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Shell China tests new technology in Beijing to automate refueling and purchases at service stations

Shell China is testing a new technology from a joint venture between two Chinese giants, Alibaba Group and SAIC Motor Corp., that can reduce the average time that a customer spends purchasing fuel at a service station by as much as 50%. Consumers can also buy snacks and other items from the station’s convenience store using the technology.

Shell owns more than 43,000 fuel stations in more than 80 countries and regions, with about 1,300 stations in the Greater China Region, making it the largest international service station network in China.

The technology, which is being tested at a pilot station in Beijing, is from Banma Network Technology. Using Alibaba’s operating system for Internet of Things (IoT) devices, AliOS uses geo-fencing algorithms to sense when a car drives into the station and parks next to a fuel pump. Once the system is automatically activated, customers can choose the type of fuel they need, the quantity they want to purchase, and pay using either Alibaba’s payment service, Alipay, or Shell’s membership card.

Alibaba unveiled its first internet car aimed at expanding IoT to the automotive sector in 2016. Close to 400,000 internet-connected cars being driven in China are powered by AliOS.

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a system of interrelated computing devices, mechanical and digital machines, objects, animals or people that are provided with unique identifiers and the ability to transfer data over a network without requiring human-to-human or human-to-computer interaction.

Banma Network Technology CEO Alex Shi said the joint venture is searching for a new retail-driven business model that can cater to internet-connected cars.

“We want to realize the promise of connected cars to enable the entire car and travel industry. And through our collaboration with Shell China, we want to empower the energy sector—delivering exceptional commuter experiences to car owners and substantially improve work efficiency for gas stations,” Shi said.

“The most important part of a journey—even more important than the destination itself—is how one reaches the destination. This is why we have strived to satisfy Chinese customers’ desires for quality travel experiences,” said Shell China’s Vice President of Retail Rebecca Chan. Plans to include more customized services are being planned, based on analytics on consumer preferences, as well as available products and services at specific service stations. Members of Shell’s loyalty program who own an internet car powered by the latest version of AliOS will be able to complete the entire process using their vehicle’s touchscreen display.