Biz / Tech

Adroit minds to converge on artificial intelligence

Shanghai is to become a global center for artificial intelligence by attracting international talent and providing technological and information-exchange platforms.

Shanghai is determined to become a global center for the development of artificial intelligence by attracting international talent and providing technological and information-exchange platforms.

As part of that thrust, the city will host the World Artificial Intelligence Conference next month, focusing on local companies that are exporting AI technology or want to expand their global footprints.

Ti Gong

The artificial intelligence industry in Shanghai is expanding rapidly. Firms involved in its various sectors are expected to show annual output of more than 100 billion yuan (US$15 billion) within two to three years, compared with 70 billion yuan in 2017.

Shanghai brings unique advantages to the table. It is an innovative hub in sectors that use AI technologies, such as digitally connected cars, smart manufacturing and medical image recognition.

By improving the business environment and, of course, providing attractive salaries, the city is hoping to attract more AI professionals who see the local industry as a step-up in career development. For example, a former Microsoft executive just joined a Shanghai-based robotics firm.

“We want to change people’s lives and upgrade the economic structure,” explained Chen Mingbo, director of the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

Ping An Good Doctor is one example. It announced last week that it will establish a US$140 million joint venture with Grab to explore the online healthcare market in Southeast Asia.

“Advanced AI-featured business models and technologies are suitable locally and globally,” said Wang Tao, chairman and chief executive officer of Ping An Good Doctor. “We want to export mature technologies and services, resolving medical issues worldwide.”

Zhu Shenshen / SHINE

Ping An Good Doctor announced global expansion strategy.


The partners plan to tap into the US$370 billion online healthcare market in Southeast Asia, offering one-stop healthcare services in 225 cities in eight countries. Some 260 million people live in its catchment target.

Wang said the company is also exploring markets beyond Southeast Asia for its AI technologies.

The World Artificial Intelligence Conference is expected to attract 260 speakers and 150 exhibitors with the latest applications of artificial intelligence in sectors such as transport, finance, retail, health care, smart manufacturing, education and services.

Information technology giants and research institutions, including Alibaba, Baidu, Google, Huawei, Microsoft, SAIC, SAP and Tencent, will be sending representatives. But the conference will also afford smaller, local startups with the opportunity to show off their cutting-edge technologies.

Banking applications

Huifu Ltd, which listed in Hong Kong in June, will hold an AI Finance forum at the conference to discuss applications related to risk control and services like teller-less banks, financial advisory work and identification authorization.

In 2017, Shanghai-based Huifu invested 130 million yuan in research. It now serves payment and other services for 5.8 million small and medium-size companies in China.

Among those who will be speaking at the conference is Professor Michael Jordan of the University of California, Berkeley, a leading scholar in artificial intelligence. Other participants include Tang Xiao’ou, founder of SenseTime and a professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.

ti gong / Ti Gong

Professor Jordan will attend the Shanghai AI event.

SenseTime is an artificial intelligence “unicorn,” or private firm valued at more than US$1 billion. It announced in 2017 that it would invest at least 6 billion yuan in Shanghai and has established an alliance with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

SenseTime has raised US$1.6 billion in the recent years, with the latest financing of US$620 million announced in May.

The company plans to set up a “smart” medical center in the US state of New Jersey as its first overseas medical foray. The center will use AI technologies in diagnosis, treatment and recovery.

Another AI firm, Clobotics, has dual headquarters in Shanghai and Seattle. The company, which offers robotics and AI technologies in wind power and the retail industry, announced last week that it has successfully completed a second round of financing valued at US$11 million.

Ti Gong

Clobotics' product is used outdoors. 

It also announced that it appointed Kevin Turner to be its board of advisors. Turner was former chief operating officer of Microsoft and also worked in the retail industry for Sam’s Club of Walmart.

“By combining hardware and AI technologies, Clobotics can promote innovative marketing strategy as well as execution evolution,” said Turner.

Another participant of the AI event will be Zhuiyi, a Shenzhen-based startup in natural language processing. It has set up a research center in Shanghai, offering services such as customer-service robots for clients like China Merchants Bank.

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