China Now Has the Most Valuable AI Startup in the World

  • It becomes the world’s richest-valued private AI startup
  • The company drives China’s ambition to dominate global AI

SenseTime Group Ltd. has raised $600 million from Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. and other investors at a valuation of more than $3 billion, becoming the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup.

The company, which specializes in systems that analyze faces and images on an enormous scale, said it closed a Series C round in recent months in which Singaporean state investment firm Temasek Holdings Pte and retailer Suning.com Co. also participated. SenseTime didn’t outline individual investments, but Alibaba was said to have sought the biggest stake in the three-year-old startup.

With the deal, SenseTime has doubled its valuation in a few months. Backed by Qualcomm Inc., it underscores its status as one of a crop of homegrown firms spearheading Beijing’s ambition to become the leader in AI by 2030. And it’s a contributor to the world’s biggest system of surveillance: if you’ve ever been photographed with a Chinese-made phone or walked the streets of a Chinese city, chances are your face has been digitally crunched by SenseTime software built into more than 100 million mobile devices.

The latest financing will bankroll investments in parallel fields such as autonomous driving and augmented reality, cover the growing cost of AI talent and shore up its computing power. It’s developing a service code-named “Viper” to parse data from thousands of live camera feeds — a platform it hopes will prove invaluable in mass surveillance. And it’s already in talks to raise another round of funds and targeting a valuation of more than $4.5 billion, according to people familiar with the matter.

“We’re going to explore several new strategic directions and that’s why we shall spend more money on building infrastructure,” SenseTime co-founder Xu Li said in an interview. The company turned profitable in 2017 and wants to grow its workforce by a third to 2,000 by the end of this year. “For the past three years the average revenue growth has been 400 percent.”

Read more: China’s Plan for World Domination in AI Isn’t So Crazy After All

AI Supremacy

China houses some of the world's largest privately backed artificial intelligence startups

Source: CB Insights, Bloomberg

Note: Mobvoi's valuation is based on a 2015 investment

Alibaba, the e-commerce giant that’s also the country’s biggest cloud service provider, could help with its enormous infrastructure needs. SenseTime plans to build at least five supercomputers in top-tier cities over the coming year to drive Viper and other services. As envisioned, it streams thousands of live feeds into a single system that’re automatically processed and tagged, via devices from office face-scanners to ATMs and traffic cameras (so long as the resolution is high enough). The ultimate goal is to juggle 100,000 feeds simultaneously.

Police can use Viper to track everything from vice and accidents to suspects on blacklists. While civil libertarians say such systems have been used to track activists and oppress minorities in places like the Western region of Xinjiang, Xu believes the technology is essential and deployed in various ways by authorities around the world. China’s police forces and surveillance footage are also important sources of training data for SenseTime’s image recognition systems — it claims to work with 40 city authorities in the country.

“It will not affect privacy because only authorized persons can access it,” he said.

SenseTime claims some 400 clients and partners including Qualcomm, chipmaker Nvidia Corp. and smartphone maker Xiaomi Corp. For 2018, it’s projecting several billion yuan in revenues, Xu said. The startup’s expanding its reach across augmented reality, popularized by services like Snapchat that impose digital stickers and images on the real world. And it’s working with Honda Motor Co. to develop autonomous driving systems and is in talks to work with health institutions.

“In China there is an advantage in areas like facial recognition because of the privacy that exists in the U.S. and elsewhere in the EU, and some of the very best facial recognition technology in the world that I’ve seen is in China,” said Breyer Capital founder Jim Breyer, an indirect investor in SenseTime through IDG.

SenseTime is the largest, according to CB Insights, of a plethora of private AI outfits. Fellow facial-recognition startup Megvii Inc. raised $460 million last year, while smaller niche players from Yitu to Malong Technologies have also won funding. A key partner, Hangzhou Hikvision Digital Technology, is one of the world’s biggest suppliers of security cameras and developing its own competing AI technology.

Xu says its ability to work across wide datasets and diverse products sets it apart from rivals. “What is difficult is if you’re dealing with different video streams in different formats,” he said. While the company has long considered an initial public offering, Xu said those plans are on hold pending rules that facilitate tech listings in mainland China.

“We are still waiting for a fixed rule to come up with a new strategy,” he said. “Probably not this year.”

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-09/sensetime-snags-alibaba-funding-at-a-record-3-billion-valuation

YouTube Campus Shooting Ends With Suspect Dead, Three Hurt

  • Female suspect dies of self-inflicted wound, police chief says
  • Local hospitals report ready to receive patients from incident

A woman shot and injured at least three people before killing herself at Google’s YouTube headquarters in San Bruno, California, police said.

San Bruno Police Chief Ed Barberini said three victims were transported to local hospitals Tuesday afternoon. The woman found at the scene appeared to be dead of “a self-inflicted” gunshot wound, he said. No motive was given for the shooting.

Sepand Parhami, a YouTube software engineer, said he was having lunch on an outside patio when he heard shots and saw what looked to be a woman moving from a garage to the lobby of the building. He scrambled for the door and went inside as the woman started shooting, he said in an interview after the incident.

Police said they received multiple emergency calls beginning at 12:46 p.m. local time. Two minutes later officers arrived on the scene and encountered people escaping from the building. They began a search and found someone with gunshot wounds, according to Barberini. As the search continued they found a second person, a female, with what appeared to be a self-inflicted fatal gunshot wound. Police then found two more people with gunshot wounds, he said.

Zach Vorhies, a YouTube software engineer, said he saw a man on the ground with an apparent gunshot wound to the stomach. The victim was a heavyset man lying in the courtyard outside the building, Vorhies said in an interview. Vorhies said he then saw a police officer coming in with an assault rifle and ran out of the building through a rear exit.

Vadim Lavrusik, a product manager at YouTube, wrote earlier on Twitter that he and coworkers were barricaded inside a room at the 901 Cherry Ave. headquarters, before later tweeting “Safe. Got evacuated. Outside now.”

“Our security team has been working closely with authorities to evacuate the buildings and ensure the safety of employees in the area,” Alphabet Inc.’s Google said in a statement. “We advised all other employees in the Bay Area, and people with meetings scheduled, to stay away from the area, and that there is no need to take any action. We have provided employees a helpline.”

Zuckerberg San Francisco General Hospital, which has the city’s major trauma center, said they were treating three patients from the incident: a 36-year-old man in critical condition, a 32-year-old woman in serious condition and a 27-year-old woman in fair condition. The patients had multiple injuries, Andre Campbell, a hospital surgeon, told reporters. Campbell declined to specify the type of gunshot wounds suffered by the victims.

“Gun violence happens here everyday,” Campbell said. “We have a serious problem that we need to address. This is a real problem.”

The Stanford Health Care Center, which had been told to prepare for patients from the shooting, didn’t receive any victims to treat, a hospital spokeswoman said.

The FBI and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives responded to the scene. U.S. President Donald Trump, in a tweet, said he was briefed on the shooting and offered his “thoughts and prayers” for everyone involved.

San Bruno is a city 11 miles south of downtown San Francisco which is adjacent to San Francisco International Airport. The city has been the home of YouTube, the world’s largest online video site, for more than a decade. It’s the northern border of Silicon Valley and is also home to a major Walmart e-commerce office.

As the incident started, a Google employee at a nearby complex to the YouTube office said several police sirens were heard around the office and colleagues inside of the building were texting them updates. Videos and photos posted to Snapchat showed police officers running into the YouTube offices. People were also seen evacuating the offices in a line with their hands up in the air, according to the videos. Television reports showed police officers patting down people who had left the building to check for weapons.

Across the nation, the gun control debate has gained increasing attention from voters and legislators in the wake of the February mass shooting at a high school in Parkland, Florida. Congress recently bolstered the federal background check system for gun purchases as part of a larger spending bill and an additional report clarified that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could study the causes of gun violence. Additional measures have been passed at the state level.

An FBI study of active shooter incidents from 2000 to 2013 found that only six such cases, or 3.8 percent, involved a female shooter. Among the 160 shootings the study focused on, 23 occurred in business environments, and in 22 of those, the shooter worked for or had worked for the company targeted. Two of those shooters were women. In 40 percent of the total incidents studied, the shooter committed suicide.

Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-04-03/police-investigating-reports-of-shooter-at-youtube-campus

Boeing Hit by Cyberattack, Says Jetliner Production Not Affected

Boeing Hit by Cyberattack, Says Jetliner Production Not Affected

Updated on

  • Planemaker says it ‘detected a limited intrusion of malware’
  • Seattle Times cites memo on problem ‘metastasizing rapidly’

Boeing Co. said it was hit by a cyberattack, following a Seattle Times report that some manufacturing equipment used to build its 787 Dreamliner and newest 777 wide-body jets could be crippled.

Aircraft production and deliveries aren’t affected, the Chicago-based planemaker said Wednesday. Some reports on the attack “are overstated and inaccurate,” said Linda Mills, a spokeswoman at Boeing’s commercial airplane division.

“Our cybersecurity operations center detected a limited intrusion of malware that affected a small number of systems,” Mills said in an emailed statement. “Remediations were applied and this is not a production and delivery issue.”

The assembly lines potentially affected by the software problem include those of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner North Charleston, South Carolina, and the 777X Composite Wing Center, the Seattle Times report indicated.

“It is metastasizing rapidly out of North Charleston and I just heard 777 (automated spar assembly tools) may have gone down,” Boeing engineer Mike VanderWel wrote in a memo cited by the newspaper. VanderWel said he was concerned that the virus would hit equipment used to test jetliners before they roll out of the factory for their initial flight and potentially “spread to airplane software.”

The automated spar assembly refers to a state-of-the-art new tool at Boeing. Robotic machines there lay down rows of carbon-fiber tape over what will become the 108-foot-long spar that runs down the center of the wing for the 777X, an upgraded jetliner due to debut in 2020.

A cyberattack last year compromised companies such as FedEx Corp. and Nissan Motor Co. and crippled parts of the U.K.’s state-run National Health Service.

Boeing rose less than 1 percent to $321.55 in late trading.

Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-03-28/boeing-hit-by-wannacry-ransomware-attack-seattle-times-says

Volkswagen Apologizes for Testing of Diesel Fumes on Monkeys

The controversy over Volkswagen AG’s diesel-emissions cheating took another twist when the carmaker apologized for a test that exposed monkeys to engine fumes to study effects of the exhaust.

The company said the study, conducted by a research and lobby group set up by VW, Daimler AG, BMW AG and Robert Bosch GmbH, was a mistake. The New York Times reported earlier about a 2014 trial in a U.S. laboratory in which 10 monkeys inhaled diesel emissions from a VW Beetle.

“We apologize for the misconduct and the lack of judgment of individuals,” Wolfsburg, Germany-based VW said in a statement. “We’re convinced the scientific methods chosen then were wrong. It would have been better to do without such a study in the first place.”

The revelations show the rocky road for Volkswagen as it emerges from its biggest crisis after the 2015 bombshell that the company installed emissions-cheating software in some 11 million diesel vehicles to dupe official tests. They also do little to help the poor public perception of the technology under scrutiny for high pollution levels in many European cities. In an additional twist, the Beetle model used in the test was among the vehicles that were rigged to conform to test limits, The New York Times reported.

Daimler said separately it would start an investigation into the study ordered by the European Scientific Study Group for the Environment, Health and Transport Sector. BMW too distanced itself from the trial, saying it had taken no part in its design and methods. Bosch said it left the group in 2013. The study group, financed equally by the three carmakers, ceased activities last year and the project wasn’t completed, VW said.

“We believe the animal tests in this study were unnecessary and repulsive,” Daimler said in a statement. “We explicitly distance ourselves from the study.”

    Read more: http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-01-28/volkswagen-apologizes-for-testing-of-diesel-fumes-on-monkeys

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