Two months ago WeChat launched an API for activity-tracking wearables that enables developers to build functions and features on top of WeChat Public Account system (Developers are able to build sophisticated features for their WeChat public accounts). Users will be able to check activity data or interact with their gadgets through a WeChat public account.
The advantages of leveraging the WeChat platform include (1) users don’t have to download a separate app, (2) some social features made available by WeChat may increase user engagement, etc.
Now it’s obvious that WeChat wants to become a platform for all types of businesses, including smart hardware businesses. But so far WeChat or its parent company Tencent hasn’t announced anything else like Cloud services for smart hardware. I heard that the company would announce a more detailed plan for an open platform for smart hardware at the developer conference that will take place in the coming October.
Also, there’s at least one third-party smart hardware solution provider that is working with WeChat, developing customized APIs for all kinds of hardware products and providing Cloud services.
JD, the Chinese online retail giant, launched a sub-site dedicated to smart hardware products way earlier than Amazon. It has something to do with the fact that JD.com started as an online electronics retailer. Now JD has become one of the first retail platforms Chinese makers would debut their products and one of the largest in China in terms of sales volume.
But JD doesn’t want to be just a product distribution platform. JD+ is the initiative by the company launched earlier this year that provides almost everything smart hardware companies need, Cloud and data analytics services (JDCloud), WiFi or sensor solutions, software development services, marketing support, funding/crowdfunding, among others.
More recently the company launched a flagship app, hoping to have hardware products to develop applications on top of it. For users they’ll be able to interact with various smart devices through one app; for JD, it will have all those users and user data.
Aliyun, the division for Cloud services of Alibaba Group, launched Alink platform in June this year. Aliyun has been trying to have manufacturers of consumer electronics products, from smartphone to smart TV, adopt the customized Android system they have developed and use their Cloud services.
Different from JD+, Alink only offers what Alibaba is good at, Alibaba marketplaces, the crowdfunding site established by Taobao, Taobao users account system, online payments service Alipay, location data or other services of Alibaba subsidiaries, and of course Cloud services.
Aliyun’s ultimate goal must be to have as many smart hardware products as possible using its Cloud services.
Baidu launched its platform for hardware in April this year. It provides Cloud services, a site for products (Users will be directed to the official websites of hardware products to make purchases) and what Baidu is expert at: search marketing.
The company has even developed a solution for connected wristband and offers it for free. BOOM Band of home appliance maker TCL and Oband of smartphone maker OPPO are based on the Baidu solution, according to the company.
Baidu has also been making self-branded smart hardware products, including the newly launched BaiduEye and the smart Chopsticks. We heard that the pair of Chopsticks was designed by a Chinese design firm LKK.
The Chinese smartphone maker Meizu announced Liftkit earlier this month. Like the JD app, LifeKit hopes to be the one app that can interact with various smart hardware products. Three Chinese gadgets, smart watch inWatch, Broadlink smart socket and a drone named Ghost have got on board.
The company said they’d help promote those products with its own resources, but it seems the company has little else attractive to hardware developers.