Seven years ago, Yin Qi founded a company called Megvii with two college friends in Beijing. Now people from over 220 countries and regions use Megvii’s face-recognition platform, Face++. The company has more than 1,500 employees.
Face++ has transformed businesses in China, both online and offline. Subways and train stations use face recognition to expedite the screening process; banking apps use it to confirm the identities of their users.
Being in China has given Megvii an edge. While the use of face recognition in the West has mostly been confined to consumer-oriented applications such as unlocking smartphones, in China the same technology enjoyed strong backing from the government and big companies right away. This gives Megvii ample opportunities to commercialize its algorithms for industries as diverse as public security, real estate, finance, and retail.
Yin admits privacy is an issue. He says his products process sensitive raw data on local devices instead of uploading them to the cloud. He’d also like to see an industrywide standard on user privacy. “When there is a good system to manage and run these technologies, the benefits they will bring will outweigh the drawbacks,” he says.