Alibaba aims to build IoT “brains” to empower 10 billion devices

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Now that Alibaba has secured a leading position in e-commerce, cloud computing, and logistics, the tech giant has announced that IoT (Internet of Things) will become its main focus moving forward, according to Simon Hu, senior vice president of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud. His remarks were made during a computing conference in Shenzhen at which Alibaba shared its progress in IoT-related development since establishing an IoT business unit in April 2017.

In less than a year, Alibaba Cloud has made a number of breakthroughs while expanding its IoT network coverage. So far, its IoT Connectivity Alliance (ICA) has partnered with over 200 industry players to form an open and secure IoT ecosystem. AliOS Things, Alibaba Cloud’s open-source operating system for IoT, connects to more than 14,000 developers. On top of that, Alibaba Cloud’s advantages in security, storage, cloud computing, and artificial intelligence have been widely implemented in various cases.

Alibaba Cloud aims to build an IoT network connecting 10 billion devices within the next five years. The company wants to package its capabilities to provide partners with IoT solutions that allow businesses to enter at a high level and hit the ground running. Alibaba Cloud has served millions of enterprises, helping them to easily jumpstart their digital businesses, thanks to its expertise in cloud services, AI, big data, and edge computing. 

Let’s take a look at some applications of Alibaba Cloud’s IoT solutions in various industries.


In June of last year, Alibaba Cloud Link, an open platform for smart living, was launched to offer connectivity, device management, and data analytics solutions to speed up smart home development in China. Individual appliance manufacturers can link their own products to those of others through the Alibaba Cloud platform.


Alibaba Cloud’s industrial IoT solutions enable manufacturers to aggregate and analyze data from machines and other sensors during the processes of production, transportation and more. Real-time data recording as well as data visualization can be used to optimize operational efficiency to better manage energy, control quality, and even improve cost effectiveness.

Smart Cities

Alibaba Cloud’s IoT solution for smart cities was launched in October of last year. The smart city solution integrates with cloud computing functions, enabling municipal administrators to monitor street lamp energy consumption, river water levels, and gas pipe usage, all in real-time. In this way, administers can run better management schedules and ultimately boost operational efficiency and save resources.

For example, Alibaba Cloud and the Chinese city of Wuxi jointly established the first IoT town in Hongshan, where every “thing” in town is connected by IoT. A wide range of data inputs is transmitted to an integrated cloud-based platform for effective management. Aside from Wuxi, other municipal departments are joining the trend to work with new technology in order to boost traditional services. According to Simon Hu, so far more than 65% of China’s municipal regions have built their “Government Cloud” to vastly boost efficiency and save time for citizens.


Alibaba’s AliOS operating system has formed partnerships with SAIC Motor, Dongfeng Peugeot-Citroën Automobile, and Ford Motor Company to drive the smart evolution of the automobile industry. As of today, more than 500,000 AliOS-powered vehicles have been rolled out onto the market. Additionally, as the company announced at the conference, Alibaba aims to install AliOS in millions of vehicles in China by 2020 with the help of its partnership with NXP Semiconductors N.V.


Alibaba Cloud’s IoT also empowers the agricultural industry to provide suggestions based on information connected between crops and visual data analysis. Haisheng Group, for example, develops modern agriculture in innovation ways, thanks in part to Alibaba Cloud’s IoT agricultural business solutions. According to Alibaba Cloud, the group saves USD 5 on each acre of land, while its solutions help the group to cut down total cots by USD 32 million each year.

Additionally, IoT solutions are not only applicable to crops but can also be applied to animal husbandry, such as pigs. TEQU Group, for instance, has adopted Alibaba Cloud’s IoT solutions for its pig breeding. With the help of IoT, each of the group’s pigs is able to breed 3 additional pigs per litter while death rates have been reduced 3%, according to data released at the conference.

As we know, Alibaba Cloud wants to spearhead a digital transformation for most traditional industries. Rather than challenging players in these traditional industries directly, the tech giant aims to offer support with its expertise and ultimately enlarge its influence in the rapidly expanding IoT industry. Alibaba has empowered many of its partners in e-commerce, cloud computing, and is now targeting the new field of IoT — no doubt a digital future world. As of writing, Alibaba Cloud has 205 solutions available for specific industries, as well as 37 general solutions. Additionally, it has opened its IoT platform for developers and startups to accelerate development in the field.

Simon Hu said, “Our vision is to build an intelligently connected world through transformative IoT technologies. IoT will sit alongside e-commerce, finance, logistics and cloud in its own right and command relevant focus and resources, in order to become the new strategic track for Alibaba.”
What will happen when the world beyond humans is built on “brains” that collect data, experience, and other information? They will not only be equipped with decision-making abilities but will also contribute sound suggestions to us. The futuristic world depicted in films will come — perhaps sooner than we think.


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Kaikai Shi

Kaikai Shi writes for us. He holds a bachelor's degree in Biotechnology at Zhejiang University. His interests are in new technology and reading. Kai believes that new technology will change the world we live in, and is trying to engage himself in this process.

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