Business / Industries

Changhong banking on smart appliances

By Li Yu/Peng Chao (China Daily) Updated: 2015-05-05 11:12

An increasing number of Chinese companies are emerging on the world stage as they strive to establish their brands outside the country. This report is by Li Yu and Peng Chao.

Televisions, refrigerators and air conditioners no longer wait for you to tell them what you want. Now, they anticipate your needs.

Sichuan Changhong Electric Co Ltd, a home appliance company based in Mianyang, Sichuan province, is making such products.

Founded in 1958, the company started producing military radars in the 1950s, but it is now China's second-largest TV manufacturer.

Changhong was famed all over China for its color TVs in the 1990s, but with the decline of cathode-ray sets and the rise of flat-screen models, Changhong fell behind the times. With the help of the Internet, the State-owned company hopes to regain its glory as the market leader.

In March, Li Keqiang introduced the concept of the "Internet Plus", meaning the integration of Internet technologies with traditional industries.

In the same month, Changhong released the second model of its CHiQ TV, the first of its kind in the world, which includes mobile Internet applications.

Changhong launched a series of CHiQ products in 2014, including TVs, refrigerators and air conditioners. It also established a cloud service platform and a big data center.

Unlike traditional home appliances, the CHiQ products are "smart". The CHiQ TV, for example, can discover and remember what kind of programs users like.

The CHiQ refrigerator can remind its owner of the expiration dates and freshness of food. And the CHiQ air conditioner can detect body surface temperatures and change the room temperature to an optimum level automatically.

Changhong started its transformation in 2013, when its President Zhao Yong launched the "smart strategy", aiming to use smart terminal products, cloud service platforms and big data.

"Companies should transform their production and operating models with the help of the Internet, from R&D and manufacturing to marketing and service," Zhao said.

He said Changhong will be more than a company that produces smart devices; it will also be a sensor company and a big data company.

The "Internet Plus" will definitely change the ecosystem of the home appliance industry, said Yang Dan, deputy chief engineer of the company.

"The age of manufacturers simply competing in the hardware segment will end," Yang said, adding that the era of the "home Internet" is coming.

In that era, when the Internet of Things is established, all home appliances are linked via the Internet and share information.

"Many firms are moving into the field of smart home appliances, but not a single one is able to build up an entire ecosystem," said Ren Fei, deputy general manager of Changhong's software and service center.

"A unified platform is needed if smart appliances produced by different companies are to link up and work together," he said, adding that Changhong looks forward to building up just such a platform together with other companies in the industry.

To cope with the fast pace of the Internet age and avoid bureaucracy, Changhong adopted the product manager system. Zhao acts as the top product manager of the CHiQ program.

The company is adding young people to the R&D team, where they develop products in line with the needs of younger generations.

Chen Keyu, 31, became the product manager of the CHiQ TV program last year, based on his research ability and innovative awareness. He spent nine months with his team working on the second version of the CHiQ TV.

"The inspiration comes from young people, the design is carried out by young people, and we listened to the needs of young people and analyzed customers' behavior and needs through the big data platform. That's why we've made it a success," said Chen.

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