What will be Alibaba’s next tech channel play in A/NZ?
Chinese e-commerce leviathan, Alibaba, added Australia to its growing global cloud business in November last year, with the opening its data centre in Sydney. The launch saw the company expound the importance of channel partners for its growth in the local market. Given the range of technologies in which the company is investing, cloud is likely to be just the beginning of its channel offering in Australia and New Zealand. ARN explores 10 technologies Alibaba has in the works, according to the company's corporate news service, Alizila, that could become part of its burgeoning tech play in the local market.
Jack Ma - Alibaba Group founder and executive chairman (Alizila)
Alibaba has already used its artificial intelligence, deep learning and data analytics technology for many of its own platforms and businesses, including Taobao/Tmall, Ali Xiaomi and Ant Financial.
But in October last year, the company partnered up with the Hangzhou government to create the ‘Hangzhou City Brain’ project, aimed at using AI to create a computerised, automated public-services infrastructure for the city.
Quantum computing and communications
In 2015, Alibaba’s cloud computing subsidiary, Aliyun, struck a deal to establish the Chinese Academy of Sciences – Alibaba Quantum Computing Laboratory. Come 2017, cloud-based quantum cryptographic data-transfer services have been made available on Alibaba Cloud.
Virtual reality and augmented reality
In November last year, Alibaba launched a full virtual reality (VR) shopping experience, dubbed Buy+, which sees online shoppers’ entire transaction completed within a VR environment.
Meanwhile, the company has reportedly led an $18 million Series B funding round for augmented reality navigation start-up, WayRay.
Alibaba’s Alipay platform has the capability to enable facial-recognition payment. Additionally, the company is using biometric identification technology to recognise palm prints, handwriting, eye patterns and irises.
OceanBase, a database system developed by Alibaba Group and Ant Financial, is the first applied large-scale financial database system in China, according to the company’s corporate news service, Alizila.
The technology behind the Qianxun Positioning Network – a joint venture between Alibaba and the state-owned China North Industries Group Corporation (Norinco Group) – leverages the BeiDou satellite navigation system to achieve positioning accuracy of up to one millimetre.
Mobile operating systems
Alibaba’s cloud business, Aliyun, developed the YunOS mobile operating system, releasing it in 2011. Since then, the operating system – based on the Android Open Source Project – has claimed a big hold in the Chinese market.
According to Alizila, it is now the world’s third-largest mobile operating system.
Ant Financial, previously known as Alipay, has made a start at deploying blockchain, the distributed database technology behind digital currencies such as the increasingly ubiquitous bitcoin, for charitable donations.
Given that Alibaba is, first and foremost, an e-commerce company, it comes as no surprise that the organisation has invested heavily in its logistics capabilities over the years.
As a result, Alibaba’s smart logistics technology includes an intelligent warehouse system and the development of last-mile delivery robots.
Expect to see greater cloud capabilities come down the line. Alibaba is working on a super computational engine developed by its cloud business that is expected to enable clients with greater computing capabilities.