5 Things to look out for at the 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference

On 1 November the 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference will open in Nanjing Jiangsu Grand Theatre. This will be Tencent’s first industry conference after having gone through restructuring earlier this year. This will also mark the first event ahead of Tencent’s 20th anniversary this year. There are 5 things we are particularly looking forward to at the conference.

1. The release of Tencent’s 20th anniversary film “River”

Tencent’s 20th anniversary film is called “River” and will footage from the foundation of the company, developments over the past 20 years as well as the company’s vision. According to a company spokesperson the film has been named “River” to show the continuous forward movement of the Tencent. The film is said to be centred on Tencent’s mission to jointly build a “Digital China”. The film has sparked wide excitement amongst industry experts as it is expected to set the tone for the company’s future development.

2. Internet driven development

On 30 September Tencent announced the third group restructuring which many industry experts saw as Tencent’s attempt to focus on internet driven development.

The 2018 Tencent Global Partner Conference will see the attendance of China’s leading smart technology and artificial intelligence companies. Industry experts will be paying close attention during the conference at Tencent’s strategy for internet driven development and future goals.

3. Science and Culture Show

Over 125 companies will be presenting their project around one of the three themes at the conference: Innovation Block, Cultural Garden and Science and Technology Forest.

The Science and Technology forest will see projects like “sister” robots, and vehicles equipped with Tencent’s automatic driving system. Projects in the Culture Garden will include a DreamWorks art show. The Innovation Block features the latest innovations of the smart industries from everyday routines to an augmented reality mobile phone tour of Yunnan.

4. The Future of Speech

This session of the conference is especially focused about how speech and language will be used in the future across industries. It will look at how speech will affect the creative industries as well as how new technologies will use speech as a direct communication tool. The session aims to connect researchers, entrepreneurs and artists to explore the use of speech and its future application.

5. New Wenchuang Open Day

The conference will host the two-day open day at the 6th National Theatre of the Jiangsu Grand Threatre. China’s leading cultural and creative industry representatives have confirmed their attendance and the opening will simultaneous screen popular film and television programs. The open day will also host a creative exchange where guests can share short videos, vlogs, movies, TV series and etc.

Are you planning to attend the 2018 Tencent Conference? These are the 5 things we are most looking forward to. What are you looking forward to? Let us know in the comments.

Alibaba: Tmall wants to enter product development

China’s online giant Alibaba has teamed up with Shanghai Fashion Week to demonstrate what fashion shopping of the future can look like. New technologies are intended to close the gap between consumers, retailers and brands.

Virtual catwalks

The Shanghai Fashion Week took place in China’s most important fashion metropolis from 10 to 17 October. The event is an excellent opportunity for China’s leading online retailer Alibaba to show how in the future for retailers and consumers can benefit from these events.

Through the B2C online shop Tmall, the company invited the four Chinese fashion brands Me & City, IMMI, Banxiaoxue and Zhangshuai to trial new technology. Based on the brands’ design patterns, the Tmall software visualised the garments movements or predicted fits for different body types. Users were able to follow the virtual looks and live fashion week shows on the Taobao and Tmall apps.

Tmall wants to use this technology to give young designers, who cannot afford a “real” runway show, more online presence, commented Tmall’s Vice President of Fashion, Anita Lyu in an interview on the company’s own blog Alizila.

Heat maps measure visitor frequency

The Virtual Runway was just one of many new technology Tmall trialled at the Shanghai Fashion Week. A “showroom robot” allowed shoppers to take a closer look at products, talk to designers, and place orders in real time. Tmall technology also provided pedestrian heat maps throughout the showrooms that analysed which brands, items, clothing styles, colours and fabrics attracted the most attention.

Customising Runway Looks

The virtual show allowed users to tap on each garment and to view its details in 360 degree view. Users were able to change the measurements of the garments – from height and weight to chest, waist and hips – to see what the outfits would look like on their own virtual model. The software also indicated where garments would be too tight or not fitting properly.



Tmall wants to be part of the product development

According to Alibaba’s “New Manufacturing” strategy and Tmall, the 3D modelling solution will be made available to apparel brands in the near future. Once all the properties of a fabric are known – including colour, how the fabric reacts to different levels of compression, friction, and light – each garment would be virtually replicated in just five minutes to an hour. In other words: Tmall wants to give its fashion suppliers tools with which designers can directly create their virtual patterns on Tmall. “The tools will help retailers save time and money and reduce the cost of product development cycles by up to 80 percent, including patterning and prototyping, material sourcing and production,” the company said on the blog.

Currently this new service is still in the development phase. The insights gained through interactive technology could help brands to better engage consumers, get to know them better, better forecast market demand, and to build consumer-centric manufacturing.

Shaohaihui aims to revolutionise the middle-class housing market

China’s new middle class is driving changes in China’s retail landscape. On Saturday, 13 October Shaohaihui, pioneers in the intelligent housing industry, launched their home direct selling platform. Later this year the company will open 2,100 stores around China to give consumers the opportunity to see the over 300 million designer furniture.

Shaohaihui’s design are created to bring appealing designs to middle class families who often live in small apartments due to the lack of affordable housing in China’s metropolis. Designs are focused on utilising space around the home with an appealing minimalist design – a concept also known as “Edge Zero”.

In Shaohaihui’s vision one-bedroom apartment are planned with an “open link”. The four-way design creates 360-degree multi-functional furniture. The three-sided invisible storage ensures that the room has an overall cleanly and spacious appearance – something which can be difficult to achieve in a small living space. The designs not only make use of multi-functional furniture but also new smart features such as smart lights are integrated in this new design approach.

To achieve its ambitious goal to revolutionise the middle-class housing market, Shaohaihui is partnering with upcoming Chinese designers and start-ups to create homes which are centred on the needs of young Chinese consumers. Since 2016 42 upcoming Chinese companies, with an annual output exceeding £1.1 billion have joined to create bring the “Edge Zero” design to all parts of China.

China’s growing middle class has become an important consumer base for many Chinese start-ups. According to a study by consulting firm McKinsey & Company, 76 percent of China’s urban population will be considered middle class by 2022. But by 2022, thanks to a growing number of higher-paying high-tech and service industry jobs, 54 percent will be classified as “upper middle” class – meaning they earn between US$16,000 and US$34,000 a year.

Germany’s Chinatown in Duisburg – How the Ruhr Area wants to benefit from the Silk Road 2.0

In Duisburg ends an 11,000-kilometer rail line – China’s new Silk Road. The trains from the Far East not only bring goods, they change the Ruhr metropolis.

China’s Belt and Road Initiative has become a changing point for the German city Duisburg. Increasing numbers of Chinese companies are now becoming interested in the Duisburg location. German newspaper Das Handelsblatt followed a delegation on their tour through the Duisburg industrial area.

The black minibus stops. All passengers pull out their smartphones. The man in the passenger seat says a few words. The rest take photos. Then they drive on. A woman is constantly filming through the tinted windows because she does not want to miss anything: warehouses, tank silos and containers. Sightseeing in the Duisburg industrial area.

The five passengers are not tourists, but business people from Chengdu, China. The man in the passenger seat is not a tour guide, but project manager of the port company Duisport. Instead of planning a project, today he is selling a product; the Duisburg location.

The Duisport project manager explains to the delegation that the industrial wasteland will be transformed into a state of the art industrial port. Siemens, Audi and other companies have already settled here. A traffic control system that reduces waiting times for trucks had also been installed. The women and men do what they will do the rest of the day; they nod and take pictures.

Shortly afterwards the bus waits in front of a barrier. The Chinese delegates point their smartphone cameras at the railroad crossing. A train rolls in front of their camera. It is loaded with containers bearing the logos of the Chinese shipping company Cosco and the state-owned railway company China Railway. A hundred meters away, three cranes are waiting to unload the train. The cargo consists mainly of electronics and textiles.

The Duisburg inland port is the end of an 11,000-kilometer railway line. It leads from China via Kazakhstan, Russia and Poland to Germany. Up to 35 trains run weekly on the route, three to five from Chengdu. On the way back the trains bring German cars and consumer goods to China.

Since the smelters and collieries have closed, Duisburg has become one of Germany’s economically most disadvantaged cities. The unemployment rate of 11.5 percent is more than twice as high as the national average. The city has high hopes that the train connection to China will change that. It wants to convince Chinese business people to send more trains to Duisburg.

Hope in the structural change

That’s why second mayor Volker Mosblech is waiting for the black minibus in the town hall. The suit of Duisburg’s second mayor carries two pins, one of a German flag, one of a Chinese flag. He proudly presents them as he welcomes the members of the Chinese business delegation.

The City of Duisburg has printed Chinese business cards for its employees. For every card Mosblech gets from the Chinese delegates, he gives them one of his own. He hands them over with both hands – as is customary in China.

The mayor and his colleagues tell the Chinese about the advantages of the location: 300,000 companies are located within a radius of 150 kilometres, 30 million consumers live in the region and the existing Chinese network that has made Duisburg known as Germany’s Chinatown.

The city has even appointed a China commissioner to oversee relations with the China and has established a China Business Network to attract Chinese companies to the city. Meanwhile the Confucius Institute invites the people of Duisburig to tea ceremonies and calligraphy courses to introduce them to the Far Eastern culture.

The cityscape changes

The Duisburg University Library is full, despite the term break. Mainly Chinese students are studying here. They sit in groups of four or five people. One has put a pillow under his head and takes a nap. The rest are staring at their laptops.

Over 2,000 Chinese students are enrolled at the University of Duisburg-Essen, most of them at the Faculty of Engineering in Duisburg. The majority will return home after graduation. But that could change.

If you go from the university to the main train station, you pass Chinese supermarkets and tailors. From time to time, the smell of peanut oil from Chinese restaurants mixes with the scent of Turkish food stalls.

Bangni also has its headquarters here. The start-up helps Chinese people in Duisburg to find a job and a flat. It also advises German companies on China issues and Chinese companies settling in the city.

There are currently only 100 Chinese companies in the city. However, the number could quadruple within a few years. Duisburg based Chinese company, Starhai wants to invest €260 million into a new trading centre, where previously has been industrial waste land. Starhai has already raised the money with the help of Chinese investors.

Offices, hotels and function rooms are to be built on 60,000 square meters for 300 Chinese companies, who will organise their Central European sales from there – and bring 2000 jobs to Duisburg.

Five kilometres south of the site, the black minibus stops at the spot where China’s President Xi Jinping made a speech in 2014. You can see one thing above all: asphalt. The delegation still photographs.

On the way back to the hotel, the Chinese go through the pictures on their smartphones. They have a good impression from Duisburg, they say. The next day the delegation is expected in Nuremberg. Regular trains from China also stop there.

(Photo: picture alliance/Tang ke – Imaginechina)

World Artificial Intelligence Conference: Where is China’s AI technology heading?

The 2018 World Artificial Intelligence Conference was opened on Monday 17 September 2018 in Shanghai under the theme of “A new Era Empowered by Artificial Intelligence”. The conference saw attendance from over 200 experts and entrepreneurs form over 40 countries discussing which challenges China’s AI sector would be addressing in the upcoming years.

China is considered a leader in AI and has a significant advantage towards its western competitors due to the large number of data Chinese companies have been able to collect from Chinese users. For Eye Cool’s CEO ZHOU Jun, a Chinese AI technology firm, the challenges in the AI sector are obvious. In his conference speech the entrepreneur highlighted the importance AI is going to play in the cyberspace security sector in the upcoming years.

Cyberspace security is becoming a new challenge the AI sector is addressing”

While AI has the potential to significantly contribute to increased cyberspace security, the area poses a political quagmire. Risks of data and personal privacy disclosure, vicious cyber-attacks, etc. pose a significant risk to the security of sensitive social and national security information. However, for entrepreneur ZHOU Jun these problems will resolve with the growth of the AI sector.

Businesses until now have been prioritising AI development in the finance and transportation sector as the increased efficiency allows to optimise company spending. Yet, developing AI in the security sector is dependent on having a comprehensive data set which spans across all sectors. Having pioneered the use of AI in financial services security over 20 years ago, ZHOU Jun is certain that the cyberspace security is the next step for developments in AI. However the entrepreneur also cautioned that progress is also dependent on companies building stronger relationships with people.

“Companies must become more people-orientated to accelerate the maturity of AI. Only by working together can we reduce security risks.”

China’s AI sector is heading towards a more interconnected sector to increase security on the cyberspace and although AI technology is making rapid progress, communication with humans is now moving into the centre of AI development.

Global Perspective

In his recent book, AI Superpowers: China, Silicon Valley, and the New World Order, internationally renowned AI expert Dr. Kai-Fu Lee outlines the global trends in AI. According to Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, China will lead in areas where massive data and maniacal focus lead to better products (such as Internet applications, mobile applications, payment and commerce applications, and computer vision and speech applications). But US will lead in areas where China doesn’t have quality data (such as financial and health applications), as well as areas which require cutting-edge technologies (such as autonomous vehicles).  New research breakthroughs are more likely to come from US than from China. The UK government has made a commitment to boost the UK’s position in AI through a sector deal. It is estimated that AI will add £232 billion to the UK economy by 2030.