Chinese government turmoil hits SenseTime investment

Image copyright C.S. Yeung

The public debut of SenseTime’s facial recognition technology may be denied to wary investors due to tensions between the US and China.

SenseTime has been installed at Shanghai’s National People’s Congress as part of its facial recognition project.

But as US President Donald Trump has threatened a tariff on $150bn (£105bn) worth of Chinese imports, it is now in jeopardy.

The firm’s co-founder Si Wong told the BBC: “We already got investor approvals from [sister company] Dragon Prime, so I’m hoping that they’ll still go ahead with it.”

However, SenseTime – which has a majority stake in Dragon Prime – is continuing to deal with a funding disagreement with the Chinese state.

“We haven’t received any funding from the state yet,” said Mr Wong.

He added that while SenseTime is “not cooperating” on the platform and “we’re waiting for the government” to make a decision, it may not be an “easy task”.

Image copyright C.S. Yeung Image caption SenseTime have been helping to design a bridge to connect Shanghai’s infamous Huangpu River

The private investment in SenseTime received a boost after China’s central bank gave it a $500m injection in 2015 to fund research.

The technology is used to find perpetrators and control crowds during protests, and also provides an extra layer of security at sporting events.

But this comes at a time when companies such as Google, Apple and Facebook have been banned from operating in China because of their alleged unpatriotic practices.

Mr Wong said he is looking to China’s own facial recognition technology: “In China you have that level of testing.

“It is the biggest base for software security in the world, but most facial recognition software we use today in our home has been filtered into China.

“China is starting to recognise the value of having commercial facial recognition.

“We were hoping to fund and expand our China commercial team.”

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