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Smart money flows to a future for artificial intelligence

AI has already become a major driving force in a new round of the technology and industrial revolution, the bule print report said.

The math says it all about China’s campaign to become a world leader in the development of artificial intelligence. The recent World Artificial Intelligence Conference in Shanghai drew 335 top scientists and business executives, 146 technology exhibitors, 40,000 visitors and a welcoming letter from President Xi Jinping.

For foreign giants like Amazon, ARM and Microsoft, the event was an opportunity to unveil new strategies and announce expanded investment in China. For Chinese firms, including AI startups, it provided an international platform for them to flex their tech muscles.

“AI has already become a major driving force in a new round of the technology and industrial revolution, which is widening its profound impact on the world economy, social progress and people’s daily life,” said a blue book released during the conference.

Shanghai wants to be a major player in the revolution. It launched a new round of policies to make that happen, with aims of developing artificial intelligence into a 100-billion-yuan (US$14.8 billion) industry by 2020. That would be a big jump from industry value of about 70 billion yuan last year.

“It’s an important measure in promoting the deep integration of the Internet, big data and AI with the real economy,” according to the blue book released by Gartner and the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.

Dong Jun / SHINE

WAIC was held in Shanghai between September 17 and September 19, with speakers and visitors from top researchers and business executives.

Indeed, players in the field regard China as the place to be.

Amazon, ARM, Microsoft, SAP and other overseas companies all announced new China investment and industry strategies during the conference.

“China is going to play a big role in this field,” said Alain Crozier, chairman and chief executive of Microsoft China. “China’s adoption of AI is very active, with small companies and big players alike building AI practices with vivid application scenarios.”

During the event, Microsoft opened a new AI center in Shanghai, making China’s research team the largest outside of the United States.

Microsoft has expanded its partnership network with companies including Lilly, Lingang Group and Jinmao Group. It covers artificial intelligence applications in such fields as health care, park management and smart homes.

For example, a link-up between Lilly China and Microsoft China, is looking at real-time monitoring and evaluation of personal health, early warning systems on disease and active intervention procedures.

Amazon, which just became the second firm with a market value of more than US$1 trillion after Apple, announced it will open a new AI lab in Shanghai and will add Mandarin language support for Amazon Polly, a machine learning service that turns text into lifelike speech. The new language support will allow Chinese users to create applications that talk and build new categories of speech-enabled products.

ARM, which has core intellectual property in the AI industry map, launched a new embedded development kit in Shanghai that will help give developers easier access to AI.

Representatives from top technology companies like Baidu, Alibaba, Tencent and Xiaomi gave speeches at the opening forum of the conference.

Some AI firms have raised billions of dollars in capital markets, and many startups are entering the industry. During the conference new partnerships and investment plans were unveiled, and exhibits showcased technologies related to chip design, algorithms and classified AI applications.

Vivo, the No.3 smartphone brand in China, announced it will establish a global AI research center related to smartphones and the Internet of Things.

“The smartphone will become a device with self-learning ability within two or three years,” Zhou Wei, vice president of Vivo, said during a forum at the event.

SenseTime, the world’s most valuable privately owned AI firm after raising US$620 million in May, announced it will invest 800 million yuan to build an AI supercomputer center in Shanghai. The center is expected to be the biggest one in Asia when it starts operation in 2020.

AI technologies are key to the development of online finance, risk control, customer identification, robo-advisors and intelligent customer services, according to Shanghai-based startup Xinyan.

AI applications are becoming “diversified and precise” in the finance industry, said Zhao Yang, Xinyan’s chief operating officer. The company has established a joint AI lab with Shanghai Jiao Tong University to develop machine-learning technology that will be able to “predict” future risks and resources from huge volumes of data.

Shanghai was a fitting city to host the conference. Participants at the event cited its high level of government support, talent pool and rich spaces to land AI applications.

During the event, the city announced 22 new policies in five categories to boost AI development. They cover talent, synergy innovation, industrial concentration and government-led financing investment, said Chen Mingbo, director of the Shanghai Commission of Economy and Information Technology.

The city will also launch a fund for developing the artificial intelligence industry. Major projects will be eligible for financial support of up to 100 million yuan, and AI companies will also be granted access to data resources in areas including education, health care and tourism.

Some 20 AI-related agreements were signed during the conference, involving companies that included Alibaba, Tencent, Baidu,, Huawei, SenseTime, Microsoft, ARM and Amazon.

chen jie / SHINE

Report of AI patents globally.

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