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European interest in facial recognition and other Chinese tech balances U.S. absence at Shenzhen event

European interest in facial recognition and other Chinese tech balances U.S. absence at Shenzhen event

A record 44 delegations from countries including Russia, Iran, Hungary, Austria, Sweden were present this year at China’s Hi-Tech Fair in Shenzhen, compensating for the almost non-existent presence of U.S. companies, reports South China Morning Post.

The only U.S. company present was from Houston and marketing wool products. With trade tensions growing between the two countries following the U.S. government’s Entity List of blacklisted Chinese companies, American companies are now cautious in business deals with foreign tech. The U.S. government banned Chinese facial recognition and biometric surveillance companies Megvii, Huawei, Hikvision and SenseTime, among others, from buying domestic technology and equipment without explicit government approval. However, European companies are ready to make up for the lack of U.S. interest and are looking into investing in Chinese semiconductors, 5G and AI technology.

Huawei introduced its cloud service in collaboration with Chinese cloud provider Kingdee. Last year, the two signed a partnership followed by Kingdee’s move from Amazon’s AWS to Huawei’s cloud “to reduce reliance on U.S. suppliers.”

Guests attending the Shenzhen tech fair were all screened with facial recognition. Phoenix AI CEO and Founder Laurent Renard says facial recognition technology is effectively banned in Belgium, which has driven local companies developing facial recognition solutions to focus on the Chinese market due to a different approach toward this technology.

During conferences sessions, European representatives pushed for stronger Sino-European collaboration specifically in fields such as digital payments and e-commerce. Italy’s former undersecretary in the Ministry of Economic Development was a top advocate for Italy’s participation in China’s Belt and Road infrastructure program. A number of European delegates from medical equipment manufacturers, for example, argued regulatory and cultural barriers were keeping them from expanding their business operations in the country.

Chinese companies, especially some focused on developing surveillance systems, were present in Paris at Milipol, a homeland security trade event, according to France24. China was very well represented at the event, with 89 out of 1,100 companies. However, it did not display weapons and ammunition, but focused on facial recognition tech, helmets, bullet-proof vests and tactical clothing.

Hytera Communications Corporation displayed communications gear that sends images collected with body cameras to smartphones, a solution developed ideally for police officers.

“Each police officer can have the tactical situation displayed on their smartphone,” said company representative Sylvain Shuang.

He added that the images can be matched with images from surveillance cameras and that they integrate facial recognition technology.

Although the company is blocked from securing U.S. public contracts, 40 percent of its business is conducted outside of China with Britain, Canada, and Spain.

Video surveillance company Hikvision is experiencing a similar situation in the U.S. The company partnered last year with the city of Nice to equip it with a video surveillance system, yet it did not have a booth at Milipol this year.

Another Chinese company present at the event is Norinco, this time showcasing its facial recognition technology.

“In China, facial recognition is not a new technology and we realize this is a safe country because in most public spaces, we have this system to secure the situation,” said a company representative. He further added the technology would be harder to sell in Europe due to privacy concerns.

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