Hangzhou, China – The Chinese tech giant Alibaba's global headquarters in Hangzhou is more than an office or business campus. It is an incubator for everything technical and tests everything from self-driving cars to automated hotels.
An hour away by train from Shanghai, Alibaba boasts six studios around Hangzhou. It also has other offices throughout China and globally, including Silicon Valley.
CNBC recently took a tour of the company's main headquarters in Hangzhou – campus Xixi, which houses about 22,000 of its 1
Alibaba was started as an e-commerce platform 20 years ago by Jack Ma, who recently resigned as the company's chairman. Today, it has more than 30 business units ranging from fintech platforms such as AliPay, to the film division, Alibaba Pictures.
Five Things on Alibaba's Campus
Various technologies are being tested across Alibaba's campus. Here are five things we noticed:
1. Face Detection Security Access: Staff can enter campus simply by scanning their faces. Although Alibaba said it is optional, CNBC saw many employees use it seamlessly to enter the property.
2. Seamless, automatic payment for food: cameras in the campus cafeteria automatically detect which dishes are selected from the buffet. The payment kiosks then add up the price of each plate, and employees can simply pay with their employee ID or mobile phone.
3. Autonomous vehicles: they are zoomed around campus and deliver groceries. Last year, Alibaba announced that they are developing self-driving technologies, joining competitors Tencent and Baidu.
4. Detail technology: Customers can scan barcodes in grocery stores to find out more about the products they are looking at. They can also practically try on clothes – the store will simply scan their bodies – and see what it looks like without having to step into a fitting room.
5. The future hotel in Alibaba, Flyzoo – located next to the campus – tests room deliveries using robots, automatic check-in of guests and in-room door locks using facial recognition technology.
The campus is also home to the Alibaba Museum, which has a history of the company's growth. It is a massive wall that shows drawings of various icons, designed to recognize the world's changers according to Alibaba.
The wall includes Google founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page, Apple founder Steve Jobs, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, Berkshire Hathaway CEO and self-produced billionaire Warren Buffett, and, as expected, Jack Ma.
SE: We visited Alibaba's new store