Alibaba A.I. Labs Announces Strategic Collaboration with MediaTek on IoT Initiatives

mesh network

Alibaba A.I. Labs Announces Strategic Collaboration with MediaTek on IoT Initiatives

Alibaba Launches IoT protocol for Tmall Genie-controlled Smart Home Ecosystem.

Alibaba A.I. Labs, which leads the development of Alibaba’s consumer artificial intelligent (AI) products, and MediaTek, a global fabless semiconductor company, today announced a strategic collaboration in Internet of Things (IoT) initiatives including smart home protocols, customized IoT chips and AI smart hardware, with the aim of fostering the development of a connected world in the IoT era.

The two parties also announced the first Smartmesh connectivity solution in China that supports the latest many-to-many Bluetooth mesh technology, in an effort to speed up the adoption of this technology in smart home settings.

The solution, which is based on the Labs’ self-developed IoT protocol named IoTConnect and the Bluetooth chip co-developed by both parties, enables smart home devices to automatically pair with Tmall Genie, the Lab’s first voice-controlled smart assistant, leading up to a Tmall Genie-controlled smart home ecosystem.

Miffy Chan, Head of Alibaba A.I. Labs, commented:
“We are excited about partnering with MediaTek to explore collaboration in the IoT ecosystem. Our AI and cloud computing capabilities, along with MediaTek’s cutting-edge technology in chip design, provide unique advantages to our connectivity solutions for smart homes, offering real benefits to consumers in China and paving the way to a more connected world through innovation.”

Jerry Yu, Corporate Vice President and General Manager of the Home Entertainment Business Group, MediaTek said:

“MediaTek is thrilled to partner with Alibaba A.I. Labs in building up a voice-controlled smart home ecosystem. This follows our collaboration in delivering the great success of Tmall Genie X1.”

“The smart home market is undergoing tremendous growth as technologies advance. With MediaTek’s strength in connectivity and baseband, computing and multimedia, coupled with Alibaba’s leading advantages in cloud computing and AI, we are confident that the collaboration will mark a milestone in the development of the IoT era,” Yu added.

The partnership comes on the heels of the successful collaboration on Tmall Genie, for which MediaTech provides chip technology support. Alibaba A.I. Labs launched the smart home assistant in July last year, with an aim to provide brand new interaction experiences for Chinese consumers. Over one million Tmall Genie devices were sold in China during Alibaba’s Global Shopping Festival on November 11 last year.

mesh networkIoTConnect is an open connectivity protocol based on Bluetooth mesh standard for smart hardware and smart home appliance manufacturers. Smart devices using the protocol can be automatically paired with Tmall Genie. The protocol aims to promote unified connectivity standards among smart devices, and hence lower the cost in developing connected devices and foster the development of voice-controlled smart home ecosystem.

The Smartmesh solution supports the latest Bluetooth mesh networking and Bluetooth 5 functionality set up by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), the body that oversees the development of Bluetooth standards. Customized Bluetooth SoCs (system-on-chip) – MT7581 and MT7583 – for the solution are featured with Bluetooth smart mesh technology, automatic pairing, fast connection and low-power consumption. The two SoCs will be ready for the market in the second half of this year.

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NXP and Alibaba Cloud Announce Strategic Partnership for Edge Computing and IoT Security

NXP and Alibaba Cloud Announce Strategic Partnership for Edge Computing and IoT Security

NXP and Alibaba Cloud Announce Strategic Partnership for Edge Computing and IoT Security

NXP Semiconductors today announced a strategic partnership with Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing and business unit of Alibaba Group.

The two companies are working together to enable development of secure smart devices for edge computing applications and have plans to further develop solutions for the Internet of Things (IoT).

As part of the partnership, AliOS Things, the Alibaba IoT operating system has been integrated onto NXP applications processors, microcontroller chips, and Layerscape multicore processors. Both NXP’s i.MX and Layerscape processors are currently the only embedded systems on the market using the Alibaba Cloud TEE OS platform. The new solution benefits various markets including automotive, smart retail and smart home. And it is currently being applied in applications such as automotive entertainment and infotainment systems, QR code payment scanning applications and smart home speakers.

Li Zheng, NXP global senior vice president and President of Greater China, said:

“As the leader of IoT innovation in China, Alibaba Cloud has launched a range of IoT basic and content services to support the demands of cloud computing, big data, AI [artificial intelligence], cloud integration and security. Alibaba Cloud IoT kit has launched more than 200 categories, with a total of more than 10 million sets of sales.”

“Our partnership with Alibaba Cloud will promote the continuous and steady expansion of NXP’s technological advantages for edge computing and IoT security, and will support the long-term and secure development of China’s IoT ecosystem.”

“We share the same vision as NXP on providing advanced and secure IoT solutions for an ‘everything connected’ world,” said Ku Wei, General Manager of IoT of Alibaba Cloud. “Based on the integration of AliOS Things with NXP’s applications processors and microcontroller chips, our comprehensive solution will better serve the development of China’s local commercial and manufacturing industries.”

With the deep partnership between NXP and Alibaba Cloud Link in the field of IoT security, NXP has become a council member of the ICA IoT Connectivity Alliance. In the future. The two companies plan to jointly develop solutions to support application development in different fields including smart manufacturing and smart city.

The ‘Annual Report of China IoT Development 2015-2016’ predicts that the amount of equipment connected to IoT globally will reach 20-50 billion by 2020, with 80 percent of that equipment in China. NXP’s robust product portfolio covers offering from the edge node to gateway and comprehensive cloud IoT solutions. NXP’s products are widely used in smart homes, smart cities, smart transportation, and secure connectivity.

In China, NXP combines outstanding enterprises in upstream and downstream industries, working together with industry leaders for the safe, connected, sustainable development and motivation for innovation of IoT.

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Alibaba and Ford team up on connected car experiences

Alibaba and Ford team up on connected car experiences

Alibaba and Ford have teamed up to explore ways that connected tech can be used to transform customer experiences in the automotive industry.

With the aim of catapulting its automotive sales in the Chinese market, automotive giant Ford will work with four of ecommerce giant Alibaba’s business units. 

These include the divisions that run its operating system AliOS, its cloud-computing platform Alibaba Cloud, its digital marketing arm Alimama and B2C shopping site Tmall.

Read more: Ecommerce giant Alibaba opens ‘China’s smartest warehouse’

New opportunities

Ford and Alibaba want to identify and develop opportunities in a range of areas, including artificial intelligence, infotainment and the IoT

Although this partnership is only in the initial stages, both firms are already looking to conduct a pilot study that will help them develop retail opportunities in the automotive industry.

It’ll cover various stages of the automotive ownership cycle, including pre-sales, test drives and financial leasing options, according to Alibaba.

Read more: Alibaba showcases vision of ‘retail store of the future’

Leading the sector

The Chinese firm has already made an attempt to lead the industry in China, where more than 400,000 connected cars are already using AliOS. It also launched an internet car with China-based automaker SAIC Motor in 2016. 

Daniel Zhang, chief executive officer of Alibaba, explained that the firm is investing significant resources into the automotive sector and said it was “excited to redefine the consumer journey and user experience for automobiles” in its partnership with Ford. 

“Our data-driven technology and platform will expand the definition of car ownership beyond just having a mode of transportation and into a new medium for a smart lifestyle,” he added. 

Read more: Ford Robutt ensures car seats are built to last

Looking to the future

Jim Hackett, president and CEO of Ford, said that China is “one of the world’s largest and most dynamic digital markets, thriving on innovation, with customers’ online and offline experiences converging rapidly.”

In a statement, he said the companies share a vision “for smart vehicles in a smart world to reimagine and revolutionize consumers’ mobility experiences.”

China is not only the largest car market in the world, executive chairman Bill Ford pointed out, but is also “at the heart of electric-vehicle and SUV growth and the mobility movement.” The company now hopes to expand its presence in the world’s most populace country. 

Read more: Ford, Domino’s Pizza to trial self-driving delivery service in US

 

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Alibaba showcases vision of ‘retail store of the future’

Alibaba showcases vision of 'retail store of the future'

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba shows off a new, IoT-enabled  furniture store in Hangzhou and announces a new $ 15 billion R&D program. 

When it comes to online shopping in China, Alibaba Group is a colossus – but its founder Jack Ma reckons that the next big opportunity lies not in the online-only model, but in offering shoppers a blend of digital and bricks-and-mortar retail services.

With that in mind, the company has been opening up physical stores at a feverish pace over the last two years, and spending some $ 8 billion in the process. Ma refers to this as Alibaba’s ‘New Retail’ model; examples include Hema supermarkets, where fresh seafood counters are proving a big hit with Chinese consumers, and more recently, Home Times, an IKEA-like furniture store.

It’s at Home Times in Hangzhou in Zhejiang province in eastern China that the company has recently unveiled its vision of the ‘furniture store of the future’, and unsurprisingly, connected technologies play a big part in this.

Alibaba showcases vision of 'retail store of the future'

Shoppers at Home Times in Hangzhou (Credit: Alibaba Group)

Read more: Ecommerce giant Alibaba opens ‘China’s smartest warehouse’

The in-store experience

Since it opened in late September, the Hangzhou branch of Home Times has attracted between 1,500 and 3,000 visitors daily, according to the company. A smartphone is all they need to start shopping from a range of around 20,000 items, including furniture, kitchenware, home decor and stationery.

By scanning each item’s QR code with their phone, they can see the product name, price and description, and instantly purchase it using Alibaba’s mobile payment service Alipay. They can take that item with them when they leave the store, or if they prefer, get it delivered to their home.

Each individual item for sale also has an electronic price tag, which automatically syncs its price with that being offered online, removing the need for staff to print and replace price tags in order to reconcile online and offline pricing.

Large screen displays on the walls, meanwhile, enable customers to see items of furniture and decor in a virtual home setting, cutting down significantly on space needed in-store.

Analytics are used to understand the behaviours and preferences of users within a five-mile radius of a shop, so that products can be handpicked from users’ top categories and added to store shelves, cutting the time required to source merchandise.

“We have the hardware and know-how to build New Retail-driven stores, and we work with partners that have access to offline channels and expertise in operating physical storefronts,” explained William Cheng, who heads the Home Times project at Alibaba’s cloud retail division.

Home Times is set to open two new branches in Hangzhou by the end of 2017 and between 15 and 20 new stores in other Chinese cities in 2018.

Alibaba showcases vision of 'retail store of the future'

Interactive displays allow customers to see items in virtual home settings (Credit: Alibaba Group)

Read more: Alibaba launches VR Pay, gives virtual reality payments the nod

Global R&D programme

Meanwhile, at Alibaba’s Computing Conference 2017 this week, also in Hangzhou, chief technology officer Jeff Zhang has announced plans to invest more than $ 15 billion over the next three years in a global R&D program to develop new technologies in areas such as IoT, analytics, human-machine interaction, machine learning and natural language processing.

This program is called the Academy for Discovery, Adventure, Momentum and Outlook – or DAMO Academy – for short and will involve Alibaba setting up seven research labs around the world. These will be in Beijing and Hangzhou; in San Mateo, California and Bellevue, Washington in the US; and in Moscow, Tel Aviva and Singapore.

Zhang, who will lead the academy, said in a prepared statement that the research program will be “at the forefront of developing next-generation technology that will spur the growth of Alibaba and our partners.”

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Ecommerce giant Alibaba opens ‘China’s smartest warehouse’

Ecommerce giant Alibaba launches china's smartest warehouse

Cainiao, the logistics arm of Chinese ecommerce giant Alibaba, has announced the official launch of operations at its new smart warehouse in Huiyang, Guongdong province.

According to Alibaba, it’s home to the largest population of mobile robots in China. There are over 100 AGVs (automated guided vehicles) in the warehouse, which occupies approximately 3,000 square metres.

Equipped with WiFi and self-charging, these robots are responsible for moving goods around. Looking not unlike a larger version of the Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, the AGVs can travel at speeds of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet) per second and carry up to 600 kilos at one time.

Cainiao currently offers same-day and next-day delivery services to more than 1,000 regions in China. When a shopper places an order on Alibaba’s Tmall shopping site, an AGV is activated in the Huiyang warehouse. It locates an ordered item in the warehouse and transports it to a human warehouse clerk, who assembles and ships orders to customers.

Read more: Tennplasco recruits collaborative robot to fill human labor gap

New efficiencies

Since the warehouse began operations in July, the company claims that efficiency among its human workers has improved three-fold.

In a traditional warehouse, Cainiao reckons, a worker might be expected to sort through 1,500 products during a 7.5-hour shift and fetching each item might require them to walk 27,924 steps during that time. “Now, thanks to the mobile robots, the clerk could sift through 3,000 products in the same shift, while only taking a significantly fewer 2,563 steps a day,” said the Alibaba Group company in a statement. 

Each mobile robot is equipped with sensors, to avoid collisions, but managing an AGV fleet of this size still comes with challenges, according to Hu Haoyuan, a senior algorithm specialist at Cainiao.

“The computational difficulty of commanding 100 warehouse robots is much more complicated than instructing ten robots,” he said, explaining that collisions aside, there is also a need to optimize efficiency and minimize traffic congestion.

When fully charged, each AGV can work for eight hours straight. When its battery gets low, it automatically finds its way to a socket and recharges itself.

Read more: Consultants set to cash in on march of the robots

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