Hi-tech stories: CloudWalk Technology and DJI, when AI meets Reality

06/11/2018

Robot and AI used to belong to science fiction movies, but China surprises us once again. The world as we know it today is going to change radically. Companies like CloudWalk Technology and DJI will bring directors and writers’ imagination into reality

 

According to a CBInsight’s study about Artificial Intelligence (AI) market trend in 2018, Chinese startups have exceeded the American ones in terms of raising funds for research: China collects 48% of world funding – both foreign and local – while the US collects 38%.

If we consider that the anti-Beijing American duties go mostly against products of the “Made in China 2025” plan, with which the People’s Republic intends to transform its industrial model focusing on high-quality technology, robotics, and AI, this Chinese overtaking is significant.

After having succeeded in many technological fields, China amazes us with the technology that made Hollywood directors dream: the Artificial Intelligence. Since 2015, in fact, PRC witnessed a huge growth of industries dedicated to the development of AI, reaching the number of 4040 AI companies in May 2018, whose 26% is located in Beijing, as reported by Science and Technology Daily.

 

According to Chinese leadership, robotics will be a key cog in “Made in China 2025” strategy

 

China’s goal is to become the AI superpower by 2030, a market that could reach $ 150 billion in value. This innovative technology has an increasingly important role in areas such as the economy, defense, and city life.

Beijing has thus launched A Next Generation Artificial Intelligence Development Plan 新一代人工智能发展规划 – that includes three phases, in which sectors such as robotics, drones, facial recognition, and personal voice assistants will be implemented by 2030. In this rush to AI, among the hi-tech world leaders, two Chinese companies stand out: CloudWalk Technology and DJI.

 

Face recognition has become very popular in China as the software capable of uniquely identifying a person by comparing patterns based on facial contours. Nowadays, this innovative technology is commonly used in daily payments, and Alibaba was the forerunner.

 

CloudWalk Technology is a Chinese company that develops facial recognition software. Founded in Guangzhou by Zhou Xi in 2015, in just 3 years it has become the official supplier of face recognition technologies for the Chinese banking industry and in the field of security.

In particular, the company has developed the innovative “3D structured light facial recognition technology” thus overcoming the American monopoly of Face ID technology held by tech giant Apple Inc. Compared to the 2D facial recognition system, the 3D is more accurate and works faster.

 

Alipay launched last year in one KFC store in Hangzhou its “Smile and Pay” service, that was the first commercial application of facial recognition technology.

 

This innovation achieves 99% accuracy by reducing recognition time from 1 or 2 seconds to the millisecond level reducing potential frauds, such as the use of digital masks and image manipulation.

CloudWalk has implemented this existing technology by extending this function to the access into public buildings, banks, and schools. However, the recognition through AI is also used for a closer security-related social control, with which Beijing experiments a potential crime-predictive model.

In fact, in China, there are over 170 billion surveillance cameras connected to a High Performing Computing system combined with the CloudWalk software and connected to the Police. These cameras follow people movements, watching people inclination towards crime.

 

Today, the use of facial recognition in PRC holds 29.29% of the worldwide use, whose 12.88% of the global revenue market share belongs to the Chinese Unicorn.

 

Last March, the company signed a partnership with the Government of Zimbabwe, an agreement supported by the Belt and Road Initiative. The partnership will start a large-scale facial recognition program across the African country, where the technology will implement security and law enforcement, in order to develop a system of mass facial recognition that monitors major transport centers and creates a national ID database.

“With the knowledge that Chinese facial ID technology has made rapid progress over recent years, the Zimbabwean government hopes to introduce it to the country to help accelerate its modernization by partnering with leading Chinese enterprises in the IT sector,” as Yao Zhiqiang, strategic director of CloudWalk’s research and development center in Chongqing, told the Global Times.

AI-facial recognition technology is based on machine learning – it learns from experience – so this Sino-African partnership will improve the company know-how in the field, thus acquiring a real global expertise.

 

DJI, which holds 70% of the drone’s world market, is another Chinese Unicorn that has recently become a leader in Artificial Intelligence technology.

 

Established in Shenzhen by Frank Wang in 2006, DJI soon distinguished itself in the international drone market, with a turnover of more than $ 2 billion. Currently, DJI is a world leader in civilian drones and aerial imaging technology combining AI, machine learning and computer vision, which is the technology that aims at reproducing the 3D human sight, starting from two-dimensional images.

Among its avant-garde technologies, the company has developed a flying intelligence capable of quickly capturing aerial images. The drone not only sends insights but also allows real-time management of various operations.

 

DJI recently partnered with Microsoft to let its drones stream real-time data into a computer that can analyze it for, say, faults in power lines.

 

The company, famous for its white drones, has recently launched some innovations among drones and computer vision such as the active track and gesture control. Active tracking is a mode that allows the aircraft to identify and follow a moving subject through its own camera. For what concerns gesture control instead, the function allows the pilot to control the drone with just the help of hand gestures, with no controller or smartphone.

Recently, DJI has chosen Azure (Microsoft) as its own cloud services provider. The Chinese company and the American platform will collaborate in the development of Artificial Intelligence solutions applied to agriculture, construction, and public safety. In particular, the two companies will collaborate to create a Software Developer Kit (SDK) with which users will be able to access all real-time data collected by DJI drones on Windows 10.

 

This company’s utter dominance of the global drone market – it has more than 70% share – has increasingly meant crossing over into AI.

 

The kit is based on edge computing, which is the technology that allows processing data directly from the devices. Thanks to this collaboration, not only drones will send real-time videos but they will also use the AI to analyze and interpret the video.

For example, during the presentation of the DJI Mavic Air model, the drone detected anomalies in the pipes and sent the data to a laptop. Another example is the FarmBeats software that integrates DJI technologies with mapping algorithms to create real-time heat maps on Azure that allow farmers to detect issues that could harm the crop.

 

“Using our new SDK, Windows developers will soon be able to employ drones, AI and machine learning technologies to create intelligent flying robots that will save businesses time and money, and help make drone technology a mainstay in the workplace,” DJI President Roger Luo said in a statement.

 

Some years ago, no one could have thought that the AI scientific challenge could be won or driven by Chinese technology at the expense of the American Silicon Valley. “The West should not fear China’s Artificial Intelligence revolution. It should copy it,” wrote Will Knight on MIT Technology Review.

Chinese ambition to excel in technology brought to life what used to belong only to science fiction movies, thanks to the “Made in China 2025” plan. Chinese goal is to remove the technological gap with the West by 2020, to become a world tech-leader by 2025, and to become an AI superpower by 2030.

Thanks to the millions of data collected by the Chinese companies and the huge funding allocated to the technology industry, the Middle Kingdom will surely achieve these aims ahead of schedule. For what concerns these short-term goals, CloudWalk and DJI are certainly two of the companies that will bring the big Asian country to global leadership in Artificial Intelligence.

 

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