The artificial intelligence industry just recorded its largest funding round in history.
SenseTime, a Chinese startup that specializes in facial recognition, announced Monday that it has raised $600 million in Series C funding--making it the most highly valued artificial intelligence startup in the world. The company reportedly has a valuation higher than $4 billion, according to Bloomberg. Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba Group led the round.
SenseTime provides facial-recognition technology used in various fields from security to fintech. The three-year-old startup's biggest contribution, though, may be to the Chinese government's surveillance: the software helps process data captured by China's 170 million CCTV cameras and is built into more than 100 million mobile devices. The tech is also used in checkout-less lanes and customer analysis systems. According to Bloomberg, SenseTime is developing a service that will parse data from thousands of live camera feeds.
"SenseTime is doing pioneering work in artificial intelligence. We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing... Our strategic partnership with SenseTime will spark more innovation and create value for society," said Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, in a press release.
The startup said it will use the funding to build out its A.I. platform and to expand on its business ventures. SenseTime also said it has established partnerships with more than 400 companies including Honda on autonomous driving and Qualcomm on smart technology.
The announcement of a Chinese startup snagging the title of the highest valued A.I. startup in the world may put pressure on the U.S.'s A.I. startups. Last July, China said that it wanted to be a global leader in A.I. by 2030. China's A.I. startups received more funding that its U.S. counterparts last year, according to a CB Insights report. Of the $15.2 billion invested in A.I. startups globally, 48 percent went to China and only 36 percent went to the U.S.