Baidu’s smart home ambitions gets boost via tie-up with Midea, one of China’s largest appliance makers

04-Jun-2020 Intellasia | South China Morning Post | 6:02 AM Print This Post

Baidu, China’s search engine and artificial intelligence champion, said its AI-enabled voice assistant and smart speaker system will power voice recognition across a wider range of household appliances made by Midea, one of China’s largest home appliance manufacturers, as connected technologies move into more areas of everyday life in China.

Currently, users can already use Baidu’s Xiaodu voice command system to control Midea appliances in 15 categories, including rice cookers, heaters and air conditioners, the companies said in a joint press release on Monday.

With the partnership, Xiaodu products will fully support Midea’s range of smart home appliances, including in new categories such as microwave ovens and lights, according to the companies, which added that the appliances will be co-branded with the Xiaodu voice control logo.

The tie-up is expected to “provide a smart home ecosystem to connect the whole house” for users, they said in the release.

Baidu is one of the Chinese internet giants fighting for dominance in China’s growing smart speaker market, which hit 1.67 billion yuan (US$235 million) in sales in the first quarter of this year, according to a report by data analytics firm All View Cloud (AVC), which noted that smart speaker shipments in China grew 23 per cent year-on-year to 8.8 million units despite disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Among dozens of Chinese vendors, Baidu, Alibaba Group Holding the parent company of the Post and Xiaomi lead the pack, accounting for a combined 94 per cent of the Chinese smart speaker market in the first quarter of this year, according to AVC.

Globally, Beijing-based Baidu accounted for 10.6 per cent of smart speaker shipments in the fourth quarter of 2019, just ahead of Alibaba’s 9.8 per cent and Xiaomi’s 8.4 per cent, but all three Chinese companies still trailed behind US-based Amazon (28 per cent) and Google (25 per cent), according to data from online statistics portal Statista.

Xiaodu smart speakers, launched in 2018, use AI to provide a personalised experience for users. They currently support 110 million devices by 400 home appliance brands including Haier, one of Midea’s main competitors, and Chinese TV giant Skyworth.

The number of Xiaodu-compatible devices is expected to “grow rapidly” with the latest partnership between Baidu and Midea, the companies said in the press release.

Guangdong-based Midea has produced more than 70 million smart home appliances to date and claims to be the largest smart device manufacturing group in China.

Its smart home appliances are compatible with both Midea’s own voice recognition system and major smart speaker brands, according to information on its website.


Category: China

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