Four Fast Thoughts on Tech in Beijing
A lot of what one finds in China is very similar to the United States. But a lot more is a lot different — and these differences are always the most intriguing part of travel to this (or any other) foreign destination. With this context in mind, what follows are a handful of hard-to-avoid technology-related trends in Beijing that I’ve been thinking a lot about during my stay in this city over the last week.
- WeChat. This mobile messaging board serves as the backbone for so much of this nation’s communication. From video calls to group chat to online payment vehicle, this platform offers an impressive array of functionality and flexibility. Moreover, comparisons to social media apps in the West seem forced, at best. If you want to connect to more than 700 million users in China, then WeChat is absolutely the medium of choice.
- Delivery. In the United States, the appetite for delivery-on-demand for everything from restaurant food to retail products has surged only in the last few years. But this concept has been a fact of life in China for much longer. With this longer history of usage, the array of delivery services and options is much more sophisticated here — as is consumer awareness and understanding of the many choices for almost-instant gratification.
- Wealth. From a constant flow of advertisements for luxury products to the seemingly endless array of expensive new cars to the many active construction sites around the city, reminders of the rapidly-growing middle and upper class are everywhere. A portion of this new-found wealth is flowing into technology and technology-related investments — although the results of this influx of capital are not always positive.
- Enhanced GPS. 24 hours a day and seven days a week, congested traffic is an omnipresent factor in huge Chinese cities like Beijing. To help mitigate this problem, the country has developed an increasingly dynamic GPS system that empowers drivers more real-time, pin-point accuracy in understanding what neighborhoods, roads and highways have the worst backups.