Chinese facial recognition technology developer SenseTime has been valued it at about $4.5bn (£3.1bn) after a new funding round led by retail giant Alibaba. The technology developer has now more than tripled in value in less than a year, becoming the most valuable artificial intelligence (AI) startup in the world.

SenseTime raised $600m in its latest round of funding, after attracting a number of big investors including Chinese e-commerce company Suning and Singapore state fund Temasek Holdings, with Alibaba reportedly taking the largest stake in the company. SenseTime was originally valued at $1.5bn last July after it raised $410m in its series-B funding round.

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SenseTime, which is based in both Beijing and Hong Kong, develops applications for facial recognition, technology that may be used for everything from surveillance to self-driving cars. The company is already working with Honda to develop autonomous driving and with American telecommunications giant Qualcomm, which was also an early backer.

In a statement, Alibaba executive vice chairman Joe Tsai said: “We are especially impressed by their R&D capabilities in deep learning and visual computing. Our business at Alibaba is already seeing tangible benefits from our investments in AI and we are committed to further investment.”

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SenseTimes fundraising comes as the Chinese government looks to make the country into an international leader in artificial intelligence technology by 2025. China is hoping to grow the value of AI industries to $63.33bn.




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