Baidu invests US$200 million in Chinese AI firm Neusoft to develop smart city solutions

Minghe Hu

Chinese search engine giant Baidu is investing 1.44 billion yuan (US$202 million) in industrial artificial intelligence (AI) firm Neusoft Holdings to develop smart city, health care and education infrastructure.

“Neusoft is an industry leader in … smart cities … and AI cloud for hospitals and the education sector,” said Baidu in a statement on Tuesday. “The collaboration between Baidu and Neusoft … is cooperation between an internet firm and a solutions provider to explore leading AI technology applications and industrial intelligence.”

The investment extends an existing partnership between the two companies, according to the statement. Baidu injected 22.5 million yuan (US$3 million) into Neusoft’s medical business in March and signed a strategic cooperation agreement with the company on the development of AI applications in health care and smart cities in May.

The Chinese State Council released a road map two years ago aimed at making China a global AI leader by 2030 as it ramps up competition in the field with the US. China is also pushing the adoption of smart city infrastructure and in 2017 over 500 cities applied to introduce AI technologies in transport, security and finance, according to Xinhua news. Baidu was also tapped by China’s Ministry of Science and Technology as national champion in the field of autonomous driving.

Baidu chief calls for bold moves to ‘get back on top’ after slippage

Meanwhile, Huawei Technologies has participated in more than 60 smart city projects in China using 5G, cloud computing and Internet of Things technologies, according to its 2018 annual report. Alibaba Group Holding teamed up with Malaysia’s capital Kuala Lumpur to implement its City Brain initiative last year.

Facing slowing growth in its mature search business, Beijing-based Baidu is diversifying into emerging AI technologies. The company expanded its AI programmes in February by announcing it would build a cloud computing centre in Hebei province to push its smart city project in Xiongan New Area, according to Xinhua news.

Xiongan New Area is a special economic zone that will play a central role in Chinese President Xi Jinping’s plan to integrate the future development of Beijing, Tianjin and Hebei.

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