The Alibaba group doesn’t want to remain just an e-commerce company. Rather, it aims to become a large technology firm, according to Dr. Jian Wang, Chairman of Alibaba’s Tech Steering Committee.
As part of the company’s larger strategy, Alibaba has started to diversify into multiple tech verticals including artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and image recognition — not just to enhance its own services, but also to improve the e-governance, thus impacting the life of the common person.
“Our larger plan is to become a great technology company,” said Wang at a meet-the-press session on the sidelines of the Alibaba Cloud 2016 Computing Conference in Hangzhou on Thursday. “Our cloud computing service, Alibaba Cloud, has a significant role to play towards this goal. Going forward, aliyun will become a key component of the group business.”
Alibaba is already piloting a project with the Hangzhou administration leveraging its Big Data capabilities to improve the city governance and reduce road traffic. Its key objective is to convert Hangzhou into a smart city and then replicate the success into other cities.
Alibaba is also planning to use these technologies to enhance its e-commerce supply chain and last-mile logistics in China.
Since its launch in 2009, Alibaba Cloud has significantly scaled across the country. Outside of China, however, Amazon’s cloud service AWS and Microsoft’s Azure are dominating. Wang said that Alibaba plans to take its cloud service to new markets in Asia and Europe, but the key focus remains China as of now.
“Unlike e-commerce, which is very culture dependent, cloud computing is completely culture-independent, so it is easy to scale it to any market. Most startups in the world still rely on third-party cloud services rather than developing it in-house, so we have an opportunity to scale it to global markets, including Asia and Europe.”
Alibaba announced its AI push in its Beijing summit in August this year, with a comprehensive suite of solutions in video, image and speech recognition technologies through its AI programme, ET. At the summit, it had showcased how its AI technologies could be leveraged in different industries to help customers gain efficiency, monitor risks and minimise cost.
Its video recognition technology can be used to analyse the videos from sporting events with deep learning services. Athletes’ performance can be profiled to determine their behaviour, which provides valuable data analysis for the sports industry. The image processing solution is used to identify and describe images accurately through image and caption processing to allow machines to “read” images instantaneously
Alibaba’s speech recognition technology automatically records voice messages of customer service representatives into text format and structures the content and key messages to allow for monitoring of customer service quality, analysis of consumer sentiment and risk control.
The company also showcased a real-time transcription of audio of live broadcasts into subtitles, which can then be monitored and edited during live shows.
Among its various other tech products include a customised recommendation technology, warning of industrial malfunctions, monitoring malicious behaviours in e-commerce, and real-time traffic prediction.