By ASINA PORNWASIN
MORE joy is in store for users, and greater utility for businesses as the popular app Line transforms itself from merely a chat application to a communication tool for all.
At its annual conference, it announced its “Closing the Distance” mission with a business strategy that focused on “communication first”, because the company believes that from now through the next five years, everything would be connected, everything “videolised”, everywhere AI [Artificial intelligence] everywhere.
It will utilise its strong messaging app Line, which as of March had more that 171 million months active users worldwide, and 40.2 minutes average time used per person per day. Meanwhile, the maximum messages sent and received globally per day is more than 27 billion as of the first quarter of 2017. Thailand is the second-largest user of Line, following Japan, and ahead of Taiwan and Indonesia.
The company has enhanced features of the Line app with a range of new features and concepts designed to continue the evolution of the Line app beyond a communication tool.
As part of Line’s continued development as a Smart Portal, the News Tab, which was added in February 2017, will be updated into a full Portal Tab. The Portal Tab will offer weather, horoscopes, public transport information and other key information, personalised for each user’s lifestyle. In addition to the current news content, the new tab will sync with Line’s other services to provide easy access to comics, music, videos, and other content.
Line also aims to establish the Line app as a gateway for all purchases and payments both on-Line and off-Line.
Furthermore, Line has announced updates to continue developing the Line Pay service, which currently has 38 million registered global users and over 78 billion yen (Bt24 billion) in gross merchandise value (as of May 2017).
Line is adding two new commerce-related services – Line Shopping and Line Delima – to strengthen ties with actual stores.
Line Shopping is a service that uses Line app as a shopping gateway, while Line Delima is a food delivery service, allowing users to easily order a wide range of foods over the main Line app, wherever they might be.
However, in Thailand, Line Thailand has launched Line Man since 2016. Line Man is an on-demand assistant app offering four main services: messenger service, (delivering packages), food delivery, convenience goods (groceries delivery), and postal service.
Along with its camera apps B612 and Snow, Line has also introduced several video services, including Line Live and Line TV. These services are popular among teens and young women, and continue to grow at an aggressive pace. Line Live has grown into a video distribution platform with over 13 million monthly active users, and now Line has announced additional plans and new features in a bid to further expand the service.
Until now, Line Live has focused on allowing users to watch and post comments from within the Line Live app. But to make this service even easier to use and to increase the number of users, Line is adding a Line Live Viewer to the main Line app. Now all of Line’s 68 million monthly active users will be able to watch Line Live streams and post comments.
With the general awareness that the next era after the smartphone would be the AI era, Line is positioning itself to be a crucial player in this market. It announced the Clova cloud AI platform early this year at the Mobile World Congress 2017 in March. The Clova cloud AI platform is the company’s new strategy for the post-smartphone, post-display and post-touch era.
Clova, which is an acronym for “Cloud Virtual Assistant”, is the result of a collaboration between Line and Naver Corporation, South Korea’s leading search portal. This new AI platform represents a major step forward in digital assistants, adding new levels of naturalism, functionality and interconnectivity that have the power to change people’s relationship with technology and transform users’ lives.
Chief executive officer Takeshi Idezawa said the Clova platform allows Line’s existing services to interconnect, moving users post-touch, post-display, and even post-Smart-Portal, into a new future. The company is aiming to make Clova Asia’s leading cloud AI platform.
Itochu Corporation, FamilyMart, and Line Corporation teamed up to promote the collaborative development of new products, technologies and services for FamilyMart’s next generation of stores, which will be linked to Line’s Clova cloud AI platform and other services.
All three companies, as they prepare communication infrastructure tailored to their customers’ needs and purchase histories for FamilyMart’s next generation of stores, are exploring collaborative products, technology and service development opportunities that link with Line’s Clova cloud AI platform and other various services as well as the possibilities of overseas expansion.
Line also joined hands with Toyota Motor Corporation to explore business opportunities in utilising LINE’s cloud AI platform Clova and the Smart Device Link (SDL), a technology standard that connects automobiles with smartphone and tablet apps.
Through this business alliance, Line and Toyota will explore opportunities for linking Line’s Clova with SDL, to make a new connected car service utilising in-vehicle voice assistant technologies, with the goal of commercialising this service by 2018.
Initiatives like these represent the start of Line’s goal of creating a world in which AI blends into every device and every environment in everyday life, all through Clova.