While the Internet of Things (IoT) may seem like a new idea, in China the IoT revolution is well on its way and many companies are already creating exclusive networks, connections, and platforms for one of the biggest Internet of Things landscapes.
Back in October, Intel's venture capital arm invested $28 million in a handful of Chinese Internet of Things companies. It's part of Intel's bigger push to invest $100 million in Chinese companies that are making big waves in the IoT. One of the biggest proponents of the Internet of Things -- Cisco Systems -- thinks 12% of the total IoT value (which the company estimates at $19 trillion) will come from China by 2022.
Both of these companies are focusing on China's IoT prospects for good reason. The country is currently an Internet of Things leader, with 27% of all global M2M connections -- while the US has 19% and all of Europe holds 29%.
Here are three China-based companies that are building a strong Internet of Things in the country.
Merging the IoT and weather
Sina (NASDAQ:SINA) may be best known for its social media platform, Weibo, but the company is also taking steps into the Internet of Things with its Wi-Fi Weather Station.
The stations tap into software and cloud services from Ayla Networks and provide hyper-local weather data and forecasts to the Sina weather app. The company gave away millions of the Wi-Fi weather stations to its users last year and set up stations in popular locations throughout China. It's just a small way for Sina to provide the most accurate weather information to its users using inexpensive IoT connections. By tapping into cloud data, Sina users can view information from weather stations close to their locations, even if they don't have one themselves.
These stations clearly aren't a big revenue driver for Sina, but they indicate a simple way Chinese companies are using IoT connections to enhance current services.
And if Chinese telecoms have anything to say about it, it's only the beginning.
A huge Internet of Things connector
Back in 2008, China Mobile (NYSE:CHL) set up a research facility to develop a national Internet of Things platform and create M2M products, and by December of 2013, the company had 32 million M2M connections. This had made China Mobile the "world's largest M2M operator" according to a report by GSMA.
To get there, China Mobile built out its own network for M2M connections, has its own chips and modules for the IoT, fleet management services, remote surveillance connections, and sells its own Internet of Things devices. The company also created a proprietary M2M platform that allows companies to quickly create Internet of Things connections.
China Mobile currently operates major systems around the country including medical emergency dispatches, noise monitoring at construction sites, in-home monitoring for surgery patients, mass transportation monitoring, smart city and agriculture connections, and more. There are plenty of companies poised to benefit from the Internet of Things, but China Mobile is already leading in the space.
Connecting cars and hospitals
China Unicom (NYSE:CHU) follows China Mobile in size and scope for IoT connections but still boasts 10 million M2M connections as of last year. The company's Internet of Things services vary from smart cities to connected cars, with BMW using China Unicom for its ConnectedDrive services in China. The telecom company connects BMWs to the Internet with its SIM modules, manages the car company's connected services and call centers, and oversees BMW's ConnectedDrive data centers in the country.
China Unicom is also using its technology to connect hospitals and emergency responders to the Internet of Things. According to GSMA, China Unicom collects data from ECGs and sends the information back to hospitals over its 3G network. This gives staff real-time patient data before they arrive to the hospital. Aside from autos and hospitals, China Unicom also makes M2M connections for video surveillance, smart city meters, and embedded SIMs.
An unknown ambition
While each of these companies are driving Internet of Things technology forward, the financial results of their efforts are still a bit murky. None of the companies currently break out Internet of Things revenue. So while each of them is doing great things within the IoT, they aren't pure plays on the Internet of Things.