Arguably the most important technology innovation event in the world, Alibaba’s annual cloud computing and artificial intelligence (AI) conference, aptly named Computing Conference 2017, took place in Hangzhou in October, attracting more than 40,000 tech professionals and developers from 58 countries.
During the event, the e-commerce giant announced plans to invest $15 billion into research and development over the next three years, while offering delegates a glimpse into the future with a showcase of its latest tech innovations—think smart cars, virtual fitting rooms and AI-powered robots.
Not just for show, smart tech was also used in the management and planning of the event, as facial recognition was used to register more than 40,000 delegates.
To sign up for the event, delegates had to submit a passport-type photo or arrive with their government-issued ID. Upon arrival at the conference facial recognition technology verified their identity against the submitted ID photo and issued entry badges.
Facial recognition is at the heart of Alibaba’s operation and security measures, and was also used to verify entry at its 18-year anniversary event in September.
And earlier this year, Alibaba affiliate Ant Financial launched a commercial “Smile to Pay” service at a restaurant in Hangzhou for users of its Alipay payment platform. Facial scanning takes one to two seconds, where a 3D camera and live detection algorithm verify the person’s identity.
Alibaba economy to transform industry
Alibaba executive chairman, Jack Ma (main) also outlined a new strategy to develop an ‘Alibaba economy’ that merges online and offline commerce with a greater focus on personalisation.
The strategy revolves around five ‘new’ industries—New Retail, New Finance, New Manufacturing, New Technology and New Energy—and will leverage momentum from the government’s Belt and Road initiative to expand globally.
Ma said: "New Retail will bring about a restructuring of the global supply chain and change the complexion of globalisation from the domain of big companies to small businesses.
"If Alibaba can help rural villages and impoverished areas across China to improve their conditions through technology, then we will have a chance to make an impact in other places around the world. Technology does not have to be the culprit in widening the wealth gap around the world."