China’s largest e-commerce company Alibaba Group Holding Ltd is currently in discussion to invest a total of $227 million the Chinese startup firm SenseTime that deals with facial recognition. This information was revealed by a source close to the situation.
Even though Alibaba is looking to invest a huge amount of money, they have no interest in controlling the activities of the artificial intelligence company according to the source, who asked not to be identified due to the private nature of the negotiation. SenseTime has no shortage of investors as the company valued at over $2 billion is being backed by heavyweights such as Qualcomm and at the moment being considered one of the biggest companies in the machine vision technology
If the deal eventually happens, then Alibaba and founder Jack Ma would have sizeable shares in two facial recognition startups as they also control a large stake in Alipay-operator Ant Financial. Alibaba is also an investor in Megvii Inc.’s Face++, with the company raising roughly $460 million in November as they look to go further in their AI research that is being adopted for financial services, grocery stores and police surveillance across China.
SenseTime is a Hong Kong-based company though it operates majorly in the Chinese mainland. Both Alibaba and SenseTime were contacted about the latest development but both declined to make a statement.
At this time, SenseTime is in need to of more money as they look to begin research in fields such as image recognition and autonomous driving applications. The company claims it has over 400 clients and partners. Their partners include Qualcomm, chipmaker Nvidia Corp., and smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. they have been raising money for their research as they raised over $410 million during their second round back in July.
China has become the country leading the pursuit of AI technology research as they plan to become the leader in this industry before 2030. The Chinese government is of the view that by 2035, the AI industry will contribute over 400 billion Yuan in economic activity for the country.
Tech giants in China such as Alibaba, Tencent Holdings Ltd, and Baidu Inc. are all getting involved with SenseTime. The country’s police are already planning to use the technology beyond police surveillance. Shanghai’s courts are testing an AI system that scours criminal cases. This is done so as to easily validate the evidence brought forward by both the prosecutors and the defendants.