Chinese AI unicorns blacklisted by the US charge ahead at home
Megvii and iFlyTek capitalize on China's embrace of facial and voice recognition in payment, smart homes, courts and schools
Two of China’s national artificial intelligence champions said they will remain focused on innovation in 2020 in their new year messages, pressing ahead in the field despite being added to a US trade blacklist last October.
In the first post on the company’s official WeChat account in 2020, Megvii claimed on Wednesday that being added to the US Entity List – which bars it from buying US-origin technology – had actually turned into a “coming of age gift” that had taught the company how to face a complex and changing international environment.
Meanwhile, China's voice recognition champion iFlyTek said it will push original research and development as tech tensions continue to simmer between the US and China in the year ahead.
Eight Chinese artificial intelligence companies, including Megvii and iFlyTek, were put on the trade blacklist over Beijing’s treatment of Uygur Muslims and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in October, with the US alleging that China had leveraged their technology.
Formerly known as Face++ before rebranding in January 2019, Megvii has transformed itself from a facial recognition algorithm provider into a fully-fledged artificial intelligence of things (AloT) service provider, providing solutions for smart cities, corporate supply chains and consumer IoT devices among other things.
Here are some statistics Megvii provided as it moves into 2020:
- For personal IoT, Megvii technologies enable over 3.5 billion instances of facial identification and payments processes every day and its algorithms cover 70 per cent of the mainland China Android market.
- Megvii’s city IoT services now cover more than 100 Chinese cities and 15 other countries and areas. It also supports 100 million instances of facial identification everyday at entrances to residential communities.
- Its supply chain IoT enabled the on-time delivery of over 1.5 million packages during the Singles’ Day shopping spree with the help of 400 robots
- Megvii has took part in the smart supply chain transformation of more than 30 traditional warehouses and manufacturers and upgraded over 1,000 convenience stores
Meanwhile, iFlyTek said in its new year post that it will pursue original technology innovation as the US-China trade war gradually evolves into a tech war and as AI applications roll out across the country as more and more people take advantage of the technology. The company also provided some statistics of its own:
- iFlyTek’s smart doctor assistant is now offered in over 1,200 community health centres in nearly 100 counties across China. The assistant provides diagnosis advice 200,000 times every day on average.
- iFlyTek’s AI tech has helped with customised education in 35,000 schools in China. Its smart education products and services now cover over 100 million students and teachers in the country.
- iFlyTek’s technologies also deployed in nearly 5,000 courts in China to increase efficiency. Smart assistants in courts can make “intelligent” comparisons of evidence, and can automatically check and display doubts about points of law raised in different cases.