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Alibaba to work with Panasonic to build Internet of Things-based home appliances

A wall painted with Alibaba logo at the company headquarters in Hangzhou. Photo: Reuters

China's e-commerce giant Alibaba Group will tie up with Japanese electronics major Panasonic Corporation to develop smart home appliances powered by the Internet of Things, according to a recent report published on cn.nikkei.com.

The two partners were planning to broaden their cooperation to develop a series of smart home appliances using the Internet of Things including a refrigerator that is capable of automatically replenishing the inventory of ingredients when customers run out of the food stored, the report quoted Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga as saying, as the company shifts its focus to home automation from traditional home appliances.

Once those smart home devices hit the market, they are believed to be sold on Alibaba's online marketplaces, which have a lion's share of China's online shopping industry.

On Alibaba's part, the e-commerce giant, which doubles as a technology company, will provide Panasonic with its Alibaba Cloud data-based intelligent terminal control system, which it believes can outperform similar products in terms of stability and response speed.

During the Cloud Computing Conference held in Shenzhen last month, Hu Xiaoming, president of Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing division of the group, announced plans to enter the Internet of Things field, saying that the company would connect 10 billion devices on its Internet of Things platform in the next five years.

Relying on its advantages in cloud, artificial intelligence and computing, Alibaba Cloud's Internet of Things platform has provided solutions in the areas of home, smart city and manufacturing since 2014, when it started the research and development of the Internet of Things infrastructure.

In January, Alibaba's Artificial Intelligence Laboratory announced a partnership with Taiwanese fabless semiconductor producer MediaTek to develop smart home device software based on customized computing chips.

Alibaba's Internet of Things initiative for home started in June last year with the Alibaba Cloud Link, an open platform for smart living, through which home appliance makers can link their own products to those of others and can use Alibaba's connectivity, device management and data analytics solutions.

The partnership with Alibaba would help enhance Panasonic's presence in the Chinese market, where Japanese home appliance brands are losing steam in fierce competition with their Chinese and South Korean peers, which have stolen a march on developing smart devices. China's leading home appliance producer Haier launched what it called "smart" refrigerators as early as 2016, and South Korea's Samsung followed suit the next year.

"Japanese [home appliance manufacturers] customarily pay more attention to quality control, which makes them less sensitive about the market change," said Wei Jun, general manager of the White Goods Division under the China Market Monitor, a market research firm.

In November last year, Panasonic launched the "Living Space" program to right the ship. The program integrates Panasonic's businesses of home and appliances to offer solutions for smart living. Panasonic is also working on a new smart home project called HomeX in its latest effort to make deep-learning home devices that are able to understand customers' needs.
 


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