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Financing tens of billions of dollars, adding cutting-edge technology, Meituan wants to make "eating, drinking and playing" better

Release Time:2022-04-29 Topic:What is the future of Meituan stock? Reading:14 Navigation:Stock Liao information > Technology > Artificial Intelligence > Financing tens of billions of dollars, adding cutting-edge technology, Meituan wants to make "eating, drinking and playing" better phone-reading

Wenjiang Xiaoqiao

On March 30 this year, ARK Fund, led by Cathie Wood, a "female version of Buffett" known for her belief in "thinking like a subversive", launched its first fund. Eight fund products, "Space Exploration and Innovation ETF". In the portfolio of the fund's holdings, a slightly surprising Chinese company name, Meituan, appeared.

Whether Meituan can explore in the sky, no one knows for the time being, but the innovation on the ground seems to be doing very well at present. On April 19, Meituan just released a new generation of self-developed unmanned delivery vehicles, which will be implemented on a large scale in multiple scenarios such as food delivery. Previously, Meituan’s unmanned delivery vehicles had been in Shunyi for more than a year, with more than 35,000 delivery orders.

Behind the unmanned delivery is the AI ​​capability that Meituan has been diving for many years. Technologies such as autonomous driving, delivery scheduling, image recognition, voice interaction, natural language processing, etc., start from the countless life scenes connected by Meituan, follow a "grounded" path, and spread to the entire Meituan. ecology.

In the public eye, Meituan is a company that "eats, drinks and has fun", but eating, drinking and playing is a very serious technical activity in Meituan. As Wang Xing, founder of Meituan, said,

“Meituan is a technology-driven company, and the purpose of technological innovation is to achieve the company’s mission—to help everyone eat better and live better.”

The AI ​​capabilities of a "eat, drink and play" company

What kind of artificial intelligence is needed to deliver a takeaway?

At last year's Rebuild2020 conference, Xia Huaxia, the "Chief Scientist" of Meituan, gave an example. According to basic mathematical theory, if a delivery boy receives 5 orders at the same time, he needs to start from 5 orders. Extracted from one merchant and sent to 5 different users, among which there are as many as 113,400 route combinations.

Meituan Waimai is now one of the largest instant delivery platforms in the world, delivering more than 40 million orders per day with more than 800,000 riders. Without intelligent dispatching and route planning capabilities, it is difficult to imagine how this huge system could function effectively.

Meituan provides life services far beyond takeaways, but also provides more than 200 life service scenarios such as catering, hotel, travel, etc., cycling speed, meal speed, geographic information of more than 2,800 counties and cities across the country With the addition of many complex variables such as user evaluation data of more than 7 billion, it means that behind the seemingly simple matter of providing life services, deep AI capabilities are required.

This explains why the word technology carries a heavy weight in Meituan. Meituan's listing prospectus not only mentioned technology many times, but also placed technology at a very core position:

"We believe technology will make people's lives better... We use technology to connect consumers and businesses... …helps serve the industry through advanced big data and artificial intelligence technologies.”

More intuitive is the data on R&D expenses. Meituan’s research and development expenses have been increasing over the years, and by 2018, it has exceeded 7 billion yuan, in 2019 it was 8.446 billion yuan, and in 2020, it has exceeded 10 billion yuan.

Meituan recognized the driving forces of technology early on. The beginning of Meituan Takeaway was accompanied by the birth of the world's largest and most complex multi-person, multi-point real-time intelligent distribution scheduling system—Meituan Ultrain Scheduling System.

This intelligent dispatching system achieves optimal matching among consumers, riders, and merchants through automatic order distribution, and it also takes into account whether the road is on the way, what the weather is, what the road conditions are, and what consumers are expected to deliver. Many factors, such as time and the time when the merchant serves meals, are based on massive data and artificial intelligence algorithms to give the most suitableThe appropriate delivery brother sends "optimal delivery instructions" to ensure that the average delivery time does not exceed 30 minutes.

This is an extremely complex job. "2.9 billion times", which is the number of path calculations per hour of the Meituan intelligent scheduling system during peak hours.

As the head platform of life service e-commerce, the business supported by Meituan AI technology is of course not just take-out, but more than 200 application scenarios in the field of life services, Meituan AI technology also naturally covers Including natural language understanding, knowledge graph, search, speech recognition, speech generation, face recognition, text recognition, video understanding, image editing, AR, environmental prediction, behavior planning, motion control and other fields, and has generated more than 7 billion User data, 10 billion online pictures and other valid data, thus further enhancing the service capabilities of Meituan AI.

At present, the minute-level Meituan Ultrain system distribution network has covered 2,800 counties and cities across the country, forming a complete urban scheduling system. It has become a part of urban infrastructure construction, and its improvement to the overall development of society will naturally extend to the B side.

In addition to the outside sales business, Meituan is also involved in comprehensive life services such as restaurant catering, hotels, attraction tickets and movie ticketing. Behind this are 510 million users and 6.8 million merchants. How to use digital technology to empower many traditional operators to bring more convenient and efficient services to consumers has become another problem that Meituan AI focuses on solving.

Combined with rich scene layout and massive real data, Meituan NLP and search team developed Meituan’s computing power and algorithms through Meituan’s computing power and algorithms. The business brain of Meituan now has more than 100 billion knowledge connections.

This is not only a huge catering and entertainment knowledge map, but also can see the user's emotional curve changes for specific storefronts, the user's consumption level, environmental preferences, recommended dishes, and similar businesses and other information. It conducts fine-grained analysis of these user reviews, and provides refined business suggestions for merchants by detailed description of merchant service status, merchant competitiveness analysis, and business district insights. These intelligent management suggestions will be passed through Meituan SaaS Cashier System Professional Reach out to various businesses on a regular basis. This is an important case of Meituan AI promoting industrial upgrading.

Meituan's AI not only meets the present, but also focuses on the future. As early as October 2016, Meituan established a project team named "W" and began to develop an overall solution for unmanned distribution. A data-optimized dispatching system, a logistics road network constructed with autonomous driving technology, a variety of human-machine collaborative terminal distribution modes, and various forms of intelligent distribution terminals, etc.

Since March 2018, Meituan's unmanned delivery has completed trial operations in many places in China. The drone distribution with the goal of creating a 15-minute urban life circle, and the automatic completion of the picking and packaging of orders in the retail home scenario in the form of a micro front warehouse, and an unmanned micro warehouse that realizes the automatic distribution process.

Meituan's mature smart delivery technology is closely related to the real implementation of unmanned delivery. Although it has the confidence of the Ultrain scheduling system, when unmanned delivery becomes a supplementary capacity and riders form a mature After cooperation, in addition to the original simple rider scheduling, the variable of unmanned delivery vehicles has been added. According to preliminary estimates, the scheduling difficulty involved is more than three times that of the current one.

But that goal may not be far off. Meituan's unmanned delivery solution is to give full play to the advantages of different products such as drones, high/low-speed unmanned vehicles, and special robots to meet the needs of instant delivery of takeaways in different scenarios such as buildings, parks, and open roads, and improve delivery efficiency and efficiency. User experience,

Ultimately realize "using unmanned delivery to make services reach every corner of the world".

Scenario-driven technology, an AI-based Meituan path

As the core driving force of the fourth industrial revolution, AI’s role in China’s Development is still at an early stage. But with the continuous increase of technology giants, AI has long been not only a hot topic, but a new height with wider and deeper player participation.

Technology companies have two paths in the process of developing AI. One starts with technology and uses technology to "connect" the scene, and the other starts with the scene and uses the scene as the starting point. "Incubating" technology.

The former is dominated by giants such as traditional BAT, which invest a lot of resourcesResearch and develop AI technology, build a broad and in-depth layout and a solid AI foundation through complete technical planning, and then find and match various landing scenarios.

It is precisely because of this that the public had doubts about Meituan AI. At Rebuild2020, there was a suspicious barrage, "Why should a company mainly related to food have a chief scientist?" This is actually an inherent cognition of technology development - technology should start with technology, it only Could be the "starting point".

But Meituan took a different path. From the very beginning, Meituan’s AI technology is scene-driven, and it is positioned on the elements of scene service deep cultivation. Different from the gameplay of “starting from technology”, Meituan does not give a big plan and then conduct in-depth research and development item by item. , but from each specific scene. The deepening of its AI technology is deepened with the deepening of scene services, and the extension and connection of its AI technology is also extended and connected with the needs of scene services.

Starting from a specific scenario, the biggest advantage is that technology can quickly land and generate value. The engineers of Meituan, after realizing the fact that it is very inconvenient for blind people to order food, quickly developed a technology that allows blind people to interact with the Meituan app through voice technology to realize voice ordering.

This is first of all pragmatic, and secondly is the possibility of the future - with the support of the huge vertical data of life services and the support of rich own scenarios, Meituan will soon be able to achieve a closed-loop voice service. In 2019, a voice interaction application platform was established. Based on the massive voice data in the field of life services, the voice recognition and interaction capabilities have been deepened, and it has begun to provide each user with the convenient function of voice access to life services.

This is a typical example of an AI development path that starts with scenarios rather than technologies.

The same goes for extending from smart delivery technology to unmanned delivery solutions. Although Meituan is not "native" and has a big technical plan, it has gradually added and radiated in the process of years of deep cultivation of scene services, and has grown into a complete, down-to-earth, and warm AI system.

In Xia Huaxia's view, AI was mainly in the laboratory stage in the past, and its value was determined by capital and technical data. However, today AI has gone out of the laboratory and gradually realized its application.

Meituan has stepped on the "landing" node, and is driven by the actual needs of many local life services to realize the realization of artificial intelligence technology landing exploration. After years of deep cultivation of scene services, Meituan's most basic and most directly valuable AI technology is undoubtedly the data intelligence brought by the optimization of daily operations. The in-depth requirements of scene services are also driving the development of unmanned vehicle technology, image recognition under different needs of the "supply side", and profound voice interaction forced by the specific needs of the "demand side".

Starting from the scene is also the advantage of Meituan. Abundant online and offline business scenarios and a large amount of real business data are generated, which has become an important weapon for Meituan AI to carry out deeper technical iterations, and the massive life service data "takes from the people and uses them for the people." ".

Behind the $10 billion, Meituan's determination and patience

As the chief scientist of Meituan, Xia Huaxia is often asked some strange things For example, "Meituan is a food, drink and entertainment company, does it still have technology?"

"This question is actually quite difficult to answer, I can only say that one-third of Meituan employees work with I am an engineer like me, plaid shirts and slippers can be seen everywhere in Meituan, because engineers like to wear plaid shirts the most." Xia Huaxia said one third, the number is more than 13,000.

In Wang Xing's eyes, Meituan is an uncompromising technology company,

"I always think that Meituan is a technology company, although it is not a technology company in the pure sense, but we business is really driven by technology.”

Technology and Meituan are not contradictory. Technology starts from people's subjective needs and uses our known capabilities to meet people's needs. It represents people's yearning for a better life, because going to the sea of ​​stars is a kind of beauty, and it is also a kind of beauty to eat better and live better. In Xia Huaxia's view, AI is a tool in the future, and it will become a part of our life just like water, electricity and coal.

But it's not easy.

On the one hand, in the process of solving real-world problems, the reality is much more constrained than the laboratory stage. For example, autonomous driving can work very well in the test field, but when the actual drivingWhen you start delivering food, you will encounter many unexpected problems. For example, when Meituan’s unmanned vehicle first started delivering food in Shunyi, many people, especially children, were curious about the unmanned vehicle and went to “interact”. Once the vehicle detected an obstacle, it would stop and the unmanned vehicle would install the device on it. There are many sophisticated and expensive sensors. If you accidentally touch the sensor and change its direction angle, it will have a certain impact on the entire automatic driving system. It took Meituan five years from the development of unmanned vehicles to a certain range of applications, and it is constantly seeking technical solutions in complex scenarios.

On the other hand, although Meituan AI has now entered the flowering stage, it has a large amount of data and strong computing power, and it is doing ultra-high-dimensional space fitting, but the AI ​​​​currently applied The technology is still weak artificial intelligence, and there is still a long way to go from strong artificial intelligence. Solving real problems still faces many arduous challenges.

This is Meituan's sober perception of itself.

Meituan must continue to increase the pace of frontier exploration. On April 20, Meituan announced that it intends to seek to raise nearly 10 billion US dollars by issuing additional stocks and selling convertible bonds, which will be used for technological innovation and customer service improvement. Investment in cutting-edge technologies in the field.

This is not the only recent move by Meituan in the field of technology. On April 12 not long ago, Meituan and Tsinghua University jointly established the "Tsinghua University-Meituan Digital Life Joint Research Institute", announcing that Research will be carried out around cutting-edge technologies such as intelligent unmanned systems, artificial intelligence for life services, intelligent transportation, high-performance computing, artificial intelligence governance, and digital economy, to promote the digital upgrade of the demand side and supply side of the life service industry.

There is no doubt that technology needs to allow everyone to enjoy the convenience it brings without any barriers, which is what Meituan is doing. When it comes to AI, Meituan expects it to be as ubiquitous as the water, electricity and coal that people live in in the future.

This requires original intention, determination, patience, and fortunately, it seems that Meituan has all these - Meituan's journey is a sea of ​​stars.

Related securities: Meituan-W(03690)

(Source: Caijing Wuji Wealth No. 2021-04-21 22:36) [Click to view the original text]

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