Investors are pouring into Chinese facial recognition firms

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Face++, which was founded in 2011, does not release specific revenue figures but Xie said it has been growing at about 400 percent annually and the company is expected to break even this year. It’s also targeting an initial public offering, although it has no time frame, he said.

SenseTime said its video surveillance technology is used by 40 local government clients.

Its photography enhancement technology is also used by almost all of China’s major smartphone manufacturers including Huawei Technologies, Oppo, Vivo and Xiaomi.

SenseTime is seeking to expand overseas. It’s considering setting up an ASEAN headquarters in Singapore, after Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien-loong recently visited the company in Beijing, Shang told Reuters.

“We are confident of recording $100 million in revenue this year,” he said, adding that would make it No.1 in China. He said the company expects its overseas revenue to grew to $150 to $200 million in three to five years.

SenseTime and Face++ are far from alone.

Smaller rival Yitu Technology, which lists more than a dozen provincial or municipal police departments across China as major clients, raised $380 million from investors in May, including Sequoia China.

DeepGlint, another Sequoia-backed AI company that has developed an intelligent surveillance camera that can capture faces as far away as 50 metres, told Reuters it derives almost all of its revenue from government contracts.

Sequoia did not respond to Reuters’ requests for comment on whether it has any concern that technology it is investing in may infringe individual privacy.

Both Shang and Xie shrugged off criticism that their companies’ technology may be used to infringe on individuals’ privacy.

“We are only technology providers, we are neutral,” Xie said. “If you go back to the time before there is mobile, before there is the Internet, then of course you had better privacy. But times have to advance with technology,” he said.



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