Tencent
Chinese internet giant Tencent has launched a new open source hardware operating system to control smart appliancesReuters

Tencent Holdings, a dominant Chinese internet company that owns popular chat messenger app WeChat, has launched an open source hardware operating system dedicated to connecting Internet of Things (IoT) devices.

The Tencent Operating System (TOS+) provides a mobile payment system and voice recognition. It is designed to work with all smart devices that connect to the internet, whether they are smart TVs, smart fridges, smart watches and other wearable tech.

This would mean that users could use a smart watch enabled with TOS+ to make a mobile payment, or connect their smartphone to the TV and use it as a controller for playing games.

As long as they agree to share revenue, manufacturers and developers are allowed to freely use the platform, which is a similar business model to Google's Android ecosystem.

"We want to inject more content into smart hardware systems and have connectivity across different terminals," Zhong Xiangping, head of TOS+, told the Global Mobile Internet Conference in Beijing, according to Reuters.

The rise of the Internet of Things market

Gartner estimates that by 2020, there will be 9.7 billion connected things being used in smart cities to remotely monitor public infrastructure, as well as items in the home. In 2015, there will already be 1.1 billion connected things.

What is a smart city?

A smart city is as an urban area where sensors have been implemented across public infrastructure in order to monitor traffic and usage of public services, such as lighting and parking spaces.

The contextual analysis of the real-time information gained from the sensors can help governments and companies in many sectors to make cities more sustainable and efficient, as well as being better able to cater to the needs of citizens living in the smart city.

Both smartphone manufacturer Xiaomi and Tencent's largest rival Alibaba already have several smart products on the market, including smart TVs that connect to the internet, smart wearable fitness bands and smart air purifiers.

Alibaba, the world's third biggest internet company and the owner of micro-blogging site Weibo, announced on 10 April that it was launching a "smart living" business unit which would enable firms specialising in making electrical appliances connect to the internet to sell their products on Alibaba's Tsmall site.

Alibaba has also set up a crowdfunding platform on its retail site Taobao that enables companies to raise funds from Taobao shoppers to get products off the ground.

In China, Xiaomi and Tencent's offerings trump those of Google's Android, due to the fact that many Android features are unusable in the country due to licensing and censorship problems.