The Lunar New Year celebrations are over and China’s tech giants are back at work. AI is once again a topic worth watching and a big announcement from China Mobile means we may see 5G networks in China sooner than expected. Here are the stories you need to know this week.
AI News Platform Tou Tiao Buys Facial Recognition App For $300 Million To Compete With Baidu
There are only a handful of companies that manage to command the attention of Chinese consumers, but one startup, Tou Tiao, is taking on the established players in this space.
Tou Tiao means “headline” in Chinese and this AI-powered news network certainly deserves its name. The company intelligently selects content from the news, video sources, online books and more and serves it to their users. In 2017, the company brought in $2.5 billion in revenues from ads and it’s currently valued at $20 billion after a $3 billion in investment from Sequoia, CCB International and General Atlantic last year. This kind of scale makes it a direct threat to the likes of Baidu, but Tou Tiao isn’t stopping at the news.
This week, Tou Tiao announced that they acquired Faceu (article in Chinese), a photo and video editing app that’s powered by facial recognition technology, for $300 million. Asia dominates the social photo industry and Tou Tiao sees this as a strategic opportunity to gain a new user demographic and jump on the fast moving social media train in China. Faceu, which only started in 2016, already has 250 million downloads, 80 million monthly active users and 75% of their users are young females.
Baidu should be paying attention. By owning the channels for news, powering cultivation and distribution with AI, as well as hooking into user’s daily photo capture regimen, Tou Tiao is well positioned to take a big slice of daily attention in China. That’s not to mention all the rich data about where users are, when they’re taking photos, who is in the photo, what’s around them and so much more.
China Mobile May Provide 5G Service By The End Of 2019
5G is a complex technology and is the most sought after by governments, telecommunications companies and many tech giants. But why? The simple answer is that it will be 20Xs faster and more robust than 4G and that means more subscribers, end users and ultimately higher revenues.
China has made bold statements about their desire to be the first country with 5G coast-to-coast (it was supposed to be South Korea or Japan). This time last year, China Mobile, one of the country’s largest telecommunications operators, announced that they would be ready for commercial 5G in 2020. But this week, they announced a partnership with Viavi to bring that deadline up by as much as an entire year (article in Chinese). This is a huge announcement and it seems the race is on: AT&T just announced test cities for 5G in the United States for 2018.
Very large and capable companies like Huawei and Sprint (backed by Softbank) are supporting and deploying 5G infrastructure and services and are still holding tight to a 2020 timeline. The implications of beating your competitors to market by a year may not seem that important (especially in the telecommunications market) in the grand scheme of things. But the era of 4G is ending — fast. We now expect that most users will consume gigabytes of data every month and expect near perfect connectivity, everywhere they go. The difference of 12 months could mean huge swings in user bases, corporate contracts and a serious advantage in the most important connectivity battle of this decade.
Chinese Self-Driving Car Spotted In Silicon Valley
You’ve certainly heard about self-driving cars from the likes of Tesla and research and development efforts in the space by big tech companies (think Apple and Google), but you may not have paid attention to their counterparts in China. It is time to start as this week, one of them came to the U.S.
Chinese self-driving car company NIO showed up in Silicon Valley for its first test drives. NIO is not new to San Francisco, but this is the first public sightings of their Tesla Model X competitor, the ES8, outside of China (article in Chinese). Someone saw the autonomous car on the Montague Expressway in Santa Clara, California.
On top of this, NIO has been on a hiring spree and getting key staff from competitors on board. To date, the company has hired Padmasree Warrior, former CTO and strategic advisor of Cisco, Gautam S. Muralidhar, ex-senior data scientist at Pivotal, Jamie Carlson, former autopilot firmware manager at Tesla, then Apple, and Annie Guan, formerly head of engineering at Honda America where she was devoted to Honda’s connected and autonomous vehicle efforts. Expect the announcement to keep coming this year.
That’s it for this week in China Tech. If you have any stories you think we should cover next week, feel free to message me and make sure to check back for more stories coming from China next week.
Bay is the Co-Founder of Brinc.io, an early-stage IoT and Hardware investment and product development firm and an active speaker around the world. You can learn more and connect with bay at BetaBay.me