Is Beijing set to rival Silicon Valley as China’s tech scene continues to grow?
When you think about technology and the places it stems from, the most obvious location that springs to mind is Silicon Valley. The name was first coined in 1971, so the area holds a lot of history alongside its list of success stories.
Forty-six years later, Silicon Valley is no longer the only player on the technology block. Other cities, like London, Berlin, Tokyo, and Tel Aviv, have thriving tech scenes producing exciting innovations.
But what about China? We’ve seen Samsung from South Korea, HTC from Taiwan, and countless companies from Japan. Is the growing popularity of Huawei any sign of China’s booming tech scene?
Beijing Will Rival Silicon Valley
Former startup founder Cyriac Roeding predicts that Beijing will be Silicon Valley’s only real competitor by 2026. It’s easy to see why. Given China’s domestic market is around 1.3 billion people, startups have access to far more consumers than those in the US or Europe.
Those consumers are tech-savvy, and they’re quick to adopt new platforms. The number of smartphone users in China increased by 127 million between 2013 and 2016. Overnight success stories for startups are common. Meanwhile, the industry is hungry for innovation and keen to scale tech successes.
Tsinghua and Peking are the top two Chinese universities, both based in Beijing. They supply the tech scene with its talent – and entrepreneurs supply the money.
The working lives of the staff make Silicon Valley’s 50-hour weeks seem almost luxurious. Imagine working from 9 am to 9 pm, six days a week. That’s common in the Chinese tech scene. Having more staff working more often means startups move fast.
China’s Tech Scene and the Smartphone
China’s relationship with the internet is famous for “The Great Firewall.” Google, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other platforms are banned in the country. Censors blocked WhatsApp’s photo, voice, and video functionality in July 2017.
But the mobile internet continues behind this “Iron Curtain” of censorship. WeChat replaces WhatsApp and keeps users connected, without the influence of the platforms we take for granted in the West. In fact, social network services (SNS) are China’s most popular type of app.
But with these social applications hitting market saturation, the platforms must innovate to retain their users. Offering a personalized experience is one option. Allowing other services or providers to use the platform is another. That way, users can do everything they need to within the platform itself. We’ve seen something similar within Facebook in recent months.
China and the Internet of Things
China is already on the cutting edge of Internet of Things (IoT) technology. By 2020, 95% of the 200 billion connected IoT devices will be made in China. In 2013, their 74 million connections already made up a third of the global market.
China’s experience in manufacturing puts them front and center of the IoT industry. Their three largest telecom companies are enabling wireless connections across a range of devices and vehicles. Users can even control home IoT devices using WeChat. That would be like operating your home security system through Facebook Messenger.
Smart home technology, wearables, and even connected vehicles are all being adopted by consumers. Part of this vast growth in IoT comes from government support. China’s Five-Year Development Plan put heavy emphasis on developing IoT technology. The government also backed a strategy to bring mobile internet, IoT, big data, and cloud computing together.
Some startups, such as Ayla Networks, focus on offering solutions to help manufacturers add IoT connectivity to their appliances. Others, like Lifesmart and Phantom, manufacture smart home products such as lighting systems, sockets, environment sensors, or surveillance systems.
Similar systems exist in the US and Europe, so it’ll be interesting to see how/if users outside of China adopt the Chinese products. Using a universal remote like the SURE Universal will help integrate the solutions with those you already have.
It’s a very exciting time to develop your smart home!