With $1b war chest, Ping An set to become AI innovation giant
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.
A technician checks a facility of Shenhua Group in Tianjin Port.
Ericson Chan, CEO of Ping An Technology