Artificial Intelligence in China is not the future - it’s the present

Faheem Sarwar. 

The age of Artificial Intelligence in China has arrived. It is here, it is now and it is asking for more. The demand for talent is so high that the government had to push universities to promote AI education. Will the present generation, and the next, be able to match this drive is something that does seem possible, but the industry is growing and its appetite for human resource is voracious.

AI + X is an interdisciplinary approachbeing encouraged in universities to integrate AI with subjects like physics, sociology,psychology, biology, and mathematics among others. Dedicated AI departmentshave been introduced from Jilin to Nanjing and some universities are even collaboratingwith private companies to train their students. Apart from being teachinginstitutions, universities are also cradles of research and thus the vanguardsof AI.

The industry itself is presenting aprogressive outlook. Over4,000 firms in China today are AI-based and thegovernment is looking for the business to exceed 1 trillion yuanby 2030. The capital Beijing with its entrepreneurial atmosphere is emerging asan AI hub. According to data from Beijing Municipal Commission of Economy andInformation Technology (BMCEIT), the city hosts more than 1,070 AI companieswhich is 26 percent of the country’s count. 1,237 AI companiesfrom around China have acquired venture investments and 431 out of these, or 35percent, are from Beijing.

Rokid, a well-funded startup fromHangzhou, is ready to mass produce its custom AIchip for voice recognition and is planning tocreate China’s first AI Operating System. The country’s largest carmaker, SAICMotor, is also it’s first to launch an in-house AI lab.While focusing on cloud computing, big data, and business application, theShanghai-headquartered company aims to put smart technology to use inautomobile production, automobile products, rental service, and logistics.

Kunlun might be a famous mountain rangein western China but it is the name of Baidu’s indigenous cloud-to-edge AI chipas well, which according to it’s CEO, has a computational capability 30 timesfaster than the latest field-programmable gate array based AI accelerator. Baidu Brainis another ambitious project by the tech giant, adding a human touch inmachines to enable them to see, hear and understand better.

China’s extensive use of AI in themedical field is easing load from hospitals and improving skills of doctors.Alibaba in Shanghai, for instance, is not only using data for patientprediction and doctor allocation, but in Zhejiang it is developing AI-based diagnosis tools to analyze CT scans and MRIs. In a countrywhere more than 2.7 million peoplegive in to cancer each year, Tencent is developing Miying – an AI clinicaldiagnostic system which learns from big data, examines endoscopy images andgives feedback in 4 seconds with an accuracy reaching as high as 90 percent.

Pitched against AI lastmonth, experienced physicians were seen at aneuroimaging contest in Beijing. In the two rounds of diagnosing brain tumorsand predicting hematoma expansion, an AI system named BioMind scored a clear2:0 win. This does not mean AI will one day be replacing the human doctor.Instead, it will only act how GPS does for a driver today.

AI companies are proving immenselyhelpful to the government in ensuring public security. SenseTime, a valuablestart-up, has installed vision and image recognition systems at multiple airports and railwaystations. A high-tech enterprise, CloudWalk Technology, has engaged with authoritiesin the mega Skynet Project to identify pedestrians and vehicles, worked with 23provinces and helped arrest almost 2,600 suspects. Hikvision, another producerof AI-powered systems and front-end cameras, also partnerswith local governments to provide facialrecognition and big data analysis.

2018 is a good year for AI enthusiasts inChina. Smart China Expoplanned for August in the Chongqing municipality is expecting to “acceleratethe development of China’s AI industry”. The event will be marked withcompetitions, exhibitions and thematic activities aimed at integration ofinternet and big data. Later in September, Shanghai will host AI World 2018conference with the theme of “New Era of Artificial Intelligence”. Specialactivities to boost investment and research are planned for the event. Thecity’s deputy mayor believes that local AI industry will develop after furtherimprovement of intellectual property protection.

Since the State Council issued an AI development planlast year, China’s rapidly developing tech industry is fueling the massivegrowth of this new age technology. Latest privacy standards adopted in May anda new cybersecurity law are some of the measures taken toregulate its growth. While there are no reports of any large-scale data leak inthe country, citizens’ find their confidence in AI improving with major playersintending to provide opensource access to their platforms.