The next big thing

opinion January 08, 2018 01:00

By Suwatchai Songwanich
Chief executive Officer,
Bangkok Bank (China)

China has made many technological and innovative advancements in the past year, including reshaping the way people connect and consume as the nation moves to a cashless society. What, then, might be the next big thing on the country’s high-tech horizon?

Augmented reality (AR), the real-time integration of digital information with a user’s environment, is a key area of focus for China’s tech giants such as Tencent, Alibaba and Baidu.

There is already a ready market for AR. A recent study by Worldpay, a payment processing company, showed 95 per cent of respondents in China had used either augmented or virtual reality (VR) technology in the past few months. More importantly, 84 per cent see the two technologies as the future of shopping, a stark contrast to just 22 per cent in Australia and 19 per cent in Japan.

AR adds a new dimension to how people can shop for goods and services and is already being used by some leading brands in China. A good example is the Starbucks Reserve Roastery that opened in Shanghai in November. The largest Starbucks outlet in China is offering a fully immersive digital experience using AR that brings to life different aspects of the coffee-making process when customers point their smartphones at different parts of the shop.

Another use of AR is with an app that not only identifies objects from shoes to luxury apartments, but also suggests where you can buy them. Some health-tech firms are also developing apps that identify food ingredients and nutritional content from a picture. Linked to a platform like Alibaba, such an app could connect consumers to businesses supplying healthier food options as well as gyms and trainers.

Given the huge amount of investment by the tech giants in transforming the shopping experience, and people’s enthusiasm for the new technology, I believe there’s a very good chance AR will be the next big thing for China.