Microsoft to launch its biggest AI, IoT lab in Shanghai

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Microsoft China and Shanghai’s Pudong government signed a partnership agreement on Wednesday. (Image credit: Microsoft)

Microsoft plans to open its biggest artificial intelligence and internet of things lab in Shanghai, aiming to launch a smart platform for Chinese businesses in sectors varying from manufacturing to healthcare.

Located in the Zhangjiang Hi-Tech Park, the lab is expected to open in April, in partnership with the city’s Pudong district government. It will focus on accelerating the deployment of end-to-end artificial intelligence (AI), internet of things (IoT), and cloud computing services in the retail, healthcare, and finance sectors, among others.

The announcement comes as domestic companies increase their focus on enterprises. Tencent, Baidu, and Alibaba have restructured their businesses to emphasize AI and cloud computing.

“China is the world’s largest IoT market, with great potential in deploying AI and IoT technologies,” Roan Kang, vice president of Microsoft China, said in a statement. The US tech giant vowed to bring with its best AI and IoT platforms, products, and solutions to help Chinese businesses increase their productivity.

The move comes as the Chinese government promotes its Made in China 2025 initiative, which focuses on high-tech industries in an effort to push the country up the international value chain. Chinese tech companies have seen the initiative as a call to arms, looking to advance the development of homegrown technologies.

On Wednesday, prominent Chinese AI company Megvii launched a set of AI-powered automation solutions dubbed “Hetu.” Included is a self-learning open platform to increase the efficiency of connected devices, including robots and sensors. It covers various use cases in the logistics supply chain. The Alibaba-backed facial recognition unicorn described the platform as a robotics operating system for the era of AIoT— a term used to describe the convergence of AI and IoT.

The Chinese government has become highly invested in leveraging AI to drive its economy. In an interview with state broadcaster CCTV on Jan.10, Miao Wei, head of China’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said China would cut taxes and fees to ease burdens for Chinese tech and manufacturing companies, seeking to promote high-quality manufacturing.