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Alibaba partners with auto firms to deliver smart speaker system in cars

2019-06-19 11:14 Wednesday

Alibaba recently announced partnerships with auto makers Audi, Renault and Honda, as the e-commerce giant rolls out a voice activated search and discovery service for cars.


Currently, in North America and Europe, companies such as Google and Amazon are vying heavily for their share in the lucrative smart speaker market.

Through these devices, users are commonly directed towards own-brand paid services such as book purchases, food delivery and ticketing.

So far, smart speakers have successfully made their way into homes as a complimentary addition to existing e-commerce platforms, but as autonomous vehicles and connected vehicles gain traction, some experts have seen in-car smart speakers as a logical second step.

Under the latest partnership, new cars in China with smart and internet-enabled features will come pre-loaded with the AI-powered Tmall Genie Auto platform developed by Alibaba AI lab.

This will bring auto owners their own range of similar voice-controlled services, including pointing out nearby attractions and restaurants, the ability to search for cinema seats, order items on Tmall or other digital retail sites, and check the status of deliveries.

Car owners with a Tmall Genie smart speaker at home will also be able to monitor and control their other smart devices remotely while driving, such as turning on the air conditioning or running a status check on lighting and temperature.

The devices mean drivers can access a whole “super consumer” ecosystem of fintech services, B2B consumer websites, social media updates and research topics such as digital marketing or sports scores. The system is smoothly integrated with digital payment apps such as Alibaba’s own Alipay.

Miffy Chen, general manager at Alibaba AI lab, said: “By providing artificial intelligence technologies, including speech recognition and natural language processing, Tmall Genie Auto enables car users to access an extensive in-car infotainment portfolio by tapping into Alibaba’s rich content and service ecosystem.”

“Together, we can greatly enhance our in-car services and make the experience of driving more intelligent and interconnected.”

A representative from Audi China, added: “We aim to extend in-car voice assistant services according to the demands and needs of our Chinese customers. To do so, one of our next steps is to intensify cooperation with Alibaba Tmall Genie.”

The announcement comes a year after Volvo, Daimler and Audi became the first global car brands to adopt Tmall Genie.

Tmall Genie debuted in China in 2017. The company says it now has over 100 million devices in homes and other settings, integrating over 600 smart appliance brands.

The market for smart speakers in China grew almost 800% in the first quarter of 2019, with vendors shipping a total of 11.2 million units in the first 3 month of the year, according to analysts.

Passing the 10 million mark puts smart speakers on an almost equal footing with PCs and smart televisions in terms of popularity, although they are still less popular smartphones.

Alibaba and Baidu are currently tied for market leadership in the country, with each shipping around 3.4 million units so far. Xiaomi comes in third place with 2.9 million units.

China has surpassed the States as the largest smart speaker market, according to research firm Canalys, which ranked Baidu as the world’s 3rd-biggest smart speaker vendor after Amazon and Google, with a 16% market share. Alibaba ranked 4th with a 15.5% market share.

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