17 Apr, 2018 Global tech giants rushing to invest heavily in AI deployments
Despite AI (artificial intelligence) technologies and applications still at a nascent development stage, global tech giants have rushed to invest heavily in making strategic deployments such as injecting capitals into related tech startups around the world, seeking to build a strong preemptive presence in the era of AI-based technological revolutions that may subvert all the businesses worldwide, according to industry sources.
In the latest cases, for instance, China’s Alibaba Group has taken the lead role for the world’s largest AI financing of US$600 million in the Series C round funding completed on April 9 by the country’s leading AI startup SenseTime. Just months earlier, Qualcomm also injected a massive amount into SenseTime.
In November 2017, Alibaba’s subsidiary Ant Financial and Taiwan’s Foxconn Group also joined a staggering US$460 million funding led by China’s state-owned venture capital firm Guo Feng Fund for Beijing-based AI startup Megvii Technology, also known as Face++, dedicated to facial recognition development.
Intel acquiring Mobileye
Among other tech giants, Intel acquired the Israel-based Mobileye, a developer of autonomous driving technologies, for US$15.3 billion in 2017 after completing in 2016 a US$410 million buyout of the US-based machine learning startup Nervana Systems and purchasing FPGA specialist Altera for US$16.7 billion in 2015.
In addition, Intel Capital has also injected over US$1 billion in investment funds into such AI startups as Mighty AI, Data Robot, and Lumiata, all in the US, in addition to investing over US$60 million in another 15 smaller startups covering AI, 3D medical vision, retail robots and web security fields.
After gaining a solid presence in the AI field with its GPU platforms, Nvidia has had its investment arm GPU Ventures funnel US$52 million in investment funds into China’s autonomous driving startup JingChih Technology in 2017 as part of its efforts to tap the China market for driverless vehicles and AI applications. In addition, Nvidia has also completed investments in about 10 other AI startups in five countries, including Japan’s ABEJA dedicated to AI-based retail systems; Silicon Valley-based SoundHound versed in AI voice solutions; Israel’s Zebra Medical specialized in AI medical image reading systems; and China’s TuSimple focusing on developing self-driving trucks.
China’s AI action plan
So far, many countries including China, Japan, South Korea and the US have zeroed in on AI as one of the major national strategic development targets. In particular, China is making all-out efforts to spur the development of the AI sector, having released a three-year action plan to materialize volume production of AI-related products including smart vehicles and service robots via strong financial support from the government through the end of 2020.
Worth mentioning is that major AI chipset solutions startups in China have seen investors from at home and abroad rushing to contribute funds for advanced development projects. Cambricon Technologies, for instance, has received hundreds of millions of US dollars in financial support from domestic investors including Alibaba, Lenovo Capital and Turing, enabling it to become the world’s first AI chip startup. DeePhi Tech has won capital injections from Samsung Venture Capital, Alibaba, MediaTek and FPGA leader Xilinx, and Horizon Robotics also got financial backing from Intel.