One of the characteristics of the Internet era is “integration”, and the integration revolution driven by it has been staged many times.
For example, “media convergence”, which was first affected by the Internet, has made many people feel it personally. Until now, whether it is “convergence” of different media forms in a narrow sense, or the combination, convergence and integration of all media and related elements in a broad sense, are taking place.
After entering the so-called second half of the Internet, the trend of integration has not slowed down. The reason why the trend of integration can accompany the entire development of the Internet is that enterprises and goods in the Internet industry are the products of various resources and premises arranged and combined under the personalized and differentiated needs.
Now, the vast majority of Internet functions are embodied in intelligent hardware. In a considerable number of fields, the Internet and intelligent hardware have been inseparable, so the convergence trend of the Internet has also begun to be reflected in intelligent hardware.
Convergence trend breaks product boundaries
How to define a product is generally based on the functionality of the product. Like a product with refrigeration and heating function, we call it air conditioner. The earliest one with video playback function is called TV. But how do we define it when a product has both air conditioner and TV functions? Of course, technology is not so “scary”, but in the field of intelligent hardware, this kind of integration is really going on, and the product boundary is becoming increasingly blurred.
1. From buying a TV with a speaker to buying a speaker with a screen
Now, many young people may have different ideas about speaker products from the older generation. In the 1990s or early 2000s, domestic urban families will be equipped with a complete set of speaker equipment more or less, including two vertical main speakers, one central speaker, and two surround speakers. Now speaking of speakers, most people will think of smart speaker products such as Tmall, Xiaoai, and Xiaodu.
The change of speaker products is not only in consumer perception, but also in product functionality with the improvement of technology.
The biggest change of smart speakers in the past two years is reflected in the product form. In addition to the original single audio output function, video output capability is added, that is, smart speakers with screens.
From domestic BAT, and Xiaomi to overseas Google and Amazon, it seems that this screen suddenly becomes the focus of competition.
For Baidu, the reason why it will equip the smart speaker with a screen is fundamentally to serve and improve its best search function, make the search service more accurate, and enable the traditional smart speaker users to have the same function experience as the screen device users.
However, it is difficult to give a new definition of the integration of audio equipment and video equipment, even from the perspective of the industry. Only in terms of function comparison, it has no unique innovation in the real sense. It used to buy TV speakers, but now it is to buy speakers to give screens.
However, it cannot be denied that this really belongs to the category of “integration”. The product boundary is becoming wider and more vague, but it will be awkward before the establishment of a truly new category.
2. Watch or wrist machine
In addition to speakers, another typical example of smart hardware integration is mobile phones and watches.
It is not surprising that smart watches have entered the integration stage, because the concept of wearable devices has been a big integration from the beginning. It integrates complex functions that need a lot of device support into a single product to make the user experience more efficient and convenient. This is one of the original intentions of the emergence of wearable devices.
When the smart watch just appeared, there was a voice saying that the smart watch would replace the smart phone. Now it seems a little unrealistic, but it didn’t stop there.
Nubia this year α The birth can be seen as the integration of watch and mobile phone, which Nubia calls “wrist machine”. According to the Nubian understanding, “wrist machine” has been defined as “new species”. The theory of intelligent relativity (id: aixdlun) has also written and analyzed separately before. However, like smart screen speakers, it is difficult to define whether it is a “new species”, because it has not reversed the user’s understanding, and it is not considered as such.
Einstein once said that “scientific research is based on the same law, that is, the production of all things depends on natural laws”, which is also applicable to the current market economy. “Enterprise research and development are based on the market, and the emergence of all goods also depends on market demand”. What kind of product form a commodity will eventually become must be the market demand, which has application scenarios, because enterprises will not do what no one wants.
However, at this stage, it is not possible to make a conclusion about whether these products are successful. Although the outside world has not shown enough “understanding” of many products with the trend of integration, especially the “wrist machine” and other products, there are a lot of voices questioning whether they belong to the “new species” after product integration or the product of innovation bottleneck, or the authenticity of market demand for these products.
However, this is a necessary stage of extending from functional integration to new categories, and most new categories are born in this process.
Three major fusion directions from inside to outside
According to the theory of intelligent relativity, the current trend of intelligent hardware integration can be roughly divided into three directions: functional integration, data integration, and ecological integration.
1. Functional integration
Function integration can be said to be the first step of product integration, and its embodiment is just like the smart speaker with screen and wrist machine mentioned above.
The tide of innovation in the field of intelligent hardware has passed, and how to maximize the function of a single product has become the focus of a large enterprise at this stage. Taking smart speakers as an example, the extra screen now looks “redundant”, but it has “effect” on both industry and market.
After continuous growth, the industry needs new market driving points, and the emergence of screens is making up for this gap. And the integration of screen breaks the original single intelligent speaker interaction mode. The integration of visual interaction means does not cover the original voice interaction mode, and makes the information feedback more intuitive and accurate.
In addition, the arrival of the screen provides more rich content for the product, the injection of high-quality content expands the enterprise ecosystem, and users also increase the use of content.
Function integration is the basic condition for the transformation of intelligent hardware products from single mode to multiple modes. Only meeting “local needs” is no longer applicable to the development planning of intelligent hardware, but needs to meet “domain specificity” on the basis of “integration of the same”. For intelligent hardware, this is a hard indicator in the 5G Internet of Things era.
In terms of the market, in only one year, the market share of Baidu’s screen device Xiaodu Home has been comparable to some old models. Baidu Q1 financial report shows that Xiaodu Assistant continues to maintain a leading position in China. As of March 2019, the number of smart devices equipped with small assistants reached 275 million, up 279% year on year; In March, the number of voice interactions reached 2.37 billion, up 817% year on year. Robin Lee, chairman and CEO of Baidu, also disclosed in his internal letter that in Q1 alone, the shipment of small smart speakers exceeded the sales in 2018, which shows that there is a demand for such integrated products among potential consumer groups.
2. Data fusion
As early as 2015, Alibaba said that “the future of intelligent hardware is open integration, in which data integration is the core”.
In the past, most enterprises said that data fusion is based on internal data fusion of their own platform, but this has not been able to meet the needs of enterprises and the market, so open external data fusion has been proposed.
The typical significance of data fusion is to break the data island, which is very obvious in the urban security industry.
For example, in the field of urban security, there has been a data island for a long time, which is mainly reflected in the use of data. Each equipment company in the market holds a large amount of data, but has not achieved connectivity and linkage, which directly leads to the waste of data resources. Just like Huawei believes that in the field of video monitoring, there is a phenomenon of “build without connectivity, connect without use, and use without depth”.
For this reason, Huawei is building an open cloud data center to provide basic conditions for eliminating data islands. In addition, hardware equipment such as “star image” intelligent security camera has been launched to solve the problems of low video utilization and uncontrollable data of traditional security system through the linkage between the platform and front-end hardware.
In addition, there are many companies that are aiming at this pain point. For example, Bear Hunter in Shanghai links data and information from different sources through intelligent gateway, and then calculates and warns according to actual application scenarios.
The emergence of hardware products such as intelligent gateways is fusing all kinds of monitoring video big data to maximize the value of data.
Especially in the context of 5G, breaking through data barriers and realizing data linkage will become the main direction of intelligent hardware products in the future.
3. Ecological integration
Ecological integration can also be understood as scene integration. The ecological integration trend of intelligent hardware is very obvious in the smart home scene.
In the context of AIoT, intelligent hardware, as the core equipment of the home scene IoT entrance, is extremely competitive in the market. In the past two years, relevant giant enterprises have accelerated the competition for smart home entry. The basic way is to attract various types of peripheral hardware and third-party services of smart home through their own hardware devices through cloud-enabled hardware.
Representative companies like Baidu and Alibaba follow this route. They build integrated platforms through smart speakers and other devices, complete the flow import of hardware devices, and finally drain the smart home entrance.
Of course, there are also enterprises like Xiaomi that complete the layout of the whole ecological chain through their own products and build a “closed” interconnection ecosystem.
However, no matter what kind of play method is, it shows the integration of ecology or scene, the function is centralized to single product, and the function is radiated to ecology, which is the best form of intelligent hardware at present.
The development of AI, 5G, big data and other technologies is breaking the boundaries of the intelligent hardware industry and the past business model, changing people’s lives and habits. At present, intelligent hardware products are no longer the function embodiment of a single mode, but more of a comprehensive value embodiment, integrating and interacting through different products, systems, and even different contents of the industry.
Of course, while merging, it also brings new competition to the industry. For example, you are a watch manufacturer, but suddenly more competitors may come from the mobile phone industry, the glasses industry, and even the clothing industry.
The change of market mode and the integration of products and industries are the market norm. Under the trend of blurred industry boundaries, enterprises are difficult to control the market, but it is the urgent matter for enterprises to survive that how to join the current integration trend and integrate into the open market.