(Yicai Global) April 19 -- The popularity of Amazon's smart speaker Echo stirred discussion among Chinese home appliance exporters at this year's Spring Canton Fair, with the central topic use of intelligent technology (AI) to drive export upgrades.
US technology giant Alphabet Inc. [NASDAQ:GOOGL] (Google) seized the opportunity to pitch its artificial intelligence (AI) and smart hardware development platform to Chinese electronic product exporters.
Smart home appliances are the future direction for Chinese electronics exports, and it entails only some extra margin costs to integrate smart devices with generic platforms, so smart domestic appliances hold sway at all major exhibitions worldwide, such as the Canton Fair, Appliance & Electronics World Expo (AWE), IFA and Consumer Electronics Show (CES), Li Yubing, technology director at Mei Ling Appliances Co., told Yicai Global. However, only a relatively small proportion of China's electronics exports are 'intelligent.'
Three reasons account for this, he suggested. First, exported smart devices must connect to cloud services, meaning that Chinese manufacturers need to build cloud computing facilities overseas or collaborate with local service providers. Second, export of smart appliances may spark intellectual property disputes, and the US and Europe have strict legislation for IPR protection. Third, domestic exporters face market access barriers. For example, some countries have special requirements for cloud-enabled refrigerators, and Hefei Mei Ling Co. is just taking tentative steps toward exporting its smart refrigerators.
Cooperation with foreign technology developers offers a viable solution. In this regard, Google has instituted Android Things, a lightweight operating system specially developed for the Internet of Things and smart hardware products, said Luan Yue, technology marketing head at Google Greater China, adding that it is working with Intel and ARM to develop chips and control panels for the system. Furthermore, Tensor Flow, Google's second-generation artificial intelligence learning system, has also been made available to hardware companies to develop AI devices.
As well as opening the system interface to manufacturers, the California-based tech firm is making conscious efforts to foster startups in the field, Luan said. It now has tens of thousands of developers in 25 Chinese cities, with business incubators set up in Shanghai and Hefei in southeastern Anhui province.
Traditional home appliance exports have already reached a peak, opined Zhou Nan, head of the household appliance division of the China Chamber of Commerce for Import and Export of Machinery and Electronic Products, in an interview with Yicai Global. Chinese manufacturers will export both products and services in future, and the Chinese home appliance export industry will see another boom by 2020. The total value of exports is projected at hundreds of billions of dollars.