China’s New Four New Great Inventions In The Mobile Era

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Innovative Inventions Made and Designed in China Shaping the World’s Digital Progress

When it comes to four great Chinese inventions shaping the world’s progress, the unanimous response would be Compass, Papermaking, Gunpowder and Printing from ancient China. But given the rise of the mobile era, do you know about the “Four New Great Inventions” from China today?

Like the Chinese classic “Four Great Inventions,” the latest “Four New Great Inventions” embody 3 fundamental characteristics being:

  1. Made and designed in China
  2. Enriched daily lives
  3. Shaped global progress

Modern China today certainly isn’t lack of local inventions with a global impact. In fact, the most popular apps in China now are local creations that not only prevailed in the Chinese market but are also being emulated by Silicon Valley giants.

Four New Great Inventions 1: WeChat (Self-media for Diverse and Objective Media Landscape)

Apart from QQ which is predominantly used by young people, WeChat has become an app for all age groups in China. Since its launch in 2011, WeChat has nearly 1 billion MAU (monthly active users). Most people who have access to internet connection would be using WeChat.

WeChat is the world’s first social network with media attributes that provides a self-media ecosystem that makes the Chinese media industry stronger and more objective. In a short time, WeChat’s self-media has disrupted the established traditional media in China.

On the publishing end, everyone can become a journalist, sharing his/her opinions and knowledge with the mass audience through the simple online publication and digital distribution platform. Besides the straight-forward online publication process, WeChat self-media rewards writers financially for original content sharing.

Media practitioners resigned from major media companies, to become self-media writers, with full control of their careers and lives. Professionals from other industries took self-media as their second career, and transformed their identities from doctors, lawyers or businessmen to Key Opinion Leaders (KOL). Folks who enjoy sharing content makes self-media writing as a full-time job; often expanding from an original one-man band to small teams to manage the growth of their self-media accounts.

On the consumer end, this new publishing way in turn provided readers with more diversed and substantial content; people are switching from reading or watching news, to making WeChat self-media as their main source for information.

Beyond making the Chinese media industry more prosperous and decentralized., WeChat’s self-media has also influenced global tech progress.

In the past two years, Facebook Messenger is known to be emulating WeChat to establish a mobile ecology. At the TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2016, Facebook Messenger’s executive director, David Marcus shared Facebook’s ambition to create a mobile ecology platform. Added features on Facebook Messenger like auto-reply for brands, and in-app payment shadow WeChat’s self-media features. The introduction of Facebook for Business in 2015 also draw stark similarities to WeChat’s official account, a fundamental component of self-media concept.

Four New Great Inventions 2: WiFi Master Key (WiFi Sharing for Universal Free Internet Access)

WiFi Master Key is the world’s groundbreaking platform that brings sharing economy to universal internet access. Since its launch in 2013, it has made free Internet access more accessible and convenient. To date, it has 900 million users worldwide, making it the world’s largest peer-to-peer Wi-Fi sharing platform.

In China, WiFi Master Key has become synonyms for Wi-Fi connection in their daily lives. More and more people are no longer asking merchants how to connect to the Wi-Fi hotspot. Instead, off the top of their mind, they would use WiFi Master Key to find and connect to the nearest WiFi hotspot. It’s not hard to understand why the app finds traction so quickly— it provided a fuss-free solution for both users and merchants. For the users, they simply open the app, and tap on any available Wi-Fi hotspots listed with a Blue Key to connect to the internet without the hassle of keying in the login details. For the merchants who are already providing free Wi-Fi, sharing their Wi-Fi on the popular platform in turn helps to bring in a steady stream of footfall traffic.

Wang Gaofei, CEO of Weibo, even applauded WiFi Master Key as an impressive Wi-Fi sharing platform. During the China golden week 2017, he posted an update on his weibo (one of the leading social networks in China) account mentioning that he was told “ I don’t know, we are using WiFi Master Key” when he asked the shop assistant for the WiFi login.

By providing a more convenient way for free internet access, WiFi Master Key has added a new user capacity for the entire internet industry. Significantly, the introduction of WiFi Master Key has enabled many people to get connected for the first time. Steven Li, Global Rotating President of LinkSure Network (operating company for WiFi Master Key), shared during the World Internet Conference 2017 that 20% of its users are first-time internet users, and WiFi Master Key was the first mobile app they had ever used.

Additionally, WiFi Master Key has increased the average time users spent online immensely, creating a new commercial value for the internet industry. Steven Li, Global Rotating President of LinkSure Network (operating company for WiFi Master Key), added that WiFi Master Key users spent 1.7 times longer time online than non-users. Once connected online via WiFi Master Key, users would watch video-stream, live broadcast, and play online games once they are connected via WiFi Master Key.

Other Tech giants also seem to have started to realise the significance and potential of Wi-Fi sharing. In 2017, Facebook added the “Find WiFi” feature which echoes WiFi Master Key’s WiFi map feature to help people locate the nearest Wi-Fi hotspots. Google also introduced an inexpensive wireless plan named Project Fi to enable users to shift between mobile networks & Wi-Fi, and a public Wi-Fi program called Google Station to provide Wi-Fi connections in emerging markets.

Four New Great Inventions 3: Mobike (Dockless Bike Sharing for Sustainable Transportation)

While the world is fascinated by the new ride-sharing model and caught in coming up with various ride-sharing solutions, Mobike from China, the former “bicycle nation”, introduced a revolutionary dockless bike sharing model, and opened a new chapter for sustainable transportation.

Since the introduction of Mobike, it only took a year for this dockless bike sharing service to gain over 100 million daily active users (DAU). Today, China has become the world’s largest transport sharing market with 67% of the global market share as the dockless bike sharing model proves to be successful. Government around the world including United States of America, and Singapore etc. are welcoming China’s dockless bike sharing start-ups like Mobike and ofo to launch their operations in their cities.

This incredible growth of the dockless bike sharing model lies in the overcoming key challenge for sustainable transportation with a profitable and effective solution.

Before the dockless bike sharing model, the demand for public bicycle ride is not met with a solution that can help people access bicycle more conveniently. While various countries in the world have launched public bicycle schemes to provide bicycles as a means to build a green city, the limited designated docks where bicycles are collected and returned has limited the success of such schemes.

The dockless bike sharing model solved the key issue of limited bicycle docks by leveraging on the mobile payment and mobile unlocking system to make bicycles available everywhere. In addition, with the deposit deduction payment model and an inexpensive fee of RMB ¥1 per ride, this model proves profitable to support continuous operation; a triumph for sustainable transportation.

Essentially, this new model created a new transportation market in addition to the existing public transport network by offering more robust offline marketing opportunities, wider transport network coverage, enhanced infrastructure, and higher riders conversion rate. This dockless bike sharing model from China continues to scale and has started a new wave of start-ups beyond China including Australia, United States of America and India.

Four New Great Inventions 4: Alipay (QR Code Payment for Cashless Society)

American investors have dubbed Alibaba, one of China’s tech giant trio “BAT”, the “Amazon of China”. While Alibaba is known for its early success by imitating successful tech companies in the West, for instance, Taobao imitating Amazon, Alipay imitating Paypal, Alibaba Cloud imitating Amazon’s cloud computing services, the launch of Alipay’s mobile QR code payment is an original innovative cashless society solution from China.

While the credit card system, for instance, in the United States of America took several decades to turn mainstream, the mobile QR code payment by Alipay only took several years to become a nationwide payment norm. In perspective, according to Financial Times, the scale of Chinese mobile payment market was nearly 50 times of the American market in 2016.

Today, people living in China can leave their house without cash or credit card as all the merchants— supermarkets, hotels, restaurants, shopping malls, small grocery stalls, and even street vendors— accepts mobile QR code payment. One would only need to scan the QR code on the mobile phone to make payment. This phenomenon of using mobile QR code payment is also taking place beyond China as a massive influx of Alipay’s user travels to all parts of the world. Particularly, Alipay has extended its service to Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and many countries in Europe and America. With Alipay, Chinese tourists now do not need to carry excessive cash and be exposed to the high risk of being robbed during their travels.

Given the rise of mobile-only users, this mobile QR code payment provides a convenient and an instrumental solution for a cashless society. It is no surprise for mobile payment systems imitating Alipay such as Hellopay, Paytm, 2C2P are sprouting out in Southeast Asia.

Summary: China’s innovative inventions are changing the world

While the general western perceptions are mostly discriminated against China’s business developments perhaps due to the lack of understanding and empathy since the beginning of China modernization, the innovative Chinese inventions from China’s mobile era today proves China to be a strong global game changer not to be neglected.

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