The Internet of Things could well be the next El Dorado for the tech industry in China as companies scramble to put everything online, experts said on Thursday.
Yang Yuanqing, chief executive of Lenovo Group, said: "A smart future will demand smart connections. The Internet will move toward creating smart technologies that boost the Internet of Things, like connecting hardware devices with users, data and services."
Fancy mobile gadgets will not suffice in a new smart age that requires perfect connections between them and cloud-based services, Yang said at a forum on the sidelines of the Second World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province.
Zhou Hongyi, chairman of Qihoo 360 Technology Co Ltd, has similar views.
"Smartphones are fundamentally shaping our lives by bringing people together. But the Internet of Things will have a much more profound impact."
Everything, such as automobiles, smartwatches and every piece of furniture in people's houses, will be linked to the Internet, which in turn will spur innovation and generate new business models, he said.
"The Internet of Things is like a new kind of language. It will enable everything to 'talk' with us through the Web," Zhou said.
Zhang Yaqin, president of Baidu Inc, said the search giant is already making significant progress in the cutting-edge sector with its self-driving vehicle.
"We successfully completed the test drive of our self-driving car on various roads in Beijing last week. Automobiles are the ultimate mobile devices that will help link consumers to other things," Zhang said, adding the company plans to put its self-driving car on the road within three years.
Liu Qiangdong, CEO of e-commerce site JD.com, said in the future no products can be termed commodities unless they are linked to the Internet.
What they say
"Anyone can be an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurship is not limited to the privileged. My parents are social workers. I never heard of that word 'entrepreneur'. No one ever told me growing up that I could be an entrepreneur. When I think of that, I keep telling people that entrepreneurs can come from anywhere."
- Brian Chesky, CEO and Co-founder of Airbnb
"We are striving to build a nationwide cold storage chain and distribution network by the end of next year and hope to deliver fresh produce using drones. Price inequality has increased poverty in many rural areas. Farmers cannot sell their products due to the weak delivery chain. Solving these problems will help eradicate poverty in rural areas and address food security issues in urban regions."
- Liu Qiangdong, founder and CEO of JD.com, a leading online retailer
"Safety is the most important aspect for Internet cars, unlike entertainment or mobile games. What we need is strong manufacturing capability, rather than just networking technologies. More than 100 companies with some Internet background are working on Internet cars. But I am not sure whether they will ever be produced or used on roads."
- Terry Gou, president of Hon Hai Precision Industry and CEO of Foxconn
"China has more mega cities and higher population density than the United States. That is the main reason why the online-to-offline businesses are more developed in China."
- Neil Shen Nanpeng, managing partner of Sequoia Capital
"Competition over content and channels is the main issue facing the Internet and culture sectors. As channels become diversified, the content value will rise. Whenever exclusive content turns up, it will boost Internet companies' value. The fact is that in the Internet era, content itself is an access."
- Li Ruigang, chairman of China Media Capital
"Chinese Internet companies have done a good job in catering to individual consumer demands. The next opportunity lies in boosting the productivity of enterprises."
- Kevin Sneader, global senior vice-president of McKinsey & Co
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