Terminus Group on a mission to become a global leader in AIoT

CNME Editor Mark Forker secured exclusive interviews with the executive leadership teams at Terminus International and Terminus Group, in an effort to find out more about the Chinese AIoT market leader, and how they plan to replicate the success they have enjoyed domestically on a global scale following the establishment of their international HQ (Terminus International) in UAE.

Dr. Ling Shao, Chief Scientist of Terminus Group and President of Terminus International, has been tasked with the responsibility of driving the international arm of Chinese AIoT leader Terminus Group across the Middle East region and globally.

To achieve the international expansion goal, he has built a versatile and experienced team, including Marcel Sebastien Ionescu, Vice President of Products and Commercialisation at Terminus International, and Abdurrahman Najjar, Vice President of Sales at Terminus International.

Dr. Ling Shao is one of the world’s leading scientists when it comes to AI.

In 2023, Dr. Shao received the UAE’s highest scientific recognition (Mohammed bin Rashid Medal for Scientific Distinguishment) from the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE/the Ruler of Dubai – His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum.

He has also enjoyed an outstanding career, and his previous roles have seen him work as the Executive Vice-President and Provost of Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence, the CTO and Chief Scientist at Saudi Data and AI Authority (SDAIA) and the founding CEO and Chief Scientist of the Inception Institute of Artificial Intelligence (IIAI), which is now part of Core42.

Marcel Sebastien Ionescu is one of the most respected technologists across the Middle East region, and has enjoyed a decorated career to date, one which has seen him work with notable entities like G42, QSi Middle East, and ATS Group.

Abdurrahman Najjar VP of Sales for Terminus International who has vast experience in several earlier sales capacities across the Middle East.

He has worked with ICT behemoths such as Etisalat (e&), Huawei, HPE, Cisco and GBM, and is one of the most revered sales leaders in the region.

As the head of Terminus International, Dr. Ling Shao has earned respect for his accomplishments in both the academic and commercial sectors of artificial intelligence. He believes that the innovations brought about by Generative AI will significantly impact people’s lives in the future.

As a global leader in platform oriented urban AIoT services, Terminus offers digital solutions worldwide for diverse customer needs across five core scenarios: buildings, communities, parks, cities, and achieving “dual carbon” goals.

These efforts are powered by the synergy of artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things (AIoT). Empowered by Generative AI, Terminus will continue to drive upgrades in city management, promote the prosperity of industrial ecosystems, and facilitate the implementation of green energy and low-carbon practices.

“Generative AI has seen explosive growth in the past 1.5 years, led by breakthroughs such as ChatGPT and Sora. This direction has ignited a worldwide surge in research and development, attracting major tech companies to the field. It is being vigorously applied across various domains, from text to images, music to videos, and from gaming to education, fostering an environment where innovation flourishes in abundance. Despite some controversy over AI-generated content on social media, this has only fueled further investment. Meanwhile, advancements in large language and multimodal models continue, as researchers tackle challenges related to hallucination, bias, and real time performance. Within this vibrant landscape, China has risen as a leading force in the creation of foundation models, excelling both in volume and performance, swiftly narrowing the technological gap with OpenAI. Terminus remains agile and innovative in this competitive landscape. Our AI Lab, which is also under the Terminus International umbrella, attracts leading industry talents and leverages our AIoT data capabilities to develop Generative AI products tailored to the unique smart city markets of China and the Middle East. Our goal is to enrich our solutions for increasingly complex interaction scenarios and novel applications in smart homes, cities, energy, and autonomous driving.” said Dr. Shao.

Dubai being our international headquarters, Terminus International has established a strong presence in the Middle East, showcasing a professional
and global stance. Looking ahead, Dr. Shao emphasizes Terminus International’s commitment to leveraging its extensive international market resources to compete on the global digital economy stage, aiming to establish a Chinese model of technological diplomacy.

“At this critical juncture of digital economic transformation in China and the Middle East, Terminus’s experience in smart city planning and execution will inspire further innovation and technology upgrades in local enterprises. The Terminus International team is dedicated to promoting the widespread
adoption of AIoT technologies in the Middle East and globally, accelerating the development of products featuring large multimodal models and generative AI. This initiative is part of a strategic global layout, aimed at bringing digital innovation and vitality to our partners and building a sustainable, intelligent, and open ecosystem together.” said Dr. Shao.

He then moved the dial of conversation to what the long-term ambitions are for Terminus International in the META region.

Dr. Shao stressed that smart buildings and smart energy are he two key industry verticals that they will focus on.

“Terminus Group will continue to focus on the Chinese market, whereas Terminus International will focus on all markets outside of China. We have selected Dubai as our HQ for our MENA operations, as it’s the embodiment of technology and innovation. In terms of this region, our two main focuses in terms of industry verticals are smart buildings and smart energy. We will in time broaden our operations and increase our focus in smart mobility and smart city applications. We have existing products and solutions in China, that can be easily transferred into the international market,” said Dr. Shao.

Ionescu kickstarted the conversation by highlighting how their vision is to build a fully-fledged smart city.

“Terminus International has been designed and built to address the overall market in terms of pushing the technologies that have been developed by Terminus Group. Terminus Group is the brainchild of developing AI for smart cities, and our vision is to build a true end-to-end AI CITY. Now based on that vision we are developing all our products and solutions as part of our efforts to work towards that goal. Take for example, smart home automation and building management systems, which are designed and built for serving and digitizing the urban spaces. In relation to the community space, we
have smart access control, and smart energy solutions that cater to our add-on platform that enables the digitalisation of everyday life to help the citizens that live in those communities deal with mundane tasks like visitor management and parking,” said Ionescu.

Terminus has a broad portfolio of products and solutions when it comes to smart cities, but Ionescu claimed that its ‘crown jewel’ was its offering in relation to carbon management.

“Smart Cities can take advantage of smart energy solutions and smart traffic optimisation, and any utility infrastructure network can be developed and optimised. As we are an AI-first company we look to draw efficiencies from the data that we collect straight off the bat. Our crown jewel is based on net neutrality and carbon management, and this is something that we take to heart, but not necessarily from the new carbon management solutions we have, but also from an energy management optimisation standpoint. In order to achieve net zero then you have to optimise and minimise the consumption that you have in every city, so our overall operating systems and platform work together in tandem to take advantage of all the products and solutions that we have underneath to work towards achieving that  goal,” said Ionescu.

Ionescu highlighted how when Terminus Group was working towards their vision of an AI CITY, they quickly discovered that the most important asset in a city is the building.

“The living spaces, the offices, and retail outlets all rely on a shell and core that has to be addressed in terms of optimising the environment. Now, we
realise that the digitalisation of these spaces has been categorised in the ‘nice to have’ box, but we are looking to commoditise this, and bring it to a democratised and popularised level. As I’ve already stated as we are an AI-first company, we have already injected this ethos into all the physical products we have developed for the smart buildings sector. The building management system has been a traditional product that has been around for the last 10-15 years, but we thought about introducing some innovative twists to this solution, whilst at the same time staying compatible with the standards that have been established over this period of time,” said Ionescu.

Terminus have recently launched a new energy product line, and according to Ionescu, the new energy product line was designed to capitalise on the under-utilised redistribution of energy in the advent of deploying mixed energy in the home.

“The home becomes an energy producer and a self-optimiser, so this is why we have developed an AI-orientated energy optimisation for specific spaces. We have also established a battery storage capability that allows green energy to be stored at the place of production rather than sending it back to the
grid, and storing it in large capacity and then bringing it back. There is multiple deployment scenarios, but we feel that the end consumers can really benefit from these new solutions. In addition to this, one other capability that we injected into this product line is the ability to define microgrids and virtual grids, meaning that an association of homeowners can pull these resources together and become an independent cross-optimiser. One other
use case that we visualised is the fact that we can enhance the capacity of existing deployments without having an impact on the grid, case in the point being the deployment of EV chargers, which is another product that we have at Terminus,” said Ionescu.

AIoT is a concept that was created by Terminus Group, and Ionescu explained how they use AI to optimise operations across multiple industry verticals.

“AIoT is a term that we coined many years ago when we started our technology journey. It came naturally to us, because AI has been a central focus in everything that we developed in terms of IoT. What we do with AI is to look at opportunities where we can really optimise operations. AI is used in everyday life, and it’s not something that we develop for mundane tasks, but we develop it for very specific tasks. Our International President is also our Chief Scientist for AI at Terminus Group, and our AI lab is part of the international group for a very specific purpose, and that is we are looking to bring
customised solutions to the people that we engage with. We are looking to train AI to optimise the use of chillers for water in communities across the UAE, and the rest of the Middle East, because it is a very expensive resource, not only from an energy consumption perspective, but also from water wastage. We want to use AI to make the lives of citizens better, and ultimately make cities smarter and greener,” said Ionescu.

Abdurrahman Najjar, as aforementioned above is the Sales VP – META region, at Terminus International, and he began his conversation with me by  disclosing what the key priorities were for Terminus International across the region he will serve.

“The initial focus for us is to execute on the local GTM strategy and to build our channel market, in parallel of our direct sales reach to strategic customers, and eventually elevate and heighten awareness of the Terminus AI based technologies across the Middle East region. The best way to do this is through enabling our channel ecosystem to really grow and drive our presence and building references across the GCC and the entire META
region. We’re also aligned with a number of major partners and distributors in the region in an effort to utilise their profound country knowledge and expertise to really propel our expansion and to execute on the business deliverables. We take great confidence from the success Terminus Group
has had in China, and we firmly believe we can replicate that success across the META region,” said Najjar.

Najjar believes that their ability to deliver AIbased technologies is what ultimately differentiates them from market rivals.

“Terminus developed incredible innovation in the Chinese market, with their concepts and technologies on smart cities, AIoT, digital twins, sustainability, and autonomous mobility to name just a few. It is clear to see that governments all across this region are pursuing aspirational and ambitious transformation programs that are underpinned by disruptive technologies such as AI. We have AI-based scenarios on our platform that really
differentiates us from our market rivals, and having the uniqueness that we do really gives us an edge over our competition,” said Najjar.

Najjar highlighted the important role the channel ecosystem will play in terms of really driving an efficient market coverage and business success of Terminus International across the META region.

“Our plan is to work with the leading systems integrators and distributors that are long established across the Middle East marketplace. We will
primarily work with them on the enablement in terms of the technical and sales orientation they are going to need in order to effectively help drive the growth of Terminus International. As I said we’re going to be working with system integrators and distributors that are pioneers in this space, and we can leverage their expertise and knowledge to really help us get to where we need to be,” said Najjar.

Najjar is a distinguished sales leader with decades of experience, and he stressed that understanding the regulatory and cultural intricacies that exist in the Middle East is a critical factor in the success of an organisation entering the market here.

“I think a good starting point is to localise the presence of Terminus International in the market. Each country across the GCC has nuances and differences, so it’s critical that you understand some of the complexities that exist when it comes to the culture and the regulatory frameworks that are in place. We are very experienced as a local team to address each country for tailored AI Solutions, and we understand the governance
that is in operation in each country, and we know what we need to do to get the results that we want,” said Najjar.

Kangping Shi, also known as Kevin, is the CFO of Terminus Group, and he provided a greater insight into financial performance of Terminus Group domestically.

“Terminus Group has a very unique advantage over our market peers in the AIoT industry in the fact that we are an ‘AI-First’ company.
Just like companies that were born in the cloud, we were born in AI. We have an extremely strong R&D team, but one of the truly unique advantages we have stems from the fact that we have strong support by the national authorities.” said Shi.

Kevin reinforced the importance of investing in R&D, but said that unlike some of their rivals they strike the right balance in terms of how much they invest.

“We are very focused on our products, and we invest a lot in R&D, but our purpose is not R&D, our purpose is to solve the problems that our customers are facing. We invest in R&D based on the conversations that we have with our customers in order to help them overcome their problems. However, we feel that other companies fail to find the right balance when it comes to R&D,” said Kevin.

Kevin also believes a key market advantage they have over competitors is the fact that they can provide a boutique hands-on service to customers, unlike larger players who have multiple business lines.

“We’re not a technology behemoth, we’re a start-up, so that means we’re extremely focused on our AIoT business. The very large players have so many business lines to concentrate on, and AIoT is only one of those verticals, so that gives us an advantage as we can provide a boutique hands-on customer
experience. We believe AIoT is the future, and we are going to continue to invest all our resources into that space to solidify our position as a market leader,” said Kevin.

We’ve invested a lot of money into our marketing operations and R&D. As our revenue has grown over the last number of years, as a result our losses have declined. One of the factors behind our success has been the economy of scale, as our revenue becomes bigger a lot of our costs are fixed, so we can enjoy some benefits from the economy of scale as a result,” concluded Kevin.

Last, but by no means least, CNME was afforded the opportunity to speak to the mastermind behind Terminus Group, which of course is Victor AI, the CEO and Founder of Terminus Group.

He began our discussion by explaining how Terminus Group has become an industry leader in the AI marketplace in China, reinforced by the fact the
company has over 1,000 patents in AI and IoT.

“In China, Terminus Group is regarded as one of the largest AIoT players in the market. We’ve been ranked by many independent analysts as one of the top AI companies in China. Every year, Stanford University ranks the top 2% of scientists in the world, and three of our chief scientists have been included in that ranking for four consecutive years. We have participated in a lot of national AI projects, and our AI lab has been recognised nationally as a key standard bearer for AI development and innovation. We have a number of patents in AI and IoT in China, and that is amongst the largest
numbers of patents in the AI space across the nation, and really illustrates our standing as an AI leader,” said AI.

The Terminus Group CEO stated that international demand for cutting-edge AIoT technologies is the primary factor behind their decision to expand their operations globally.

“Basically, if you look at what is going on in the world right now, there is a lot of demand internationally, so we felt it was time to further develop and expand our business globally. They need our AI technology to make the world a better place and enhance humanity. We decided to set up our international HQ in Dubai, to specifically meet those customised demands in the UAE, and across the Middle East region, and all our international customers. We will have our independent R&D centre here, and we will also have our products here and we will use Dubai as a launchpad to expand to
other parts of the world to provide a totally different set of AI technologies to our international customers.” said AI.

He concluded our conversation by stating that he believed AI was now a common ‘universal language’ and that the company is fully focused on being a global leader in AIoT.

“We felt that last year was the time to really accelerate our expansion plans. In the last 12 months, everyone is talking about ChatGPT and
OpenAI, and the interest in AI in the mainstream has exploded. I think the general consensus amongst everyone now is AI represents the future and is here to stay. The AI language is universal, and it has become an international common language. Terminus Group wants to be the global leader of AIoT and that is our ambition, and that’s now why we decided to invest our resources to grow our operations internationally, and we believe we can further
promote the success we have had in China, across the world,” concluded AI.

Previous ArticleNext Article


The free newsletter covering the top industry headlines