Hong Kong/Beijing: Megvii Inc., a Chinese developer of facial-recognition technology, has raised at least $100 million from investors including Foxconn Technology Group and CCB International Holdings Ltd, according to people with direct knowledge of the matter. The owner of Face is still in talks with other investors for more funding, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is private. Megvii confirmed it's raising funds while declining to comment on the specific amount. It plans to work with investors to improve facial recognition technology, especially in the financial industry, smart cities and robotics, the company said in an e-mailed statement. Megvii provides face-scanning systems to Ant Financial, which operates the dominant payments service on Alibaba Group Holding Ltd's online shopping platforms.
China's ever-growing reliance on facial recognition is spreading to public housing. Beijing is ramping up the use of face-detecting smart locks in public housing projects to bolster security for tenants (such as denying access to strangers) and crack down on abuses like illegal sublets. It even asks management to check on senior residents if they haven't entered or left their homes after a certain period of time. There are 47 projects using the technology as of the end of 2018, but the city now aims to have it in every project (serving about 120,000 tenants) by the end of June 2019. As with other uses of facial recognition in the country, this convenience comes at a steep cost to privacy.
The annual trade show CES (Consumer Electronics Show) is a deluge of smart appliances, many of which do things totally unnecessary--case in point, the talking A.I.-powered toilet--but there are some products that legitimately excite the masses and prove to be of real-world use. A Beijing startup named Forward X is hoping its self-driving robot suitcase belongs in the latter camp. Having made its debut at the Las Vegas trade show to positive coverage, the Ovis is ready to hit the global market with a crowdfunding campaign that starts today. The company foresees most of its initial customers to be Americans, which explains why the marketing effort is mostly centered around its NorCal office. But a week ago, I got the chance to meet company founder Nicholas Chee for a demonstration in Hong Kong.
SHANGHAI--A Chinese startup that sells facial recognition systems to police forces secured venture-capital funding that values it at more than $1.5 billion, underscoring the sector's emergence as one of technology's hottest areas of interest. Beijing-based SenseTime Co., which provides surveillance systems using facial recognition to Chinese law enforcement agencies, said Tuesday it raised $410 million in new funding from investors, lifting it to so-called unicorn status with a value of more than $1 billion. Using artificial intelligence, facial recognition systems from SenseTime and others can identify people in a crowd by matching their faces against those on file in image databases. Facial recognition works by breaking down a person's face into a series of measurements and using them to create a template that can be compared with others in a database. In China, adoption has been especially swift, aided by a large network of surveillance cameras, a national photo ID index and relatively few concerns about privacy.
If the U.S. blacklisting of China's budding artificial intelligence companies is aimed at thwarting their progress, we already are starting to see the limits to that strategy. A strong signal came this week when Megvii Technology, a Beijing-based AI firm on the U.S. blacklist, made moves to test the IPO waters in Hong Kong. Numerous media reports said the company, known for its facial-recognition platform Face, is seeking to raise $500 million to $1 billion in a listing that is imminent. The move follows the early success of Alibaba's (NYSE: BABA) secondary listing on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange that may raise as much as $13 billion next week. The HKSE was the world's top bourse for IPOs last year, supplanting Nasdaq, and looks primed to win that race again this year despite the civil unrest there.