WeChat, China’s most popular mobile messaging app, is driving interest in the Internet of Things (IOT) through its open hardware platform and a nationwide competion to promote intelligent hardware innovation, which rolled out a winner on Tuesday. The app is owned by Tencent, one of China’s internet giants. WeChat began working on the platform in July 2014 so that hardware manufacturers could register accounts to promote their ideas and development, and later use it to launch their products. The IOT refers to an advance in connectivity that aims to have people and devices communicate directly via embedded sensors, software and other identifiers. One example would be your fridge self-regulating its heating settings by “chatting” with thermostats in your kitchen or checking the weather conditions using Wi-fi to save energy and costs. As of Tuesday, over 2,400 hardware manufacturers had registered accounts on the platform, which focuses on eight fields including an-conditioning systems, toys, routing, smart homes, television, top-up systems, healthcare and wearables, WeChat said. It added that it is seeing more start-ups and established hardware enterprises join the platform, which also serves as a matchmaker to help solve funding and other problems. Last year, WeChat teamed up with INGDAN.com, China’s largest interactive online community for intelligent hardware, to co-host a competition across a number of cities in China. Launched in December, it was designed to identify new intelligent hardware designs that can link to the WeChat platform, said Jeffrey Kang, chairman and CEO of Cogobuy. The final of the WeChat IoT Innovation Contest in Guangzhou, in south China’s Guangdong province, was held on Tuesday. GALAXYWIND Network Systems' Wukong i8, a smart socket that promotes itself as the world’s first intelligent thermostat, emerged as the regional winner. The device uses intelligent sensors to communicate with air-conditioning units to save energy. It and other finalists may have their ideas taken to mass-production by leveraging INGDAN's strong network, it said. The company is owned by Hong Kong-listed Cogobuy Group, a leading e-commerce platform for procurement in China’s electronics manufacturing industry. While it appeals more to start-ups, the competition also shows traditional hardware companies how they can transform their products into intelligent hardware with the help of the internet, he added. As of this month, WeChat has granted free use of its public platform to over 2,400 manufacturers of intelligent hardware, as well as to hundreds of millions of people who use WeChat for daily chatting, as it moves to build an IoT ecosystem, spokespeople for the company said. Teams were able to connect with the WeChat platform via its device access function. They could connect using wearables, medical equipment, intelligent home appliances and other hardware. The contest drew over 400 teams from eight competing divisions in China: Beijing, Shanghai, Hangzhou in Zhejiang province, Wuxi in Jiangsu, Hubei’s Wuhan and Shenzhen, Guangzhou and the district of Shunde in Guangdong. INGDAN focuses on supply chain resources for hardware innovators and start-ups, and claims to have four million followers on its platform.