November 15, 2017 / 4:58 AM / in 3 days

Qualcomm invests in Chinese AI facial recognition startup SenseTime

BEIJING (Reuters) - Chinese artificial intelligence (AI) startup SenseTime Group said on Wednesday it has sealed an investment from chipmaker Qualcomm Inc as part of a funding round that will close later this year.

FILE PHOTO: A sign on the Qualcomm campus is seen, as chip maker Broadcom Ltd announced an unsolicited bid to buy peer Qualcomm Inc for $103 billion, in San Diego, California, U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

SenseTime and Qualcomm had announced a strategic tie last month to collaborate on AI, which will see SenseTime’s proprietary algorithms deployed in smart devices.

Qualcomm, in a statement, confirmed the investment in SenseTime. The two firms did not disclose the size of the investment.

Reuters reported earlier in November that SenseTime plans to raise about $500 million in a new funding round, in what would be the biggest ever such fundraising by an AI startup. The fundraising will value SenseTime at about $2 billion and has drawn interest from prospective investors, including Singapore state investor Temasek [TEM.UL], the report said.

The startup is one of several AI facial recognition firms in Greater China that are rapidly raising capital from local and foreign investors amid a multibillion dollar global drive to develop advanced facial recognition technology.

It raised $410 million in July in a funding round led by its main backer, Chinese buyout firm CDH Investments, and China’s state-backed fund Sailing Capital.

SenseTime is developing technology that employs AI to quickly identify and analyze identities using cameras, and has been used in limited tests by Chinese authorities to track and capture suspects in public spaces such as airports and festivals.

The startup, which is based between Beijing and Hong Kong, counts 40 local Chinese governments as clients. It is seeking to expand overseas, including possible plans for an ASEAN headquarters in Singapore.

Qualcomm said earlier this month it signed $12 billion worth of deals with three Chinese mobile handset makers on the sidelines of a state visit to Beijing by U.S. President Donald Trump. The chipmaker is facing a $103 billion takeover bid from rival Broadcom Ltd, which it rejected on Monday.

Reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Muralikumar Anantharaman

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