Accenture forms strategic alliance, invests in Chinese AI start-up Malong Technologies

Paul Daugherty of Accenture

Accenture has formed a strategic alliance with and made a minority investment in Malong Technologies, an Artificial Intelligence (AI) start-up headquartered in Shenzhen, China. Malong has been recognised by global companies and organisations and analyst firms as an AI and innovation provider.

Through the alliance, Accenture’s Applied Intelligence practice and Malong will offer computer vision and product recognition capabilities to clients worldwide. The alliance gives Accenture a strategic AI presence in China and forms part of its wider regional growth strategy.

Malong’s product recognition and auto-tagging technology, ProductAI, lets machines “see” physical objects the way a person does. Retailers can use it to make product checkouts much more efficient and allow their customers to shop for items by taking a picture of it with their smartphones. Other use cases include defect detection in manufacturing to drive quality, baggage scanning for improved safety, and analysing medical images to help doctors make critical decisions faster.

As part of the alliance agreement, Accenture Applied Intelligence and Malong will pursue development of joint industry solutions and go-to-market activities. The agreement, in which Malong designates Accenture as its preferred systems integrator and consulting partner, will form a cornerstone of Accenture’s growing computer vision capabilities.

It will provide services and solutions to organisations in any industry where objects need to be reliably recognised at a high-level, microscopic-level, or x-ray level. The investment in Malong is Accenture Ventures’ first investment in China. China is already a player in AI funding, the number of AI startups, and the number of AI-related patents.

The Malong alliance and investment will give Accenture a strategic AI presence in this increasingly innovative and competitive market and enable it to continue its growth as the enterprise AI partner of choice.

Paul Daugherty, chief technology and innovation officer at Accenture, said, “AI has been making incredible strides in advancing computer vision, as is clearly demonstrated in what Malong Technologies is now able to offer to organisations. Our alliance and investment in them ensures that Accenture and our Applied Intelligence practice will stay ahead of the curve when it comes to offering clients innovation through AI and intelligent technologies, across industries and countries.”

Wei Zhu, chairman of Accenture Greater China, said, “China is fast becoming a global hub for innovation, particularly in the field of AI. With Malong Technologies, we have gained a partner that adds significant value to our Applied Intelligence portfolio and underscores our goal of becoming a key enabler for AI innovation in Asia and beyond.”

Dr. Dinglong Huang, CEO of Malong Technologies, said, “Our award-winning scientific research in deep learning and computer vision has allowed us to develop an accurate, affordable, and secure cloud-based cognitive service that can deliver significant impact across many business use cases. Gaining Accenture as an investor and alliance partner will allow us to jointly bring our services to top-tier companies worldwide.”

Dinglong Huang

Malong uses an innovative ‘weakly-supervised’ deep learning algorithms that can be trained on much bigger data sets than most algorithms to achieve unprecedented humanlike accuracy. It won Malong the WebVision 2017 Challenge at the CVPR Computer Vision Conference with a 94.78% recognition rate.

For reference, human performance has been measured between 94.0% to 94.9% on the same task. In a recent trial for an Accenture client, Malong’s technology was used to detect cases of stroke from brain-scans, achieving the same level of accuracy as human doctors.

Malong has been recognised in the Gartner 2018 Cool Vendors report and is the only Chinese company listed in the World Economic Forum Technology Pioneer 2018 list.

The relationship with Malong was driven by Accenture Ventures, which focuses on teaming with and investing in companies that create or apply innovative enterprise technologies. Through extensive relationships with startups, entrepreneurs, investors, academics, venture capitalists and corporate R&D groups around the world, Accenture Ventures invests in, and teams with, promising sources of innovation in the market.

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