Baidu doubles down on smart lock maker

Yunding Technology completed its second fundraising this year with Baidu among the investors as the battle for the Internet-of-Things (IoT) continues to heat up.

Chinese smart lock maker Yunding Technology has completed a Rmb600 million ($87 million) Series D fundraising from existing investors, its second this year.

Baidu led this round of fundraising, joined by Shunwei Capital, K2VC and Susquehanna International Group (SIG), Yunding said on Wednesday.

In July, the smart lock maker completed a Rmb270 million follow-on C round fundraising from seven investors including Baidu, SIG. Prior to this, from 2014 to 2017, it had four disclosed financing rounds.

When it was founded in 2014, Yunding's initial focus was on the rental apartment market, providing smart lock, electricity and water meters along with management systems. The company works with rental apartment brands in China and has roughly a 60% share of the market.

Then in March 2017, the company started selling its products directly to retail consumers with the release of its smart lock brand Loock.

That shift in focus became more urgent after several rental apartment managers went bankrupt this summer as a cash shortage began to bite and the government tightened its regulation of the rental sector. 

To cope with the changing wind, Yunding is now targeting the 400 million families that make up the Chinese retail market. Only 5% in Chinese have smart locks, the company estimates.

Yunding hopes it can increase that penetration rate and the early signs look promising after it sold about 120,000 of its Loock products during the Singles' Day sales last month.

Chief executive Chen Bin said Yunding’s annual sales will surpass Rmb1 billion this year, with over 2 million sales by volume and more than half of that going straight to retail consumers.

The numbers look good, especially for investors like Baidu. As a technology company increasingly focused on artificial intelligence (AI), Baidu is keen to explore different possible applications of AI.

Baidu has its own AI system, DuerOS, which has speech and image recognition capabilities and can turn products into smart devices. As an open-source platform, Baidu partners with home appliance makers to embed its conversational AI systems into refrigerators, TVs and other objects, and by the looks of things potentially also smart locks.

Globally, sales of smart home devices with voice control will jump from 146,000 units in 2018 to 32 million in 2025, according to Strategy Analytics.

There will be a day that your refrigerator will tell you what to eat and your door will say “safe trip” to you when you leave the house, and Baidu wants to speed up that future with its investment.

¬ Haymarket Media Limited. All rights reserved.
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