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China’s Yitu eyes ASEAN market with facial recognition know-how

Facial recognition software specialist Yitu, which recently won a face identification accuracy contest in the US, has already nabbed regional clients such as Singapore’s Certis Cisco

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Chinese facial recognition software company Yitu Technology has set its sights on the fast-growing artificial intelligence (AI) market with a new regional headquarters in Singapore.

Speaking at the launch of its first international office in Singapore’s gleaming central business district, Lance Wang, Yitu’s general manager for Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Macau, said Singapore provides the “perfect springboard” for the company’s expansion into Southeast Asia.

“The AI revolution is already disrupting many industries and sectors in this region,” he said. “From public security to banking and healthcare, AI will undoubtedly bring about incredible innovations and continue to be the engine that powers the growth in the region.”

Yitu’s Singapore office will primarily serve as a sales, marketing and operations outfit for now, though plans are in the pipeline to establish research and development capabilities in the city-state by the end of 2018.

Co-founded in 2012 by Lin Chenxi, a former Alibaba and Microsoft executive, and Zhu Long, a top AI and computer vision expert, Yitu made waves in June 2017 when it came out tops in four out of six categories in a facial recognition supplier test by the US National Institute of Standards and Technology.

The company also won a face identification accuracy contest hosted by the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence in November 2017.

Scott Ong, technical director of Yitu in Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Macau, said one of its first customers in the region is Singapore-based physical and cyber security provider Certis Cisco, which is using Yitu’s facial recognition software to secure access to sensitive areas such as datacentres.

At its home base, Yitu counts major Chinese government agencies and hospitals as clients, along with financial institutions such as the Agricultural Bank of China, which is using Yitu’s technology to facilitate cash withdrawals at ATM machines without the use of bank cards.

Read more about AI in ASEAN

  • Singtel inks five-year pact with Nanyang Technological University (NTU) to bolster Singapore’s capabilities in AI, IoT, data analytics and robotics.
  • Huawei and Keppel test use of artificial intelligence to improve datacentre operations and energy efficiency at a reference site in Singapore.
  • Malaysia’s RHB Bank launches chatbot to help consumers apply for personal loans, making it the latest bank in Southeast Asia to make use of chatbots to improve customer service.
  • Singapore to develop a national corpus of audio and text files that will enable applications such as chatbots to understand local accents, among a raft of measures to boost AI adoption.

Ang Chin Tah, director for infocomm and media at Singapore’s Economic Development Board, said Yitu’s regional headquarters will also give the best AI talent a chance to tackle challenges across industries, in Singapore, Asia, and the world.

Besides Yitu, Boston-based DataRobot has also invested around $11m in a regional office and research operation in Singapore, which has outlined a national blueprint to bolster AI adoption across industries and groom AI talent, among other goals.

According to IDC, spending on AI systems in the Asia-Pacific region, excluding Japan, is expected to reach $4.6bn by 2021, with a compound annual growth rate of 72.9% between 2016 and 2021.

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