The latest technology in the world is created by scientists and engineers in the USA, Japan or Europe and then manufactured in China. At least, that’s been the accepted status quo for the past few decades. China replicates very well but doesn’t innovate, would be another truism unlikely to be considered controversial. However, this year’s Consumer Electronics Show, currently taking place in Las Vegas, Nevada, could prove to be the watershed moment that marks that is no longer the case.
The CES is the consumer-facing tech industry’s flagship event. With the exception of the big smartphone companies who either stage their own events on focus on the Mobile World Congress, the CES is where the latest technology in the world is often unveiled for the first time. The world was introduced to Tetris at the CES back in 2008 and the first Xbox in 2000.
This year CES has seen an influx of Chinese firms and the world’s most populous nation makes a concerted effort to make the transition from tech manufacturer to leading global innovator. The transition is highlighted by the fact that over 10% of the companies exhibiting at this year’s show carry the region ‘Shenzen’ in their name. Shenzen is China’s manufacturing centre, until now best known as the ‘factory’ for the latest tech gadgets consumed in the West.
However, the evidence on show this year illustrates that the apprentice now sees itself as ready to take on the mantle of magician. Chinese companies, many with a history as manufacturers, though some newer, are now positioning themselves to challenge the Western tech giants rather than bid for their manufacturing contracts.
Byton, a Chinese start-up now established by former Apple and BMW employees and acquired by electric vehicles specialist Future Mobility, are showcasing their “truly smart” car. Bryton and Future Mobility are backed by Chinese internet giant Tencent and competing with the likes of Tesla for dominance in the future market for affordably priced, smart, electric cars. The company plans to launch a 4×4 featuring facial recognition and able to do a week’s worth of urban commuting on a single charge in China next year and in the UK by 2020. Byton’s vehicle will be priced at around £33,000.
China’s biggest tech companies, including Google-equivalent Baidu, ecommerce goliath Alibaba and telecoms company Huawei all have a heavy presence at CES 2018. As well as dominating the show’s floor space, CEOs from Chinese companies, such as Huawei’s Richard Yu, are also this year at the top of the keynote speakers’ bill. We could very soon be viewing China as the cradle of the latest technology in the world, and not just its production line.