The rapid development of artificial intelligence (AI) in China has driven significant advancements in fields like robotics and autonomous driving. Now, Chinese AI companies including SenseTime and Terminus are expanding globally, particularly in the Middle East.
SenseTime, a Chinese AI company, has started to penetrate the Middle Eastern market. Collaborating with local authorities, SenseTime has introduced inclusive AI educational courses, including teaching materials and tools, gradually cultivating a group of local AI talents.
In 2021, SenseTime and the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund (PIF) jointly established the joint venture SenseTime MEA, providing innovative AI solutions to the Middle East.
Subsequently, SenseTime has implemented various projects, including the creation of the futuristic Riyadh Season (the largest cultural and entertainment event in Saudi Arabia and the Middle East) and collaboration with landmark Saudi projects like the King Abdullah Financial District (KAFD).
Chinese AIoT (Artificial Intelligence of Things) service provider Terminus, under its smart city construction and operation philosophy and technical architecture, built the 2020 Dubai Expo venue as a "city" where everything is interconnected. They created service robots that meet the needs of the Expo while adapting to the local environment using IoT logic.
These companies face unique challenges in the Middle East. In Dubai, where temperatures can reach up to 50 degrees Celsius, ensuring robots can operate in such high temperatures is a significant issue. To enable continuous operation in these conditions, Terminus had to enhance the robots’ heat resistance.
In 2021, Chinese robots saw a surge in sales in the Middle East, marking a highlight moment for the industry. For instance, in the UAE, where annual sales of Chinese robots were once below 500 units, the number exceeded 1,500 units for the first time in 2021.
These projects emerged under the backdrop of government-led initiatives like the "Belt and Road Initiative" by China and the "2030 Vision" implementation plan with Saudi Arabia. Chinese companies are helping the region’s transition from an oil-based economy to one that’s more digitally innovative.
The region’s development in infrastructure and renewable energy has created a significant market gap for industrial robots. The high cost of labor in the Middle East, coupled with the booming production capacity of Chinese robot enterprises, create new opportunities for both regions.