March 14, 2017 -
Alibaba plans to establish independent research and development teams to ramp up core technologies that support its goal of serving two billion people in the future.
The company unveiled the plan last week at its inaugural tech summit, “New Technology, New Future”, held at its Hangzhou, China headquarters.
“Alibaba’s success in commerce has outshone its light of technology over the past 18 years,” said Jeff Zhang, chief technology officer at Alibaba Group.
Over the past several years, Alibaba has rolled out a wide range technologies for various events and business areas, including Alibaba’s 11.11 Global Shopping Festival, payments, cloud computing and logistics.
The firm has reached “a critical point in technology innovation” and should prepare to develop more core technologies for future success, Zhang said.
Jack Ma, Alibaba’s executive chairman, said Alibaba expects to become the world’s fifth-largest economy in in the next 20 years.
In addition to its goal of serving two billion customers, Alibaba hopes to create 100 million job opportunities and enable 10 million businesses to make profits.
To reach this goal, Ma envisions a new economy built on the continuing development of technological infrastructure.
“An economy that serves two billion people must be backed by solid technological capacity. To shoulder the future responsibility, we will build Alibaba’s own ‘National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)’,” Ma said. “We will establish new teams to develop the core technologies of machine learning, chips, the Internet of Things, operating systems and biometric identification.”
The company used to develop figurative “hand grenades,” but the new R&D-focused team and mechanisms will allow it to develop “missiles,” Ma said.
He added that Alibaba needs to take a more discerning, independent approach to evaluating technology trends in order to empower people in the virtual economy, make it more inclusive and create more opportunities.
Alibaba has developed several in-house technologies and is applying them for business purposes, including biometric recognition, artificial intelligence, blockchain, cloud computing, database systems, quantum computing and communications, virtual reality, geolocation technology, operating systems, and smart logistics.
The firm’s biometric recognition solutions include its facial recognition payment service Alipay, which enables facial recognition payment with an accuracy rate over 99 percent.
In addition, Alibaba is developing biometric authentication solutions to recognize eye patterns, irises, palm prints, and handwriting.
Alibaba’s artificial intelligence services can be broadly applied to different areas in society, such as its “Hangzhou City Brain” master plan. The program has helped improved the city transportation department’s efforts to ease traffic congestion, as well as help Guangzhou International Airport with flight-management.