Chi­nese-made speaker dares Ama­zon, Google

China Daily - - BUSINESS | FOCUS - By OUYANG SHIJIA

Ding­dong A1, a made-in-China voice-ac­ti­vated smart home speaker brand, is squar­ing up to the Ama­zon Echo and the Google Home.

Sim­i­lar to Echo and Home, the con­i­cal cloud con­nected speaker can an­swer ques­tions, manage sched­ules, pro­vide di­rec­tions, play mu­sic and voice­con­trol other house­hold smart de­vices. Ding­dong A1 is the flag­ship prod­uct of Lin­g­long Co, a $25 mil­lion joint ven­ture be­tween China’s e-com­merce giant JD.com and Chi­nese voice tech­nol­ogy com­pany iF­lytek.

Ac­cord­ing to market re­search firm Gart­ner Inc, the global market for speak­ers with vir­tual as­sis­tants is ex­pected to hit $2 bil­lion in sales by 2020, al­most a 500 per­cent rise over 2015.

No won­der, Lin­g­Long, ea­ger to grab market share, has loaded Ding­dong with a host of fea­tures. Priced 798 yuan ($116), its unique sell­ing point is it can speak Chi­nese — both Echo and Google, be­ing English­based, can­not.

When ad­dressed as “Ding­dong, Ding­dong”, Lin­g­long’s speaker can hear and re­spond to voice com­mands. Us­ing JD’s open-source ap­pli­ca­tion Jing­dong Weil­ian, it al­lows users to con­trol all con­nected smart de­vices made by man­u­fac­tur­ers that are part of the com­pany’s ecosys­tem.

Wei Qiang, gen­eral man­ager of Lin­g­long, said market po­ten­tial for smart speak­ers in China is huge. “We think voice is the most nat­u­ral way to con­nect. With im­proved tech­nolo­gies, the speaker will be suit­able to per­form var­i­ous func­tions.”

The Bei­jing-based com­pany claimed that dur­ing last year’s Nov 11 on­line shop­ping fes­ti­val and the fol­low­ing two weeks, it sold around 10,700 speak­ers, ac­count­ing for nearly 80 per­cent of the to­tal sales vol­ume of smart speak­ers on the JD plat­form.

Ac­cord­ing to Wei, the smart speaker will her­ald nu­mer­ous life-as­sist­ing ser­vices, and will emerge as a key part of a smart home.

“We need to nur­ture users and grow the market in China now,” he said. “I be­lieve 10 mil­lion gad­gets will be sold in China in the fu­ture.

“We will con­tinue to work on the smart speak­ers with other lead­ing brands worldwide such as Har­man In­ter­na­tional In­dus­tries Inc. And we are also work­ing with in­ter­net ser­vice providers to build an open voice-based ser­vice plat­form.”

Lin­g­long, which was es­tab­lished in 2015, has un­veiled sev­eral ver­sions of smart speak­ers to meet peo­ple’s var­i­ous needs in dif­fer­ent sce­nar­ios, in­clud­ing the por­ta­ble gad­get for young peo­ple’s out­door needs and one equipped with English­learn­ing soft­ware.

It is also ex­pected to add new func­tions for the el­derly, such as set­ting alarms as a re­minder for tak­ing pills at the pre­scribed time.

Jin Di, re­search man­ager of IDC China, said the key is to build a com­plete ecosys­tem. “The voice tech­nol­ogy is not the most im­por­tant thing. In­stead, the com­pany should work on the ecosys­tem and try to of­fer more types of ser­vices, like on­line-to-off­line ser­vices.”

PRO­VIDED TO CHINA DAILY

A hu­mid­i­fier con­nected to, and con­trolled by, Ding­dong smart speaker at a fair in Guangzhou.

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