Chinese computer-vision startup raises $31m for R&D

BEIJING — Clobotics, a startup that provides computer vision technology and services, has raised 200 million yuan ($31 million) in a preseries B-4 funding round.

GP Capital and Xiaomiao Longcheng, as well as existing shareholders CDIB Capita and CDIB Partners, participated in the round led by Sanxia Xintai.

Clobotics said it will use the fresh funding for research and development and expansion of its global business.

Established in 2016, Clobotics provides services that use machine learning, Internet of Things technology, edge computing and computer vision to assist wind power and retail businesses. It has applied for or registered 115 intellectual properties, including 73 patents.

According to BloombergNEF, wind power will account for 26% of the world’s electricity generation by 2050. Wind turbines will have been in service for 14 years on average in 2030, and the number of offshore wind turbines owned will increase from 4% in 2018 to 11%, according to the research provider.

The maintenance and management of wind turbines will increase in importance as they grow in size and begin to age. But management of the equipment is becoming difficult. Existing management methods, which rely heavily on manual labor, are time-consuming, dangerous and not always accurate. This has prompted the industry to find ways to make inspection systems more efficient and less labor-intensive.

Clobotics employs drone technology to inspect wind turbines, using its own proprietary inspection and repair technology. Its uniquely shaped robots can grind and coat turbine blades using data collected through prior drone inspections.

The startup has also developed a digital management platform using modeling and analysis technology based on big data, as well as a data platform for maintenance and management of wind power equipment. In the future, it plans to offer a predictive maintenance service by taking advantage of data from past repairs.

Manually inspecting one wind turbine requires five workers working for six hours, while Clobotics can do the job in 15 to 25 minutes, regardless of the model or angle of the turbine. The entire process — including assembling and disassembling drones — takes about 40 minutes, meaning service time only one-tenth that required for manual inspections.

Clobotics is currently servicing China’s major wind power companies, including Longyuan Power, Huadian, Zhuzhou Times, Luoyang Sunrui and Shanghai Electronic. It also has strategic tie-ups with Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy and GEV Wind Power. As of the end of 2020, the startup had inspected over 14,000 wind turbine systems, according to CEO George Yan.

Retail is another key target of Clobotics. Typically, staff from manufacturers visit shops to check their products — a huge investment in time and manpower that often provides marginal and less-than-timely results. Clobotics has developed a service that automatically identifies and analyzes products and monitors sales via computer vision and smart devices. Similar services are available from companies such as Singapore’s Trax.

Other companies using Clobotics are Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Anheuser-Busch InBev and Nielsen.

CEO Yan said the company will continue to focus on wind power and retail industries and develop its global market by enhancing technology and products.

36Kr, a Chinese tech news portal founded in Beijing in 2010, has more than 150 million readers worldwide. Nikkei announced a partnership with 36Kr on May 22, 2019.

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