A Wake-Up Call?

Chinese companies or universities took first and second place in all five categories of the AI City Challenge. Chinese tech giants Alibaba and Baidu swept the AI City Challenge, beating competitors from nearly 40 nations.

The international AI City Challenge was created 4 years ago by initiators from NVIDIA Corporation, Johns Hopkins University, Australian National University and others. The Challenge was created with two goals in mind: (1) pushing the boundaries of research and development in intelligent video analysis for smarter cities use cases, and (2) assessing tasks where the level of performance is enough to cause real-world adoption. In the first years, teams representing American companies or universities took top spots in the competition.

Teams from 40 nations took part in last month’s competition, intended to spur the development of AI. The Chinese entrants swept all five categories, featuring technologies to improve civic life. The results reflect years of investment by the Chinese government in the growth of smart cities. Pilot programs are active in hundreds of Chinese cities. By some estimates, China has half of the world’s smart cities. The spread of edge computing, cameras, and sensors using 5G is expected to accelerate use of smart-city and surveillance technology.

Stan Caldwell, executive director of a project at Carnegie Mellon University, laments that China invests twice as much as the US in research and development as a share of GDP, which he calls key to staying competitive in areas of emerging technology.
Some observers detected fewer American entries in the competition, but this sweep is a stark reminder that China’s advantage of investments in research and development pays off.

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