4 Ways AI Is Making An Impact China
Some of China’s startups are offering a glimpse at how AI can be used to address problems faced not only in the region, but potentially all over the world.
by Nicole Manktelow
Posted on 06-07-2018
Which country has the some of the world’s most valuable artificial intelligence startup, a growing AI skilled workforce, and a mission to become the technology’s global leader by 2030? It’s China, of course, where some of the country’s startups are offering a glimpse at how AI can be used to address problems faced not only in the region, but potentially all over the world.
Healthcare, security, and agriculture are three industries that stand to gain. Let’s take a look at four examples.
Lung cancer is one of the deadliest problems facing China’s population; the disease claims 600,000 lives each year.
With the intention of bring that number down, Beijing-based medical imaging company Infervision is using machine-learning algorithms and computer vision for cancer diagnosis. The AI technology is designed to read computerised tomography scans and instantly recognise certain nodules and lesions that, in their early stages, are sometimes difficult for doctors to detect.
Infervision is also helping hospitals, such as Beijing’s Tiantan Hospital and Shanghai’s Changzheng Hospital, to deal with strokes, where speed is critical for diagnosis and ascertaining the extent of damage caused to a patient. The technology has been deployed at training hospitals, which provide Infervision with the added benefit of access to a healthy supply of data. That, in turn, is key for keeping its tools up-to-date.
Vending Machine Doctor
AI is helping to address China’s critical doctor shortage, where there are only 2.3 doctors for every 1,000 citizens, according to the National Health and Family Planning Commission. And in addition to high consumer demand for health and well-being remedies and supplements, there’s an undersupply of medical services for the country’s vast population.
One solution that could offset the ratio, especially for commonplace complaints such as coughs and colds, is Instant Clinic, an AI vending machine concept that’s always open, minus the waiting room.
Here’s how it works: At the vending machine, a person interacts with voice-activated AI technology that assesses her ailment, retrieves her medical history, and then sends the information to a live doctor who can prescribe medicine accordingly. The medicine is available on the spot, improving efficiencies for patient and doctor alike.
The machine is being developed by a subsidiary of China’s second-largest life insurance company, Ping An, which is exploring other AI applications, including image recognition for processing car insurance claims. It also has developed an algorithm to generate music–with the lofty goal of composing a symphony to rival Beethoven.
Managing national security and surveillance is an ever-changing challenge for governments and law enforcement agencies, but advances in AI are fostering more sophisticated tools and capabilities in the field.
Consider China’s SenseTime, the most valuable AI startup in the world, at $4.5 billion. Its facial recognition system is a key part of China’s huge surveillance system, which has a reported 176 million CCTV cameras, including in-store security vision and on public transport.
The system also is credited with the ability to spot wanted criminals in public gatherings–at large concerts, for example–and is now being deployed for police smart glasses at border control. SenseTime said the software it provides is used to match surveillance footage from crime scenes to photos from a criminal database. So far, it has identified more than 2,000 suspects and solved “nearly 100 cases.”
Facial Recognition On The Farm
Facial recognition technology isn’t necessarily just for humans. Pork is a staple in China, which means healthy pig farming is essential to the country’s economy and food security.
One company, Yingzi, is using biometrics, including facial recognition, to track individual pigs and alert farmers of important changes, such as if a sow is pregnant. At a press conference, a Yingzi employee demonstrated how the technology worked. First he scanned a pig’s head with an app on his mobile phone. Once the animal was recognised, the system brought up data about that individual pig, such as its activities, behaviour, sleeping patterns, vital signs, and health. A whole-of-life view can be used to provide quality assurance to the supply chain and ultimately for consumers.
According to Jiangsu Now, Yingzi is not the only company in China to use AI in the pig breeding industry. Earlier this year, Alibaba teamed with two livestock farming companies to build an AI system to help China boost its pig-husbandry industry.
The Human Touch
While machine learning can compare patterns and detect anomalies, such as the above examples show, this is naturally limited by the quality of the underlying data. Similarly, for AI to become smarter it, too, needs a healthy data supply. Where does that come from?
One source is Guizhou Mengdong Technology, whose data farm, based in China’s Southwest, employs human workers, mostly students, who sit at computers sorting through volumes of images and sounds, analyzing speech, and labelling everyday objects.
These activities generate vast quantities of data–fueled by the simple tasks most humans take for granted–feeding China’s AI startups and the country’s overall ambitions.
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