Alibaba takes an interest in facial recognition company Megvii
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Alibaba takes an interest in facial recognition company Megvii

Chinese software developer Megvii Inc., the company behind powerful facial recognition technology Face++ is “said to be” (according to Bloomberg) raising at least $600 million from investors including Chinese Ecommerce giant Alibaba Group Holdings. Megvii has already piqued the interest of billionaire Alibaba boss Jack Ma’s related ventures, with Ant Financial having invested in it previously.

Alibaba’s share price has risen by 8% so far this year

graph 2407 alibaba

SOURCE: Yahoo Finance

Bloomberg cites “people familiar with the matter” who would rather not be named, as saying that the facial recognition experts will “close this round of funding” within weeks, and then seek a “second tranche”. For Alibaba, this investment is just one of many in a number of promising artificial intelligence (AI) startups.

Alibaba’s interest in AI is fairly straightforward: the company hopes to deploy the technology in its own enormous internet and retail networks. Ant Financial already uses Megvii’s face-scanning tech as a form of security authorization – and since Ant is firmly integrated with the payments side of Alibaba’s online retail empire.

Megvii’s major competitor, Sensetime, is another company in which Alibaba has a stake. All three companies have declined to comment on the news.

Facial recognition technology is garnering interest not just from retailers and internet companies, but from governments and academics too. The technology promises to offer an unparalleled level of security for consumers, but comes with its own privacy risks. For now, however, Jack Ma seems to be banking on the benefits outweighing them.

Disclosure

Dominion holds Alibaba in its Global Trends Managed Fund.


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