Commentary

AI Face Recognition Company Backed By $1.6 Billion

There’s money in artificial intelligence and plenty of it is moving to back a company specializing in using AI for rapid facial recognition.

Four-year-old SenseTime is a leading AI company in China and just raised $620 million in funding, bringing its total funding to more than $1.6 billion and a valuation of more than $4 billion. Investors included Fidelity and Qualcomm Ventures.

The company’s face detection technology for smartphones and personal computers works in the millisecond-level time-wise, can work with low-quality, complex pictures and can monitor videos of very large crowds.

SenseTime AI technology already is used in smart cities, smartphones, internet entertainment, automobiles, finance and retail. The company also launched SenseAR, China's first and only locally developed augmented reality platform. 

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The AI efforts are global. In education, SenseTime has teamed with MIT to advance AI academic research and innovation breakthroughs and the company will be testing the design of AI-driven courses.

SenseTime’s intelligent video analytics include a facial recognition surveillance platform, a face image investigation system, a dynamic face recognition server and a turnstile version of a face recognition device.

However, SenseTime is hardly alone in the field of facial recognition at scale.

China has more than 125 computer-vision companies, according to a Tencent Research Institute report, and the country has a surveillance network of more than 150 million CCTV cameras.

Earlier this year, facial recognition was used to identify a suspect wanted by police regarding an economic dispute in China while the person was in a crowd of 60,000 attendees at a concert in Nanchang, Jiangxi province, according to a report in The China Daily.

“The concert attracted more than 60,000 visitors, so we paid a lot of attention to its security," Li Jin, a police officer, told the China Daily at the time. "We set up several cameras at the ticket entrance, which was equipped with facial recognition technology."

The system was connected to a central police database where identities are automatically compared to those on file.

This is not the first use of facial recognition to identify people out in public. Last year, police in another Chinese province used facial recognition to identify 25 fugitives attending a beer festival

Also, police in Shenzhen have been installing cameras with artificial intelligence to spot and identify jaywalkers, who then would be sent a fine via text message.

Now, with an additional $620 million behind it, SenseTime has even more resource to advance facial recognition. You may not see the cameras, but they will be seeing – and identifying -- you.

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