Opportunities for Foreign Vendors in China’s IoT Market

A Conversation with Welomo Co-Founder Chance Jiang

By Tim Lindeman

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About Guest: Chance Jiang is founder and chief customer officer at Chatek, an Internet of Things software developer based in Guangzhou China. Chatek provides custom development services for IoT device makers, specializing in the connectivity layer between the device and the cloud. Chance also advises foreign IoT companies on strategies for entering the China IoT market.


When you think about the internet in China, you might imagine nearly a billion people using their smartphones in a vast digital landscape isolated from the rest of the world. What you may not consider is that China’s internet is also teeming with “things.” China’s internet of things (IoT) is a massive network of connected devices that is just as unique and significant as the rest of China’s digital ecosystem.

To get an overview of China’s IoT industry and to find out what opportunities are available for foreign vendors, we spoke with Chance Jiang, and early Chinese IoT innovator. Chance was a founding member of Welomo, the company best known for its photo-printing vending machine that became the first connected device on WeChat. Chance is also a frequent speaker at startup events in Guangzhou and has shared the stage with Xiaomi co-founder K.K. Wang.

Gallery: Welomo’s WeChat Selfie Printer

The Welomo selfie printer is an example of an innovative China market focused IoT product. Just take a photo on your phone, walk up to a Welomo kiosk, scan the WeChat QR code, pay with your phone, and print your photo.


  • China is a leader in the global IoT industry
    • By 2020 96% of connected devices will be made in China (endnote 1)
    • China accounts for 46% of global cellular connections (endnote 2)
  • China has strong drivers for IoT growth
    • Supply-side
      • Rapid price decline for communication chips
      • The rise of mobile networks and 5G
      • Sensor technology innovation
    • Demand-side
      • Societal challenges such as health, environment, security, transportation, etc…
      • Innovative new business models and competitive advantage for firms adopting IoT
      • Government backing of IoT initiatives in strategic plans
  • There are many unique IoT products that meet Chinese customer needs:
    • WeChat vending machines and kiosks: photo printing, mobile device charging, ticket sales, arcade games, etc…
    • Smart home: including air purifiers designed to address the problem of pollution in Chinese cities
    • Wearables: smart child watches to keep track of kids in big cities
    • Automotive aftermarket: smart rear-view mirrors and traffic cameras, anti-theft tracking devices for mopeds
    • Bike-sharing: Chinese companies Ofo and Mobike pioneered the bike-sharing industry
    • Smart cities: surveillance, traffic management, infrastructure asset monitoring (including preventing theft of manhole covers), parking detection
    • Industrial IoT: robotics, production equipment monitoring, environmental monitoring
    • Smart buildings: intelligent elevators, security, energy usage
  • There are opportunities for both foreign and domestic vendors:
    • Core technology (foreign advantage): foreign firms still provide many of the core components that make up the IoT technology stack, including chipsets and IoT operating systems; however local firms such as Huawei, Alibaba, and Tencent are all making investments in this area.
    • Applied technology (local advantage): Chinese vendors have a better understanding of the local market and are developing specific solutions for both consumer and industrial markets. Some industry applications, such as smart city, are especially challenging for foreign firms due to regulated procurement and the challenge of working with the government and state-owned enterprises.
    • Cloud (equally matched): Chinese cloud providers have many advantages, including government regulations that restrict and slow down what foreign cloud providers, such as AWS and Microsoft, can do in China. However, many IoT offerings target a global market, and although some Chinese cloud providers, such as Alibaba Cloud, have a global reach, foreign cloud providers still have the advantage in developed markets.


    1. Source: Frank Desvignes, “The Internet of Things Made in China”, AXA Group, October 5, 2016 (https://group.axa.com/en/spotlight/story/internet-of-things-made-in-china)
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    2. Source: Satyajit Sinha, “Chinese Operators Control Almost Half of the Global Cellular IoT Connections”, Counterpoint Research, January 3, 2018 (https://www.counterpointresearch.com/chinese-operators-control-almost-half-global-cellular-iot-connections/)
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