Some big trends have emerged this week in red hot areas like blockchain, artificial intelligence, and edtech. The bottom line seems to be that China is investing in a big way to ensure it remains on the cutting edge when it comes to the technology of tomorrow, whether it’s investing billions into AI or leveraging the country’s most important social media platform to embrace blockchain. Here are the some of the most interesting tech stories out of China you might not have heard about.
Tencent Goes All In On Blockchain
Everyone is adopting blockchain technologies, but it’s hard for big companies to move at the speed of technological innovation. This is not the case for Tencent in China, makers of WeChat, a social media messaging app with 1 billion active users. Pony Ma, CEO of Tencent, sent a WeChat post last week explaining his vision of blockchain, but Tencent has already created various services, products, and a blockchain development platform for third parties to build on top of.
Some of the use cases outlined in this article (article in Chinese) are a new financial application in partnership with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world’s largest and most valuable bank, where users can make money if the price of gold increases. This is a spin on their limited release Gold Red Pocket promotion earlier this year. Tencent also offers a Supply Chain Finance Service using blockchain technology in partnership with Linklogis that helps small to medium-sized businesses to obtain financing at lower costs than traditional lending systems. Traditional lending requires additional middlemen and paperwork for trust and information and collateral tracking. There’s even a blockchain application that helps people search for and find missing people. An example of this happened recently when a parent posted a missing child and when the child was found, the case was closed using the blockchain and the entire system was updated with the notification.
The big news here is the blockchain ecosystem that Tencent is building. Think of the tools that Apple and Google make available for developers of iOS and Android apps. Tencent has made a similar ecosystem for blockchain technology and is powering a new generation of applications for small and medium companies and is way ahead in its partnerships with the largest corporations across China. It seems that Pony Ma and Tencent will be leading one of the most important technological advancements in the country again
Didi, China’s Uber, Quietly Launches An Artificial Intelligence Lab
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a critical technology that may change the direction of civilization, and the United States and China are always at the center of the conversation. So it’s a big deal whenever we hear of new AI stories (article in Chinese) coming out of either of these two advanced economies.
This week brings news of Didi, the company that beat Uber in China, and their AI aspirations. The information is hard to come by, but what we’ve been able to find is that their AI lab will focus on natural language processing, voice recognition and other technologies that will enhance the smart driving revolution and bring more convenience to passengers. What these new features will be was not disclosed in the article. The Didi AI lab already has 200 scientists and engineers on the team and they intend to expand the team ever further before year end.
It’s important to note that China announced plans to invest $2.1 billion into an industrial AI park outside of the nation’s capital in Beijing and have more than 30 universities offering AI based coursework to undergraduates. The country has dictated that they will be the world’s leader in AI by the year 2030. There are only a few technologies that are worth following as closely as AI so stay tuned as we cover more of China’s AI developments in this weekly column.
Chinese EdTech Company Proves AI Teaches Better Than Actual Teachers
You may have heard of artificial intelligence (AI), but you haven’t heard of what’s happening in Chinese classrooms (article in Chinese). Yi Xue, an education technology company in China, focuses on junior high education and uses AI to test students’ knowledge to an incredible level of detail.
Students start by taking a set of problems and Yi Xue’s system analyzes their capability for the skills required on college entrance exams. Based on the students’ abilities, the AI creates a tailored knowledge plan and helps the student train in the areas where they’re lacking via online work and offline tutoring. They use Bayesian networks for building up tailored profiles for each student and Yi Xue has been able to prove that their system can teach students more effectively than highly trained teachers.
In October of 2017, Yi Xue held a competition for real teachers versus their AI computer teaching system. Over four days, 78 junior high students and three teachers with an average of 17 years teaching experience each, were run through a test. The AI taught students raised their average scores by 36.13 points compared to the human teacher-led students who only raised their score by 26.18 points. Yi Xue’s AI-based system beat the experienced teachers by 38%
Education is a sensitive area, but in China, it’s one of the most competitive and important aspects of a child’s upbringing. Any edge a parent can give their child is highly sought after and will be adopted at all costs. The education technology industry is heating up in China and with an additional $45 million in investment, Yi Xue looks poised to be one of the leaders. Stay tuned because we may just see the global education revolution take place in China first.
That’s it for this week in China Tech. If you have any stories you think we should cover next week, feel free to message me and make sure to check back for more stories coming from China next week!
Bay is the Co-Founder of Brinc.io, an early-stage IoT and Hardware investment and product development firm and an active speaker around the world. You can learn more and connect with bay at BetaBay.me