This article presents takeaways from a session at GIC Insights 2019, where we heard from Professor Tang Xiao’ou, Founder of SenseTime, one of China’s leading AI companies, and Jean-Pascal Tricoire, Chairman and CEO of French energy multinational Schneider Electric, on their digitally enabled but highly divergent paths to leadership. GIC Insights is our annual flagship event that gathers a select group of prominent business leaders to deliberate over long-term issues pertinent to the international business and investment community.
From AI (Artificial Intelligence) to IA (Industrial Automation), technological innovation is transforming industries and changing the global competitive landscape. They are meeting the rapidly evolving and differentiated needs of consumers, while making traditional industries more efficient and sustainable.
Technology at the core
From driverless cars to robots in factories, new technology innovations driven by AI and IA are transforming industries and lifestyles in ways unimagined before.
At the vanguard of these technological innovations are SenseTime and Schneider Electric, two companies with very similar goals – new solutions and efficiency improvements – but highly distinct backgrounds.
SenseTime is a five-year-old Chinese unicorn contributing to the rising tide of AI while Schneider is a 183-year-old company with its legacy in energy distribution. Their paths to leadership are unique, but there is also potential for traditional incumbents and young disruptors to collaborate.
The future of AI
In just five years, SenseTime has emerged to become “the world’s most valuable start-up” with 3,500 staff and offices in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, the Middle East, and Singapore.
In part, SenseTime’s rapid rise can be attributed to timing. It came into being at a time when China was already at the technological frontiers of electronics, machinery, automobiles, and high-speed railways, and driving the development of next-generation technologies, including robotics, AI, supercomputers, and virtual reality. As computer scientist-investor Lee Kai-Fu noted before, when the Chinese ecosystem focuses on one industry, ‘they can truly shake the world.’
Today, AI is embedded in everyday Chinese life, in applications from traffic management and safety, to even kitchen processes and hygiene standards compliance.
In building its AI business, SenseTime cites four factors as being key to its success: