China wants to become a leader in facial recognition


Facial recognition technology has become a part of daily life in the world’s second-largest economy. In fact China uses facial recognition systems in areas such as public security, financial services, transport and retail. Now China’s aim is not just to become a global leader in artificial intelligence (AI), but also to become a leader in facial recognition.

Facial recognition systems, which consists in a computer application capable of identifying or verifying a person from a digital image or a video frame from a video source, has a market that is forecast to be worth US$6.5 billion by 2021, up from US$2.3 billion in 2016, according to the research from company Technavio. But what are the main Chinese start-ups that will have to maintain the forecasts?

The first, and the largest in the world, is Megvii, based in Beijing and also known as Face ++. The start-up was founded in 2011 by Yin Qi, Tang Wenbin, and Yang Mu, three Tsinghua University graduates. The Face ++ technology is behind many popular applications as payments giant Alipay, mobile photo editing app provider Meitu, ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, computer maker Lenovo Group, smartphone supplier Xiaomi, China Merchants Bank and China Citic Bank. Megvii’s technology is also used by the Ministry of Public Security.

The second is the super-tech start-up DeepGlint. Founded in 2013 by He Bofei and Zhao Yong, DeepGlint is focused on the automatic extraction, analysis and understanding of useful information from a single image or sequence of images. This technology is used in the detection, tracking and recognition of people and vehicles. The main clients of DeepGlint are banks, museums and public security agencies.

The third is a company that became the first unicorn of the city of Hong Kong Science Park: SenseTime, founded in 2014 by a group of academics. SenseTime is currently valued at more than US$2 billion and has client as China Mobile, HNA Group, Wanda Group, Meitu and graphics processor maker Nvidia.

If you want to identify a person from a database of at least two billion people in a matter of seconds, you must contact Yitu Technology, the fourth most important start-up. In public security, the deployment of facial-recognition systems has helped Chinese authorities quickly identify and arrest criminals.

The last most interesting start-up is Zoloz, founded by Toby Rush and now a subsidiary of Ant Financial. Zoloz claims to have more than 200 million users worldwide and its most incredible application is “Smile to Pay”, launched at an outlet of fast-food chain KFC in Hangzhou, where customers have their faces scanned to authenticate payments.

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