4 cool inventions Alibaba is working on right now, including room service robots

Alibaba’s popular conference showcases the company’s upcoming inventions. This year, there were 120,000 attendees.

Chinese tech giant Alibaba held its annual computing conference at its headquarters in Hangzhou – a popular event among developers and entrepreneurs – from Sept 19 to 22. It’s also where the company unveils sneak peeks around the tech it’s working on.

We rounded up four of the most unusual innovations:

Alibaba tech will help Kenyan rangers care for elephants, rhinos and lions.

The company is partnering with Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife to run wildlife protection projects using cloud technology.

Kenya’s oldest and largest protected areas, the Tsavo East and West National Parks, will install solar-powered sensors, trap cameras, drones, weather stations and ranger devices to track endangered animals. Rangers can use the data to monitor animals’ health and movement.

It’s making smart cars that turn on the aircon before you get home.

Alibaba is partnering car makers to build smart cars connected to smart home devices.

Alibaba’s ‘Internet car’ – made in partnership with Volvo, Audi and Daimler – will be voice-activated and run on AI. While driving, users can search for nearby restaurants, order food and book tickets, and park automatically using cloud software.

The company is also developing what it calls “car-to-home” AI services, which basically lets people access smart speakers and smart home devices while driving. This includes having the air-con, heaters, door locks and air purifiers turning on or off 10 minutes before the car arrives, so users reach home to a comfortable environment. According to the company, over 90 appliance brands and 600 smart home devices can easily connect to the car.

Its AI will help Chinese firefighters and ambulances work faster.

Firefighters in the Chinese city of Hangzhou said that the company’s ‘City Brain’ tech helps them work faster.

Alibaba’s has partnered the government of its home city, Hangzhou, to develop cloud tech that manages city traffic. The system sends alerts to the mobile phones of traffic officers when accidents happen, and controls traffic lights, allowing emergency vehicles like ambulances and fire trucks to reach accident scenes 50 per cent faster, Alibaba said.

The tech also provides firefighters information like water pressure, the number and position of fire hydrants, and the location of gas pipes. Firefighters said this helps them be “faster, safer and more precise” during accidents, instead of “calling each unit one by one” for the info.

The company’s also making robots for hotels, hospitals, restaurants and offices.

The company will launch its first room-service robots for the hospitality sector in October. They’ll deliver meals and laundry, and people can request things using voice command, touch, or hand gestures.

The tech powering the robot is the same one used in the company’s smart speakers. If trials at hotels go well, it’ll then consider rolling out these robots for hospitals, restaurants and office services.