China’s e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba announced today that it entered partnership with Chinese leading home appliance maker Midea. Under the deal, Midea will manufacture home appliances with Internet access, while Alibaba will be responsible for the R&D and operation of a dedicated platform under Aliyun to support these smart appliances.
The two parties planned to jointly release the first batch of their products under the brand of Midea Smart Air Conditioner on Tmall March 19. These smart air conditioners feature three kinds of outlooks in eight models.
Alibaba disclosed that users will be able to control these air conditioners on Alibaba’s services like IM tool Laiwang and mobile payment app AliPay Wallet from April at the earliest. The users can voice-control the air conditioners to switch on/off, adjust the temperature and humidity, check power consumption conditions, etc.
The voice command from users will be firstly sent to the smart control center powered by Aliyun, and then, the data processed by the center will be sent to smart air conditioners that are connected to the Internet. In addition, the air conditioners will record data like switch on/off time, temperature, humidity by itself and send it to the control center for future use. Customers can reserve after-sales and maintenance services online.
Sina Weibo, the microblogging service which Alibaba holds 18% stake, and Chinese home appliance maker Hisense released last year a similar smart air conditioner, which allows users to remote control the air conditioners by bundling their Sina Weibo accounts. Compared with this product, Alibaba and Midea’s air conditioner is backed by a data control platform and places more emphasis on user data collection.
The cooperation between the two companies is divided into three phases:
- 2014: To unify protocols for IOT products and realize seamless integration.
- 2015: To improve R&D and products with data collected from users.
- 2016: To form complete business chain for smart home industry and launch paid service.
Moreover, Alibaba and Midea planned to open up related protocols and offer standardized API accesses to third-party developers in an attempt to form an open IOT platform.
This is not the first time for Alibaba to enter partnership with home appliance makers. It invested 2.2 billion yuan (around US$358 million) in Haier last December, but the tie-up mainly focused on e-commerce business to leverage the matured home appliance delivery system of Haier so as to complement Alibaba’s delivery business in third-and fourth-tier cities.
image credit: Alibaba