How Alibaba tracks Chinese shipping drivers
Eleme, which has 83 million monthly active users, is owned by tech giant Alibaba, which also owns Taobao, one of the world’s largest e-commerce platforms. Since launching the new system in hundreds of Chinese cities starting in 2018, Eleme said, it has saved merchants $ 8 million in refunds to customers for problems with their deliveries, including delays. .
To build it, Eleme had to find a cost -effective system that could be used indoors. The GPS is accurate five meters outside, but walls, furniture, and even people can interfere with its signals. “It’s also not good at elevation,” he said Pat Pannuto, professor of computer science at the University of California, San Diego. That’s a problem because most of China’s urban retailers are in multi -storey buildings.
Wi-Fi-based internal localization systems and radio frequency recognition work, but Bluetooth is the cheapest, most reliable option. Its accuracy is almost 10 meters, enough to notice people walking in a store or restaurant.
In early 2018, Alibaba placed more than 12,000 Bluetooth beacons in stores across Shanghai. Beacons emit signals that are picked up by drivers’ phones in the form of “ID tuples.” The app uploads each tuple to the platform’s servers, where it is paired with merchant IDs, and the system logs where and when the signal was sent.
Similar networks are widely used for tracking objects, people, and services. One of the largest is London’s Gatwick Airport, where about 2,000 Bluetooth beacons have been installed. But Eleme’s was one of the first to be built on the size of the city.
To bring its system to many cities in China, Alibaba has taken advantage of the fact that mobile phones can also act as Bluetooth beacons. Apple introduced this function for iOS devices in 2013, and the same features are widely available on other smartphones.