Smart Home
  • Hundreds of apartment buildings across the country were targeted, with compromising footage of residents’ private lives sold on the dark web
  • The incident has prompted the government to strengthen cybersecurity rules to protect residents in a country where 63 per cent of people live in flats

Amazon’s Astro home robot is the size of a small dog, follows you around the house and can check up on your elderly relatives when you’re away.


Sleep and air quality trackers, a shoulder and foot massage option, a state-of-the-art entertainment system complete with 70-inch screen … does the US$120,000 HiCan smart bed have it all?


Without access to Google’s AI voice assistant, Huawei’s new smart speaker is the latest victim of Trump’s Huawei ban following the P40 smartphone series

Consumers are buying more smart speakers than ever, but experts say they’re only the earliest form of voice-controlled AI devices

Chinese giant says new operating system can be deployed to smartphones and other devices at any time

Michael Deng, also known as Deng Hui, is the founder and CEO of ArcSoft -- an AI company with Samsung and Huawei among its clients. The firm provides algorithms and software for digital photography. He became a billionaire when ArcSoft landed on China’s Nasdaq-style Star Market in 2019.

The funny thing is that smart speaker sales in China increased massively in 2018. Canalys says the market grew 100 times last year, and Alibaba, Baidu and Xiaomi trail only Amazon and Google in sales. But that might have something to do with price rather than desire: One recent sale saw Alibaba's Genius X1 speaker go for just US$15.

Tencent may be known as the software giant behind WeChat and a whole lot of games. But they make hardware too, like a new smart display (think Amazon Echo with a screen). There's a reason you might not know much about Tencent's hardware, though: It's not very popular.

Here's an odd idea: How about a smart speaker that teaches you to play China's biggest game? Tencent released a smart speaker in the shape of a character from Honor of Kings, known as Arena of Valor in the West. It's a niche, sure, but with smart speakers struggling to find a use, perhaps something more targeted like this isn't a bad idea. (Though I'm going to be honest: This seems like a bad idea.)

The three Chinese companies sit ahead of Apple in smart speaker shipments, with the HomePod failing to catch on. Given how low prices seem to be the path to success for Alibaba, Baidu and Xiaomi -- many of their devices retail for less than US$50 -- it's hard to see how a US$412 smart speaker can succeed in China, even with the Apple brand behind it.

Xiaomi has its own voice assistant called Xiao Ai. It's said to be able to recognize several Chinese dialects, but on Wednesday it didn't seem to understand what CEO Lei Jun was saying. The botched demo is unlikely to dampen Xiaomi's IoT ambition, which goes very well with its ecosystem strategy: Selling a wide range of home products on top of smartphones and laptops. 

Smart displays were supposed to be the next big thing. Baidu and followed up Facebook's Portal, Amazon's Echo Show and the Google Home Hub with smart displays of their own. But (and this should come as no surprise by now) price is a factor, according to IDC's Sophie Pan.

If you thought the last smart speaker was weird, how about one that plays Communist Party lectures? Ximalaya's smart speaker certainly isn't subtle: It comes in red, with a little gold hammer-and-sickle logo. Sadly, we'll never know how many consumers would actually buy it: Ximalaya says it's only available to certain Communist Party organizations.

One of the most surprising takeaways from the report: Just 350,000 smart speakers were sold in China, compared to 25 million in the US. The rapid adoption of things like mobile payment shows that China isn't shy to adopt new technology, and all of the major players are making them... so why aren't people buying smart speakers?