Satel­lite nav­i­ga­tion

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By GAO YUAN gaoyuan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Alibaba steps up its moves in lo­ca­tion-based ser­vices

AlibabaGroupHold­ing Ltd stepped up its moves in the lo­ca­tion ser­vices sec­tor on Wed­nes­day by join­ing hands with the big­gest mil­i­tary equip­ment maker in China.

The al­liance be­tween the e-com­merce gi­ant and China North In­dus­tries Group Corp, or Nor­inco, is set to drive the ex­pan­sion of the home-grown Beidou Satel­lite Nav­i­ga­tion Sys­tem which is start­ing to threaten the world­wide dom­i­nance of the United States-owned Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem.

Alibaba and Nor­inco have set up a 2 bil­lion yuan ($313 mil­lion) joint ven­ture in Shang­hai to pro­vide high-ac­cu­racy lo­ca­tion and data anal­y­sis ser­vices to cus­tomers, ac­cord­ing toNor­inco. Alibaba and Nor­inco will each hold a 50 per­cent stake in the com­pany.

“Lo­ca­tion-based ser­vices are a crit­i­cal part of the In­ter­net in­fra­struc­ture. We will pro­vide bet­ter ser­vices to en­ter­prises and de­vel­op­ers by tak­ing ad­van­tage of our strengths in cloud com­put­ing and big data sec­tors,” Alibaba said in a state­ment.

Nor­inco, a ma­jor­sup­plier of tanks, anti-air­craft mis­siles and high-ex­plo­sive bombs to the Peo­ple’s Lib­er­a­tion Army, is a ma­jor devel­oper of Beidou’s ground-based aug­men­ta­tion sys­tem.

The sys­tem pro­vides dif­fer­en­tial cor­rec­tions and in­tegrity mon­i­tor­ing to the po­si­tion­ing in­for­ma­tion gen­er­ated by satel­lites. It is claimed to pro­vide sig­nif­i­cantly higher ac­cu­racy than GPS and is avail­able in­doors and in other ar­eas where satel­lite sig­nals can­not reach.

Chi­nese de­liv­ery com­pa­nies, such as SF Ex­press (Group) Co Ltd, are al­ready us­ing satel­lites to track pack­ages. A more ac­cu­rate in­door nav­i­ga­tion ser­vice will lift ef­fi­ciency for the com­pa­nies.

Miao Qianjun, sec­re­tarygen­eral of the Global Nav­i­ga­tion Satel­lite Sys­tem and Lo­ca­tion-based Ser­vices As­so­ci­a­tion of China, said the big­gest busi­ness op­por­tu­nity is in satel­lite-based po­si­tion­ing be­cause the ground-based aug­men­ta­tion tech­nol­ogy has low rates of re­turn.

Beidou’s uni­ver­sal cov­er­age­may also help Alibaba tap into mar­kets out­side China. The New York-listed com­pany has been try­ing to lo­cate the next online shop­ping gold­mine as the pur­chas­ing power of Chi­nese shop­pers seems to be ta­per­ing.

“The fo­cus of Beidou be on re­gions within frame­work of China’s and Road Ini­tia­tive in com­ing years,” Miao said.

The ar­eas in­clude South­east Asia, Cen­tral Asia, the Mid­dle East and some East Euro­pean economies.

Be­fore al­ly­ing with Nor­inco, Alibaba spent $1.5 bil­lion to ac­quire Chi­nese satel­lite will the Belt the nav­i­ga­tion provider Au­toNavi Hold­ings Ltd in 2014. The move helped Alibaba com­pete with Baidu Inc in the map­ping and nav­i­ga­tion mar­ket.

The Alibaba in­vest­ment will also help Beidou at­tract more­o­ver­seas cus­tomers. Beidou was de­signed both for mil­i­taryand­civil­ian use­an­dit started to pro­vide com­mer­cial ser­vices since 2012.

China re­quires all the nav­i­ga­tion de­vices sold in the coun­try to be com­pat­i­ble with Beidou, pit­ting the Chi­nese sys­tem as a strong con­tender against the GPS.

Miao said as China puts more satel­lites into obit, the young sys­tem is on track to gen­er­ate 400 bil­lion yuan in an­nual turnover by 2020.

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A visi­tor in­quires about the driv­ing nav­i­ga­tion de­vices pow­ered by the Beidou Satel­lite Nav­i­ga­tion Sys­tem at an expo in Urumqi, Xin­jiang Uygur au­ton­o­mous re­gion. The home-grown sys­tem is a chal­lenger to the United States-owned Global Po­si­tion­ing Sys­tem.

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