You would have probably heard about the 5th World Internet Conference (WIC) that took place in the historical town of Wuzhen last week.
Or you would at least remember this photo from the same venue last year:
Organised by the Cyberspace Administration of China, The WIC is China’s annual cornerstone event for companies involved in tech – as it is here where the governments and companies announce their commitment, collaboration and showcase their best up-and-coming creations. This is mecca for tech investors and companies to mingle and find out what is going on in the country, which often leads the world.
This year, Momentum Works was privileged to be invited to WIC, to mingle, to learn and to share.
Here is a personal lowdown of the highlights of the event:
China is rushing ahead to open 5G
Applications using 5G were all on display from Huawei, Alipay, Qualcomm, BMW, Ericson, just to name a few. If you don’t know what is 5G, here is a brief from the BBC. But what does it really mean for us? Li Huidi from China Mobile summarized it very well – “ 4G changes lives, 5G will change society”. 5G will enable new technologies to change transportation, manufacturing, healthcare, communication and entertainment.
With speed up to 4gbps, it is not hard to imagine the possibilities enabled by this fast connection.
Key areas where 5G is expected to change societies would be self driving vehicles, manufacturing, healthcare, and of course, devices at home. Exciting, but the elephant in the room is that implementing 5G is very costly – on the telcos who are meant to build all the infrastructure.
Whilst there are many advantages with 5G, is the ROI worth it? Especially when many telcos are still complaining about not able to justify the ROI of 4G investments they made a few years ago.
In his short but poignant talk, Edward Tian, Chairman of China Broadband Capital Partners and a telecom veteran, urged the community to make clear the future business model – else he warned us that 5G cannot expand to its full potential. This is the case for any new technology or investment.
AI – coming soon to your social app
Most social media companies are jumping onto the AI bandwagon. Kuaishou – the social media app that become famous in rural China with videos of boys playing pranks on one another – is now reinventing itself to connect across the world. In its speech, Su Hua (宿华), the founder and CEO of Kuaishou technology said that the barrier to recording history is at its lowest right now. It now hopes to deploy AI to enhance and refine what videos people search for and view. Whilst vague, it hopes to use the AI to understand people’s expressions in the videos produced, and match viewers with content that they truly would like – a big step ahead of current recommendation engines.
Also, Pony Ma’s announcement of making VR enabled WeChat raised a lot of eyebrows, such that Tencent PR had to clarify that it shows the generation direction for WeChat, not an immediate release people will see in their phones very soon.
Technology that looked impressive, but are they…
So there were lots of companies showcasing their up and coming gadgets. At the top of the list was the Sogou virtual news anchor.
but there were many gadgets that were weird… including a moving robot that could dispense water with Alipay.
and a vending machine that could polish and dispense rice…
Kuaishou was to use face recognition technology to scan visitors’ faces and then within seconds, match it to his or her doppleganger in the Kuaishou library.
Luckin Coffee wooing the crowd with one of the oldest trick in the books. Facial recognition, and rating you 80% more attractive than the crowd and -8 years off your age.
A robo-doctor booth that you could talk to and buy medicine from. Looks fancy but it could only understand Chinese -and it only sells OTC medicine. The robo doctor can’t issue a prescription, yet.
We don’t see enough international companies
Even though it is called the WIC, most of the participants and audience were from China.
On the surface, it seemed that the organisers had not been friendly to foreigners in terms of infrastructure or communication of the event. One reason for the late communication this year the WIC clashed with the first China International Import Expo (CIIE) held in Shanghai. The organisers from both events were most probably lobbying behind the scenes to get key officials to attend their respective events. This year, the WIC was only confirmed a month before. Security clearance was very tight, and many companies that wanted to attend the event did not get clearance in time.
However, everyone that managed to make it to the event were given an amazing warm reception – from lodging, to participation at the events, to the quality of the talks.
A very nice policeman even drove me and a friend back to our hotel when we were lost in the historical side of Wuzhen! You really didn’t know who you would meet there.
In addition to our own participation, Momentum Works was proud to have bought a group of international companies to participate.
We will be bringing a much bigger one next year!
Crossing the digital and physical divide -Launch of the Momentum Works Index and a real taste of Wuzhen
Our CEO, Jianggan List gave a sneak peak into the current investment in the emerging tech world in our own MW Emerging Markets Tech Investment Index (EMTII) – sharing with the audience from China what is going on outside their home tech market.
And last week was the time when Momentum Works bought our colleagues from 5 different countries to Wuzhen to really understand first hand the latest developments in China, and how it will impact the world – under the very serene setting in the historical town in Wuzhen.