With "Baidu Inside," the Chinese firm takes aim at hardware market

The search giant is partnering with hardware vendors to build electronics equipment using its technology

Printers, air quality monitors, and weighing scales aren't exactly in the realm of Baidu, China's largest search engine. But that's starting to change under a new company initiative that seeks to bring Baidu technology to smart devices, including household appliances.

Called "Baidu Inside", the company's latest project is to offer hardware vendors access to Baidu's technologies in cloud storage, voice assistants, facial recognition, and mapping, among others. And already, the company is promoting a growing number of products.

On Monday, one of Baidu's partners, electronics maker Haier, demoed an air quality monitor that can synch remotely with a smartphone over a Wi-Fi connection. Other products shown include fitness wristbands and a wireless printer built using Baidu tech.

The "Baidu Inside" project comes at time when increasingly more household electronics makers are turning to smart devices. Through sensors, modems and software, the products can be controlled remotely via smartphones and also be used to track user's habits.

It represents a potentially big market for Baidu. Besides its search engine, the company also offers a wide range of Internet services such as online video, mapping, and music streaming. In addition, the company wants to become a top site for users to download mobile apps.

But Baidu has struggled to expand in China's mobile Internet market, according to analysts. Many of the most popular apps come from rival companies and Google dominates China's mobile operating system market with its Android OS.

By launching its "Baidu Inside" initiative, the company could be trying to corner a growing sector of the Chinese market. Some of the products displayed on Monday were prototypes, but others are already on sale including a weighing scale that can track a user's health.

Although some of the products on sale come from little-known vendors, Baidu has also partnered with larger players like Huawei, ZTE, Asus and Canon.

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