With the world’s largest smart phone user base and its dense urban population centers, China is extremely well positioned to develop and implement IoT systems and applications on a scale that will be impossible in other global markets.
This is already happening in mobile payment systems, which are now so ubiquitous in stores and restaurants that you don’t really need to carry any cash around with you. The same can be said for ride-sharing applications, an area in which Didi Chuxing is now the undisputed market leader following its merger with Uber’s China operations.
Coming up next will be a wave of what I have come to call streetside IoT systems such as smart lockers and smart charging stations that make it easy for consumers to pick up goods that they have purchased online and to replenish the batteries in their electric vehicles. Over the past few months, I have seen a growing number of them deployed in Beijing and have heard that they are being rolled out in other major cities as well.
The beauty of such systems is that while they may start off as system designed to deliver a single service such as the collection of order deliveries, they can be quickly and cheaply scaled to deliver additional ones using software and the cloud. A smart locker can thus very easily become a smart post office offering a gamut of different logistics, shopping, and infotainment services through smart phone, touch, and voice interfaces – all without the need to hire extra staff and rent more real estate space.
The potential for such streetside IoT systems is enormous, as is the potential impact of them on adjacent industries such as retail. It’s going to be fascinating to watch how they develop as they are rolled out on a much bigger scale throughout China.