With $1b war chest, Ping An set to be­come AI in­no­va­tion gi­ant

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS - By CAI XIAO caix­iao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Chi­nese fi­nan­cial gi­ant Ping An In­sur­ance (Group) Co will spend more than 7.77 bil­lion yuan ($1.16 bil­lion) on tech­nol­ogy re­search and devel­op­ment this year, and ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence will be the fo­cus of that R&D, ac­cord­ing to a se­nior ex­ec­u­tive of the com­pany.

“We want to build more plat­forms in fi­nance and health­care in­dus­tries this year and in the near fu­ture,” said Eric­son Chan, CEO of Ping An Tech­nol­ogy, a sub­sidiary and tech­nol­ogy arm of Ping An Group. “We will con­tinue to fo­cus on pro­vid­ing tech­nol­ogy ser­vices for the group as well as share more with the whole so­ci­ety.”

Es­tab­lished in 2008, Ping An Tech­nol­ogy has about 4,000 tech­nol­ogy work­ers and has paid at­ten­tion to R&D in cog­ni­tion, ro­bot ad­vi­sory and cloud busi­nesses. Their ap­pli­ca­tions are mainly used in fi­nance and health­care in­dus­tries; up to now, there have been more than 200 ap­pli­ca­tion sce­nar­ios.

Be­sides Ping An Group, Ping An Tech­nol­ogy has de­vel­oped more than 200 cor­po­rate clients — most of them banks in­clud­ing Stan­dard Char­tered Bank.

Ac­cord­ing to Chan, ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence has been its fo­cus as they it seeks to ben­e­fit from en­cour­ag­ing poli­cies and the sec­tor’s huge devel­op­ment po­ten­tial.

The State Coun­cil, China’s Cab­i­net, in July is­sued a na­tional ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence devel­op­ment plan, with a goal of mak­ing China one of the world’s fore­most AI in­no­va­tion cen­ters by 2030.

“I think the na­tional strat­egy is ab­so­lutely the right di­rec­tion and we do not need to wait till 2030,” Chan said. “China’s fast speed of tech­no­log­i­cal revo­lu­tion, a large num­ber of tal­ents and par­tic­u­larly high pen­e­tra­tion of new tech­nol­ogy ap­pli­ca­tion can be the rea­sons.”

Chan said Ping An’s AI tech­nolo­gies is fa­cial recog­ni­tion, which has been used 300 mil­lion times by last month.

For ex­am­ple, in­di­vid­u­als can bor­row money through an app of Ping An Group within three min­utes. A user can sub- mit his doc­u­ments, and with the fa­cial recog­ni­tion and voice au­then­ti­ca­tion tech­nolo­gies pro­vided by Ping An Tech­nol­ogy, Ping An Group can con­firm his iden­tity and even know his credit to de­ter­mine how much money to lend.

Be­sides fi­nance and health­care, Chan said Ping An Tech­nol­ogy is also step­ping up the pace of ap­ply­ing ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence tech­nolo­gies to the au­to­mo­tive and hous­ing in­dus­tries.

For ex­am­ple, he said, con­sider that a Ping An cus­tomer’s car is dam­aged dur­ing a typhoon. As long as he up­loads his car’s pic­tures on Ping An’s plat­form, the pic­tures can be an­a­lyzed with AI tech­nolo­gies and the in­sur­ance re­im­burse­ment amount will be cal­cu­lated quickly.

Chan said com­pared with other com­peti­tors, the ad­van­tages of Ping An Tech­nol­ogy can be its rich­ness of data and a lot of ap­pli­ca­tion sce­nar­ios, and its chal­lenge is com­pet­ing for tal­ents, ad­ding that Ping An Tech­nol­ogy has reached co­op­er­a­tive ar­range­ments with world-lead­ing uni­ver­si­ties such as the Mas­sachusetts In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy and Ts­inghua Univer­sity.

In­ter­net gi­ants are fiercely com­pet­ing in the ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence area. In June, Ten­cent Hold­ings Ltd un­veiled Xiaowei, an in­tel­li­gent voice com­put­ing plat­form de­vel­oped on the ba­sis of WeChat’s voice recog­ni­tion tech­nol­ogy. Alibaba Group Hold­ing Ltd and Baidu Inc have also launched sim­i­lar open voice com­put­ing plat­forms.

Data from Chi­nese re­search firm CCID Con­sult­ing showed that the value of China’s ar­ti­fi­cial in­tel­li­gence mar­ket will to­tal 40.6 bil­lion yuan in 2018.

Zhuang Qiange con­trib­uted to this story.

JIA CHENGLONG / FOR CHINA DAILY

A tech­ni­cian checks a fa­cil­ity of Shen­hua Group in Tian­jin Port.

Eric­son Chan, CEO of Ping An Tech­nol­ogy

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