In contrast, smart speakers only need voice commands to remove Internet access barriers, from 18 months of age to 92-year-old retired people, which provides a quick way for tech giants to tap new users and build “walled gardens”. the way.
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Ruan Long is an Internet professional in Beijing, and even he is surprised by some of the unexpected uses of smart speakers he recently brought home.
For example, his two treasures—the 18-month-old child who just learned to walk—have been able to interact with smart speakers, even though he can't say the full title like his grandparents. “In the beginning, the smart speaker didn’t respond for most of the time, because he vaguely said the word “small” to become 'Oddy’.” Xiaolong said.
But for Xiaolong’s eldest daughter, a second-year student, it’s both good and bad to put a smart speaker at home. "It can replace music, storytelling and answer many of her questions," said Xiaolong. "But I have to take it away when she does her homework in case she cheated."
Like the Xiaolong family, millions of families in China now use the new technology to access the Internet and use network services. This technique requires only simple voice commands and eliminates the need for more time-consuming traditional input methods such as writing Chinese characters or pinyin input methods.
For Chinese companies, this trend is crucial because consumers are turning to computer and smart text input to voice control to open up a large new user base.
Giants target 500 million unconnected users
According to a report released by the China Internet Network Information Center in February, as of the end of last year, more than 87% of the 562 million Chinese who did not have access to the Internet did not understand computer technology and would not use Pinyin as the main reason they could not access the Internet. the reason.
Artificial intelligence (AI)-driven voice input is also seen as a push for a range of new IoT devices. This market opportunity has attracted dozens of Chinese startups, such as Google-supported AI company Ruqi, who has invested in giants such as Tencent and Temasek.
According to a report released by market research firm Canalys, in the first quarter of this year, China's smart speaker shipments soared by 500% year-on-year to 10.6 million units, surpassing the US for the first time with 51% share to become the world's largest smart speaker market. Among the top five smart speaker manufacturers in the world, China has three: Baidu, Alibaba andMillet. However, American companies Amazon and Google still occupy the top two.
Tmall Elf Speaker
"China's rapid development has been largely driven by the company's investment in large capital to quickly dominate the market," said Nicole Peng, vice president of mobile at Canalys, in a statement. "This strategy is Baidu, Ali and Tencent. Internet service providers are more preferred, they are accustomed to investing billions to get traffic and know how to quickly reach critical user base levels."
Speakers provide valuable data
In addition to being the next important entry point for consumers to access web content and services, AI smart speakers have the advantage of providing valuable data such as voice patterns and consumer preferences. At the same time, it ensures that users remain in the service ecosystem of a company.
"just likeMobile phoneIn the era of smart phones, not just calling, it is used more for searching information, shopping online and watching videos. The same trend is happening on smart speakers, and third-party services in this ecosystem are becoming a major feature. Baidu’s vice president and general manager of the Smart Life Group, Jing Hao, said when he released three smart speaker models earlier this month.
Wang Jiping, assistant vice president of terminal research at IDC China, a market research company, believes that although a large service ecosystem will give leading companies a head start, the need to strengthen products to attract enough users is a price war in China's smart speaker market. The main reason behind.
At last year's "Double Eleven" shopping festival, Ali's cheapest smart speaker model sold for only 99 yuan (about 14.40 US dollars). Baidu was not willing to show weakness, and soon launched a model with a price of only RMB 89 through a one-time event. In contrast, Amazon's built-in Alexa Voice Assistant's basic version of the Echo Dot is priced at $25.
Wang Jiping expects that as the smart speaker market continues to grow and covers more than 400 million households, the intense price war will continue in the short term. “It is foreseeable that one out of every four households has at least one smart speaker,” he said. “This market will achieve explosive growth this year.”
Pulling the development of animal networking industry
Because AI-driven technology enables machines to better understand human language and allow people to seamlessly interact with any portable device outside of the home, in the car, and outside the smart phone, smart speakers will accelerate the development of the IoT industry.
“The more people interact with the machine, the more AI becomes smarter,” said Chen Lijuan, general manager of Ali AI Lab. “As the AI technology behind these voice assistants continues to grow rapidly, they will become impossible in our daily lives. Part of the lack."
Last month, Ali announced a partnership with auto giants Audi, Renault and Honda to integrate its in-vehicle voice control system into some of the newly developed Internet vehicles of these automakers.
Baidu CEO Li Yanhong
Since its launch in 2017, Ali's Tmall Elf Smart Assistant has been installed in more than 600 electrical brands, used in homes, cars, hotels and nursing homes, providing a range of infotainment services, from reading news and books to takeaways. ,shopping.
“The hardware such as smart speakers is just a way for companies to mine data and reach users,” said Wang Jiping. “They are a way for Internet giants to retain users in the ecosystem they create.”
The competition of Chinese technology companies for the dominant players in the smart speaker market coincides with the rush to establish a “walled garden”. In this model, a company offers a range of services, from takeaways, movie tickets and hotel reservations to online shopping, navigation and streaming video services.
Canalys' data shows that among the more than a dozen Chinese smart speaker manufacturers that have emerged in the past few years, Baidu took the lead with 3.3 million units in the first quarter. Globally, Baidu is the third largest supplier of smart speakers, with a market share of 16%, ahead of Ali's 15.5% and Xiaomi's 15.4%.
According to Jing Hao, in the past 18 months, Baidu's DuerOS voice control system has been activated on more than 400 million devices, including speakers, watches, cars, and tablets. In June alone, the intelligent assistants supported by DuerOS handled more than 3.6 billion user queries.
Baidu hopes to generate revenue from paid content and co-branding efforts with online merchants through smart speakers. “There are more than 30,000 paid items that can be accessed through small speakers, such as the US group take-out and children's story applications.” Jing said.
Retired old man's "partner"
Smart speaker manufacturers don't just want to train children and elementary school students who are just beginning to learn to walk. Jiang Peisheng is a 92-year-old retiree from Baoji, Shaanxi Province. His granddaughter gave him a Tmall Elf smart speaker. Since then, this speaker has become his only way to access the Internet, becoming an important "companion" in his family, playing songs for him, checking the information online, checking the weather and reminding him to take medicine every day.
"This stuff makes my home full of energy, and I can answer my questions every time, such as checking the weather and telling me jokes." Jiang Peisheng said. He added that he could not use the smart phone application because of his poor eyesight.
Without the need for computer and pinyin skills, interactive smart speakers are becoming an ideal way for Chinese Internet giants to cover users like Jiang Peisheng who have previously been unable to reach users. You know, this part of the user still accounts for about 40% of China's total population.