Caixin
Dec 29, 2017 03:53 PM

Tuya Smart makes AI easy for the world’s traditional manufacturers 

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A Chinese tech company providing a one-stop solution for manufacturers looking to break into the smart-home market has shortened its production time to just 15 days, making it the fastest end-to-end platform in the world, according to its president.

Tuya Smart, an internet-of-things (IoT) service provider headquartered in Hangzhou, the capital of China’s eastern province of Zhejiang, was founded in 2014 by Jerry Wong, the man behind AliYun, Alibaba’s cloud computing division. 

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Jerry Wong, Founder and CEO of Tuya Smart

With a core startup team of veterans gleaned from Alibaba and other top Chinese tech companies such as Haier Electronics, Tuya Smart is now lighting the way for traditional manufacturers keen to convert to AI. “Tuya Smart is a global platform for smart appliances, as well as world’s largest voice interaction platform, with more than 6 million interactions”, said Alex Yang, President of Tuya Smart.

Tuya Smart products encompass all major home appliances, including mobile phone-controlled LED lightbulbs that can switch between a color palette of 16 million tones; air purifiers that automatically adjust their settings depending on pollution levels; and security cameras that send home owners alerts when movement is detected.

“More and more traditional manufacturers have to embrace the AI revolution,” says Yang. “The new age is coming, and those that don’t develop may find themselves kicked out of the market in a year or two.”

Hosted on a globally deployed smart cloud, the real-time computing capabilities allow clients to tap into Tuya Smart's AI technology systems, which includes voice recognition, facial recognition and deep machine learning. Data security is also ensured via a military grade AES system that includes a strong symmetry encryption algorithm, dynamic key allocation, https encrypted channels and virtual device access. 

The Real Platform

Unlike typical AI companies that might facilitate manufacturers in developing new products on a consultancy basis, thereby creating the need for specific software for each client, costly in both time and resources, Tuya Smart’s platform model allows for fast and flexible app development using the Tuya Smart AI platform, reducing a process that can take up to 12 months for other AI companies down to just 15 days for Tuya.

Within this time, manufactures can expect to quickly move from a product concept to a prototype sample, before finally progressing to mass production readiness.

Moreover, Tuya is a global platform, which means that as long as the manufacturers go with Tuya, they can easily do global business. Products using Tuya can ship to any market and adapt to different markets’ requirements. For the manufacturers, it’s the most agile and flexible platform in the industry.

“No one has done this before and no one can provide the same efficiency with the same complexity of platform,” says Yang. “Right now we’re the platform with the highest number of manufacturers in the world. We’re only a few hundred people [employed at Tuya] but in just a few years we have already provided services to more than 10,000 manufacturers.”

“We are constantly looking inward and our biggest challenge is asking ourselves, ‘Are we developing fast enough?’” says Yang. “We have eyes on ourselves, not on our competitors.”

Among the Tuya team are experts across the entire spectrum of product life, from hardware and software development to cloud computing and supply chain management. The platform ensures that all clients in this fast-moving industry benefit from continuous technological upgrades and innovations.

Region Agnostic

The Tuya Smart business model is “region agnostic,” allowing clients to sell and ship their new AI products anywhere in the world. OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) can make use of the self-service ODM (Original Design Manufacturer), expediting the easy rebranding of software for new clients, saving valuable time for both parties. The ease of service also negates the need to hire a new AI specialist team; existing staff can instantly pivot into AI roles.

“Overall, we designed our platform to be the easiest to use and have the lowest entry barrier for the manufacturers,” explains Yang. “They don’t have to hire a new guy. With their current team, they can design, deliver and sell an AI product to any market in the world.” 

Market Adoption

So far, the fastest market to adopt such technologies has been the United States, where Microsoft founder Bill Gates built arguably the world’s first smart home in 1997. Named Xanadu 2.0 after the fictional house in the iconic movie Citizen Kane, the mansion in Medina, Washington, sees artwork changed at the touch of a button and the garden’s trees monitored 24 hours a day.

Fast acceptance of new technologies, the spirit of adventure and purchasing power are the three factors putting the U.S. at the forefront, concluded Yang.

Although behind the U.S. in terms of smart home adoption, China is on equal footing with Europe, according to Yang. However, the president sees his home country of 1.4 billion as having the most market potential, owing to its unparalleled population and the continued market education of local tycoons like Alibaba and Xiaomi.

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Talent Acquisition 

Just last month, business resource company Expert Market named Beijing the world’s top tech hub, above even North America’s famed Silicon Valley, where Tuya Smart also has a service center, alongside its bases in Shenzhen and Bay Area. Yang is convinced, however, that the company is best placed in Hangzhou for product development and recruitment purposes. Some of China’s largest tech companies, including Alibaba and NetEase, are also headquartered in the city.

“We think Hangzhou is the best place for internet startup companies in China. The people in Hangzhou are very passionate, skilled and creative,” says Yang. “Everybody who wants to join a startup company wants to create something new. When it comes to recruitment, we attract people and people attract us. We call this ‘two-sided decisions’.”

While Yang admits that 10 years ago most of the top tech talent could only be found outside of China, he says the Middle Kingdom now rivals America thanks to the ever-upward education and mobility of its youth. When it comes to picking the Tuya Smart team, however, he says the company will always choose talent over nationality.

“The only thing we care about is whether talented individuals are ready to embark on an adventure with us and whether they will be self-motivated enough to really drive themselves and to forge the same path as we do. We always say that working for a startup is very hard, so you need to apply yourself 100%. We feel lucky and proud that all the people in our team have the same vision as we do, and we think this is the key to attracting more people.”

Smart Homes of the Future

Having made huge strides in voice recognition this year – currently receiving over 6 million voice commands a day – Tuya Smart plans to focus on improving its facial recognition technology in 2018, helping AI appliances recognize a full roster of family members and adapt to their preferences accordingly. Beyond that, Yang predicts that smart homes will develop to the point where users don’t even know they’re controlling them. The machines’ deep learning capabilities will simply observe and adapt.

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Tuya Smart core members

“This is like a sci-fi movie turned into reality,” says Yang. “For Tuya, smart home doesn’t mean individual products, but creating a unique living environment with your choice of temperature, lighting, moisture and even music for different temperaments. We start by learning who you are, what you want and how you want it.”

AI Accelerated Job Losses 

One of the biggest concerns about AI on a societal level is the job losses it could spark. This is not a scenario that worries Yang, however, who points out that the invention of the motorcar left horse-pulled wagons idle in the last industrial revolution.

“We believe the human race will find a way. We always find that there are new problems that need to be fixed. In this cycle (of industrial revolution), our quality of life will improve and there will always be new opportunities with new technologies.”

For Tuya, the opportunities are beyond boundaries. “All manufacturing industries need AI, even in the U.S. When the manufacturing industries reinvent themselves with AI technologies, we hope Tuya is the first company that they would turn for help,” says Yang.

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