biometrics and autonomous cars

By April Slattery

China’s biometrics and artificial intelligence (AI) specialist SenseTime has secured $600 million funding from Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba and Singapore’s Temasek, in a funding round that values the company at a record $4.5 billion.

The Round C funding round makes the company — whose software is already built into 100 million devices — the world’s most valuable AI startup.


“SenseTime is doing pioneering work in artificial intelligence. We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing,” Joe Tsai, Executive Vice Chairman of Alibaba Group, said in a release. “Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI.”

One of SenseTime’s most successful partnerships is with the Chinese government, which uses SenseTime’s systems for its national surveillance system, with the company processing data captured by CCTV cameras and newer systems.

The company describes its facial detection technology as able to: “Detect face[s] within millisecond-level, reading even low quality, complex pictures and the surveillance videos of large crowds. They are capable of decoding facial profiles, partially obscured and blurry images, and moving facial expressions, as well as facial images taken in other environments.”

See China’s Street Surveillance Technology at Work  HERE

Other products include an augmented reality rendering engine and a wide range of autonomous driving technologies.

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Currently one of China’s largest deep learning platforms, SenseTIme boasts over 8,000 GPUs but hopes the funding will allow it to expand its operations further, amongst both the Chinese market and further afield.

SenseTime has established an AI ecosystem anchored with robust research, deep industry collaboration, and diverse partnerships,” Li Xu, SenseTime Co-Founder and CEO, said in a statement.

“Our Round C funding will maximise these advantages by accelerating the development of a global footprint with a larger ecosystem incorporating both domestic and overseas partners. The funding will also help us widen the scope for more industrial application of AI, thus increasing the value of SenseTime’s global ecosystem.”

Just in July, the company was valued at just $1.5 billion after a funding round led by CDH investments raised $410 million.

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