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SenseTime (Chinese: 商汤科技) is an artificial intelligence SaaS company.[2] It was founded in Hong Kong with additional offices across China, Singapore, Japan, and the United States. It was the world's first AI unicorn and it has one of the highest total financing and highest valuations in the industry, and is valued at over $7.5 billion, having raised $600 million at a $3 billion valuation, in April, 2018, and then, shortly thereafter, $700 million at a $7 billion valuation from Softbank.[3]

IndustryArtificial intelligence
FoundedOctober 2014; 5 years ago (October 2014)
FounderTang Xiao'ou, Xu Li, Kuppa
HeadquartersScience Park, Hong Kong[1]
Area served
Computer vision, deep learning, face recognition, object detection, autonomous driving, smart cities, mobile apps, fintech, education



SenseTime was co-founded in October 2014 by Tang Xiao'ou, a professor of the Department of Information Engineering at the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), and computer scientist Xu Li, among others.[4] Tang is also the founder of CUHK's Multimedia Laboratory, the only representative from Asia to make it onto Nvidia's 2016 Top 10 Leading AI Labs list.[5] The CUHK-SenseTime Joint Lab has published and presented more than 400 computer vision papers in the world's top academic journals and conferences, second only to Microsoft. During 2014, SenseTime unveiled its face recognition algorithms, DeepID, which was the first computer vision algorithm to have better detection accuracy than human eyes, ahead of Facebook.[6]


During 2015, many of SenseTime's papers were accepted into the Conference on Computer Vision and Pattern Recognition (CVPR). A total of 9 papers were recognized, all within the first year of SenseTime's inception.[7]


In 2016, SenseTime increased the amount of its selected papers up to 16 in the CVPR Conference, and during this year's ImageNet competition, the company won first place in the object detection, video object detection, and scene analysis.[8][9]


SenseTime set a record for the highest round of financing in the global AI industry: Series B raised US$410 million. It was during this time that a total of 43 publications were recognized by the CVPR and the International Conference on Computer Vision (ICCV).[10][11] This number ranked first within Asia and even surpassed those numbers of Google and Facebook for that year.

SenseTime also saw many additional partnerships with global industry leaders and major municipalities. In October of that year, Qualcomm worked with SenseTime.[12] The following month, the Shanghai Municipal Government signed a strategic alliance agreement with SenseTime.[13] In December 2017, Honda and SenseTime signed a collaboration agreement.[14]


In February 2018, SenseTime and MIT announced the creation of a joint alliance to further advance AI research. In April 2018, Series C financing amounted to US$600 million, which was then followed up immediately in the next month by a Series C+ round of US$620 million.[15]

In the same month, SenseTime, Alibaba, and the Hong Kong Science and Technology Parks Corporation (HKSTP) partnered together to form a nonprofit artificial intelligence lab in Hong Kong. The “HKAI Lab” is aimed to “advance the frontiers of AI” and make Hong Kong one of the global hubs for AI. Preliminary funding for start-ups will be provided by Alibaba while SenseTime will offer access to its deep-learning resources. [16] The following month, SenseTime debuted in Singapore by signing a collaborative memorandum of understanding with Nanyang Technological University (NTU), the National Supercomputing Centre of Singapore and Singapore Telecommunications Limited (SingTel). The ceremony was held on 29 June 2018 in Singapore and aimed to promote the advancement of AI within Singapore. NTU hopes to develop its own “smart campus,” and SingTel will apply SenseTime technology to their retail platforms and solutions. [17] In August of that same summer, SenseTime launched its first ever North American smart health lab in New Jersey.[18]

On 20 September 2018, SenseTime was named to China's National Open Innovation Platform for Next-Generation Artificial Intelligence on Intelligent Vision.[19]


Because of SenseTime's academic background, the company remains committed to working closely with academia around the world. The company currently boasts Asia's largest deep learning research team led by scientists each with more than 20 years of research experience. The company has also established joint laboratories and/or conducted joint research projects with the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK), Tsinghua University, Peking University, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Zhejiang University.

SenseTime became the first company in the world to join MIT's Quest for Intelligence campaign, a cross-disciplinary project hoping to leverage the capabilities of artificial intelligence. [20]

In September 2018, SenseTime became one of the founding members of the Global Artificial Intelligence Academic Alliance (GAIAA), along with the Chinese University of Hong Kong, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Sydney, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Tsinghua University, Fudan University, Zhejiang University, Nanyang Technological University, and 7 other universities. The formation was officially announced at the 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference (WAIC) in Shanghai and aspires to be the primary channel for streamlined information exchanges and collaboration amongst the top AI research institutions in the world. [21]

SenseTime has a large high-performance computing network which supports its development and fielding of AI applications. According to a report by Gregory C. Allen of the Center for a New American Security, SenseTime's computing network includes "54,000,000 Graphical Processing Unit (GPU) cores across 15,000 GPUs within 12 GPU clusters."[22]


SenseTime is an algorithm provider for several industries pertaining to artificial intelligence, including smart cities, smartphones, mobile Internet, online entertainment, automobiles, finance, retail, education, and real estate.

The company currently has more than 700 global customers, partners, and alliances, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Qualcomm, Nvidia, Honda, Alibaba, Suning, China Mobile, UnionPay, Wanda, Huawei, Xiaomi, Oppo, Vivo, Weibo, and iFLYTEK. [23]

SenseTime set up a 'smart policing' company with Leon, a major supplier of data analysis and surveillance technology in Xinjiang, in November 2017.[24] SenseTime's AI software was used in the development of facial recognition systems, for use by the Chinese government.[25] In April 2019 SenseTime sold out of the security venture.[24]


  1. ^ Meet SenseTime, Hong Kong’s first hi-tech unicorn that no one’s heard of
  2. ^ "China's SenseTime, the world's highest-valued AI startup, closes $620M follow-on round".
  3. ^ "China's SenseTime Raises $620 Million".
  4. ^ "Xu Li". Fortune. 19 July 2018. Retrieved 9 April 2019.
  5. ^ "Pioneer in Research on Artificial Intelligence and Deep Learning".
  6. ^ "Face Recognition Tech Beats Facebook DeepFace".
  7. ^ "CVPR 2015 Open Access".
  8. ^ "CVPR 2016 Open Access".
  9. ^ "Engineering team won in the ImageNet Large Scale Visual Recognition Challenge".
  10. ^ "CVPR 2017 Open Access".
  11. ^ "ICCV 2017 Open Access".
  12. ^ "SenseTime and Qualcomm to Collaborate to Drive On-Device Artificial Intelligence".
  13. ^ "Milestones".
  14. ^ "Honda is working with Chinese AI unicorn SenseTime on self-driving tech".
  15. ^ "SenseTime: Overview".
  16. ^ "Alibaba's newest initiative aims to make Hong Kong a global AI hub".
  17. ^ "SenseTime Debuts in Singapore by Signing Memoranda of Understanding with Local Giants NTU, NSCC and Singtel".
  18. ^ "SenseTime Establishes Smart Medical R&D Lab in New Jersey".
  19. ^ "Beijing recruits Hong Kong artificial intelligence start-up SenseTime to lead tech drive".
  20. ^ "MIT and SenseTime Announce Effort to Advance Artificial Intelligence Research".
  21. ^ "CUHK Participates in the Initiation of "Global AI Academic Alliance"".
  22. ^ Allen, Gregory. "Understanding China's AI Strategy". Center for a New American Security. Center for a New American Security. Retrieved 15 March 2019.
  23. ^ "SenseTime".
  24. ^ a b "Subscribe to read". Financial Times. Retrieved 1 May 2019.
  25. ^ Mozur, Paul (14 April 2019). "One Month, 500,000 Face Scans: How China Is Using A.I. to Profile a Minority". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 1 May 2019.

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