Special Report – Belt and Road

Chinese tech giants lead trade initiative’s’ rail technology boom

Baidu, Alibaba and Tencent apply electronics skills to ride codes, fare-payment and passenger-recognition systems for China’s booming rail infrastructure

PUBLISHED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 1:04pm
UPDATED : Monday, 19 March, 2018, 1:04pm

The rail transit market, allowing China to connect with the West, is growing exponentially within the “Belt and Road Initiative” framework.

Last year, the Prague to Yiwu freight train sent mostly Czech and other European goods eastward.

The market is also drawing more attention from big-name stakeholders, such as Baidu, Alibaba (Alipay) and Tencent. Alibaba owns the South China Morning Post.

“Baidu intends to take advantage of [its] data-processing background to support the rail transit in passenger information and routing programmes, [such as] Baidu Map,” says a spokesman for Shanghai Intex Exhibition, which in November also co-hosts the 2018 Shanghai International Rail Transit Exhibition (Rail+Metro China 2018) at the Shanghai New International Expo Center.

The Shanghai Intex Exhibition highlighted China’s development of large, structured networks with independent technology and diversified systems for megacity subway systems and medium-capacity monorail services.

The traditional voice interaction is achieved in quiet environments such as homes and cars, and the voice ticket machine is the first in the industry to achieve accurate accuracy in a public noisy environment
Yan Zhijie, director of intelligent speech recognition, Alibaba’s Institute of Data and Science Technology.

Mid-volume and diversified railway systems are also rapidly developing as consumer behaviour adapts to changing technology, according to the show organiser.

WeChat and Alipay are two of the biggest players banking on the huge market that China’s public transport and rail transit provide.

Ride codes are offered by both companies, but while Alipay dominates the internet economics, WeChat Pay is a more popular form of social payment, a Chinese-language news network reported.

In rail transport, Tencent got the WeChat messaging system into use as a fare-payment method on the Guangzhou Metro lines.

More cutting-edge developments include Alibaba’s facial recognition and Ant Financial’s voice-operated technology for Shanghai’s subway system.

Still in their development stages, the systems are due to be integrated into Shanghai Metro’s operations.

“The traditional voice interaction is achieved in quiet environments such as homes and cars, and the voice ticket machine is the first in the industry to achieve accuracy in a public noisy environment,” says Yan Zhijie, director of intelligent speech recognition at Alibaba’s Institute of Data and Science Technology.