Alibaba Invests CNY10 billion to Develop Ecosystem Around Tmall Genie Smart Speaker

May 22, 2020 0:15 pm

Beijing (PingWest)- Alibaba Group Holding will invest CNY 10 billion this year to boost the artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem that support its smart speaker Tmall Genie.

More specifically, Alibaba will use this investment to expand Tmall Genie’s AI and IoT offerings by integrating more content and service from Alibaba’s ecosystem, ranging from entertainment to health care, education and online shopping. As a result, the development of Tmall Genie’s ecosystem will enable Alibaba to speed up an integration between its AI and IoT based smart speaker with other business segments, Alibaba said in a statement on Thursday.

In addition, Alibaba added that it planned to develop AI and IoT technologies to enhance natural voice and visual interactions between the smart speaker and consumers. Alibaba Cloud and Alibaba DAMO Academy will lead the research and development (R&D) for technologies.

For example, mini-apps on payments platform Alipay can be integrated with Tmall Genie starting from July 1. Shoppers can also watch Taobao Live on Alibaba’s Taobao Marketplace retail platform through Tmall Genie’s screen.

In a separate announcement, Tmall Genie also announced its partnership with fast-food chain KFC to co-design a smart speaker.This partnership follows the release of a series of branded devices, including the Starbucks-themed Tmall Genie. Consumers will be able to use the Tmall Genie, scheduled for release in the second half of 2020, to order KFC breakfast from over 5,000 KFC locations across China. Users can use a voice-payment feature to complete transactions, then pick their orders up at the nearest KFC store.

Launched in 2017, Tmall Genie can currently connect with over 270 million devices from 1,100 brands in China

Citing research firms IDC, Alibaba said Tmall Genie accounted for more than 35% share of the Chinese market and led the domestic market in terms of sales and unit shipment. 

Despite a significant decline in first-quarter sales amid the coronavirus pandemic, smart speaker shipments in China are projected to grow 9.8% in 2020, according to data from IDC.