Highlights from a recent article in the South China Morning Post:

“The widespread application of cutting-edge artificial intelligence and machine learning by the e-commerce juggernaut Alibaba Group is borne out of necessity – the sheer volume of products that would be moved would make it practically impossible for employees to keep up, and is part of a broader push by China to embrace AI…Jack Ma, executive chairman of Alibaba Group,said in October that the company’s front end garners most of the attention even though it was strong in technology. “People tend to recognise our platforms and services, but overlook the technologies that make it happen””

Key Points:

  • “China has set a target to build a 1 trillion yuan (US$150 billion) AI industry by 2030…”
  • “…Smart Selection, an AI-powered recommendation algorithm will, in no small measure, help buyers to make a decision…compared with seasoned fashion industry professionals, big data and AI would excel in picking products such as clothes where there are numerous brands and variables if evaluated manually.”
  • “The recommendation algorithm is backed by the latest advances in deep learning and natural language processing, which is also used by Amazon in its recommendation engine and text-to-speech service Polly.”
  • “AI-powered customer service chatbot Dian Xiaomi is another of Alibaba’s tech tools to help make businesses smarter and more efficient…the chatbot can understand more than 90 per cent of customer enquiries and serve almost 3.5 million users a day.”
  • “…the more advanced “cloud” version [of the AI-powered customer service chatbot]… features capability to understand customers’ emotion through text analysis…”
  • “About 200 robots – automated guided vehicles – will work round the clock to deliver the orders placed at a newly opened automated warehouse operated by Alibaba’s delivery arm, Cainiao Network, in Huizhou…”
  • ““These 200 robots can process 1 million shipments per day,”…“They are three times more efficient than manual operations and need to be charged for just one hour after every six hours of use.”…“All the robots are automatically connected with each other and they assign shipping tasks themselves without a central control room.””
  • “The efficiency of the logistics service means customers could receive same-day deliveries – orders placed in the morning would be delivered to customers’ doorsteps in the afternoon.”
  • “…it was difficult to find people to work in warehouses the robots could easily cover the labour shortage. “We will have more such smart warehouses next year.””
  • “…JD.com, China’s second largest e-commerce giant, also has its own smart warehouse where only robots operate. Besides, the Alibaba rival launched JD-X in May, a logistics lab to develop robots, drones and smart warehouses.”
  • “JD.com, which offers drone delivery services in the western city of Xian and eastern China’s Suqian, said in August it would offer 100 million yuan to the winners of a competition to find the best solution for conducting widespread drone delivery services across China.”
  • “…Alibaba used drones to deliver packages over open water for the first time. The flying robots delivered six boxes…weighing a combined 12 kilograms…Alibaba said it would consider using the drones in the future to deliver high value products…”
  • “Alibaba will spend more than US$15 billion to open seven research labs in Beijing, Hangzhou, Singapore, Moscow, Tel Aviv, San Mateo, and Bellevue as part of the project. These will focus on areas that include machine learning, network security, visual computing and natural language processing.”

Read the full article: Alibaba lets AI, robots and drones do the heavy lifting on Singles’ Day