Geek + has received $60 million in Series B funding
Established in 2015, Chinese robotic logistics company Geek + has recently received $60 million in Series B funding, which the company has called the largest single round of fundraising in the logistics robot industry globally to date.”
The company has become the largest logistics robot company in China, and operates the single largest robot warehouse in the region. It also houses the largest number of robots in operation, with the highest processing volume.
Led by private equity firm Warburg Picus and existing shareholders, Geek + therefore provides a one-stop shop in delivering intelligent logistics robotic solutions. This incorporates e-commerce platforms, third-party logistics providers, express delivery companies, offline retailers and manufacturers of apparels, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and electronics products. Warburg Pincus is a global private equity firm, which has invested more than $7 billion in nearly 100 companies in China.
Mr. Yong Zheng, Founder and CEO of Geek+, said: "This round of financing will help us upgrade our business in three aspects. Firstly, we will accelerate the upgrading of our logistics robotics products and expand product offerings to cover more applications. Secondly, we will accelerate our geographical expansion and industry coverage to provide our one-stop intelligent logistics system and operation solutions to more customers.
Thirdly, we will start exploring overseas markets through multiple channels." Geek+ has also established strategic partnerships with a number of key customers to co-develop customized AI and robotic solutions across different industries and applications.
Geek + maintains a significant advantage in technology capability, product performance and market share compared to industry peers., and has delivered nearly 1,000 units of robots in warehouses for over 20 customers, including Tmall, VIPShop and Suning.
Its solutions cover storage, order picking, material handling and parcel sorting. Its solutions can perform a wide range of functions, such as order division and consolidation, intelligent inventory replenishment and products return, SKU correlation analysis, robots routes optimisation, automated collision and congestion control, and dynamic shelf optimization.
Mr. Jericho Zhang, Principal of Warburg Pincus, commented: "As the AI technologies are maturing, we are seeing increasing market demand and new applications. In particular, the traditional, capital-intensive and labour-intensive logistics industry provides huge market potential for AI technologies. With the rapid development of China's e-commerce industry, China's warehouse management industry is undergoing transformational changes. More complex warehouse operations and increasing costs are spurring demand for AI-enabled solutions, particularly logistics robots.
The use of AI solutions and logistics robots has clear advantages in cost, efficiency and flexibility over manual warehouse management and other automation technologies. We will leverage our experience and resources in the logistics and technology sectors to support Geek+'s business expansion, and help build Geek+ into a global leader in artificial intelligence," added Zhang.
"Our intelligent logistics robotic solutions have great flexibility and scalability. They help customers achieve agility in logistics and mitigate investment risks by quickly responding to fluctuating order volume, often caused by constantly changing market environment. With the explosive growth of customer demand for logistics robots, Geek+ will continue to work closely with our business partners to drive the application of AI technologies across the whole logistics value chain," he says.
Chinese Firm Taigusys Launches Emotion-Recognition System
In a detailed investigative report, the Guardian reported that Chinese tech company Taigusys can now monitor facial expressions. The company claims that it can track fake smiles, chart genuine emotions, and help police curtail security threats. ‘Ordinary people here in China aren’t happy about this technology, but they have no choice. If the police say there have to be cameras in a community, people will just have to live with it’, said Chen Wei, company founder and chairman. ‘There’s always that demand, and we’re here to fulfil it’.
Who Will Use the Data?
As of right now, the emotion-recognition market is supposed to be worth US$36bn by 2023—which hints at rapid global adoption. Taigusys counts Huawei, China Mobile, China Unicom, and PetroChina among its 36 clients, but none of them has yet revealed if they’ve purchased the new AI. In addition, Taigusys will likely implement the technology in Chinese prisons, schools, and nursing homes.
It’s not likely that emotion-recognition AI will stay within the realm of private enterprise. President Xi Jinping has promoted ‘positive energy’ among citizens and intimated that negative expressions are no good for a healthy society. If the Chinese central government continues to gain control over private companies’ tech data, national officials could use emotional data for ideological purposes—and target ‘unhappy’ or ‘suspicious’ citizens.
How Does It Work?
Taigusys’s AI will track facial muscle movements, body motions, and other biometric data to infer how a person is feeling, collecting massive amounts of personal data for machine learning purposes. If an individual displays too much negative emotion, the platform can recommend him or her for what’s termed ‘emotional support’—and what may end up being much worse.
Can We Really Detect Human Emotions?
This is still up for debate, but many critics say no. Psychologists still debate whether human emotions can be separated into basic emotions such as fear, joy, and surprise across cultures or whether something more complex is at stake. Many claim that AI emotion-reading technology is not only unethical but inaccurate since facial expressions don’t necessarily indicate someone’s true emotional state.
In addition, Taigusys’s facial tracking system could promote racial bias. One of the company’s systems classes faces as ‘yellow, white, or black’; another distinguishes between Uyghur and Han Chinese; and sometimes, the technology picks up certain ethnic features better than others.
Is China the Only One?
Not a chance. Other countries have also tried to decode and use emotions. In 2007, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) launched a heavily contested training programme (SPOT) that taught airport personnel to monitor passengers for signs of stress, deception, and fear. But China as a nation rarely discusses bias, and as a result, its AI-based discrimination could be more dangerous.
‘That Chinese conceptions of race are going to be built into technology and exported to other parts of the world is troubling, particularly since there isn’t the kind of critical discourse [about racism and ethnicity in China] that we’re having in the United States’, said Shazeda Ahmed, an AI researcher at New York University (NYU).
Taigusys’s founder points out, on the other hand, that its system can help prevent tragic violence, citing a 2020 stabbing of 41 people in Guangxi Province. Yet top academics remain unconvinced. As Sandra Wachter, associate professor and senior research fellow at the University of Oxford’s Internet Institute, said: ‘[If this continues], we will see a clash with fundamental human rights, such as free expression and the right to privacy’.