SenseTime

Facial Recognition Firm, SenseTime, Becomes The World’s Most Valuable AI Startup

China wants to use AI-powered surveillance to help ‘manage society’

It looks like China is looking to get super creepy. SenseTime, which specializes in software that can identify people’s faces in surveillance videos, said Monday that it had secured $600 million in fresh funds and is already in talks with investors to raise more money. This funding, led by retailing giant Alibaba, reportedly gives SenseTime a total valuation of more than $4.5 billion, making it the most valuable AI startup in the world, according to analyst firm CB Insights.

The new funding will “help us widen the scope” for putting artificial intelligence to use in different industries, SenseTime CEO Li Xu said in a statement. Specifically, the company said it will pump more money into areas like security, smartphones, advertising and autonomous driving.

SenseTime said it has more than 400 partners and clients using its AI applications.

That includes city governments that have paired facial recognition software with the massive number of surveillance cameras trained on city streets. AI software analyzes the footage, scanning faces to identify people or analyzing crowds to detect suspicious behavior.

According to Bloomberg, SenseTime is currently developing software code-named Viper that will “parse data from thousands of live camera feeds” and will be used by the police to “track everything from vice and accidents to suspects on blacklists.”

Privacy and free speech advocates say that China is already using similar technology to track and harass political opponents, and warn that AI-augmented surveillance could mean the death of privacy. SenseTime co-founder Xu Li told Bloomberg that the company’s technology “will not affect privacy because only authorized persons can access it.”

Hmm…not sure if I believe that.

But China isn’t the only country interested in this use of AI, and companies around the world are working on similar systems. SenseTime is a leader in this field, but its latest funding round suggests this sort of real-time video analysis is only going to become more widespread.

Source: The Verge