From intelligent robots to drones, tech companies in the Greater Bay Area are stepping up to fight the coronavirus.
The technology is being applied at a crucial time for the region. As Guangdong struggles to get back to work, with millions of migrant workers not yet returned to offices, factories and construction sites, authorities are concerned about how to fight the outbreak while at the same time resuming – and boosting – productivity.
To paraphrase the famous quote, now is the time for all good robots to come to the aid of the Party, and China’s Silicon Valley has some of the country’s best robotics companies to call on.
Guangzhou smart robot start-up Saite was among the first, donating its medical robot to Hankou hospital, one of the major hospitals in Wuhan, the epidemic’s center, according to Southcn.com.
Looking like a refrigerator, the robot is equipped with a digital screen on its top, which makes use of an autonomous navigation program that allows it to zoom around the hospital. It delivers medicine and meals, and picks up medical waste. This helps to protect frontline medical staff and prevent cross-infections, while freeing doctors and nurses to focus on more important tasks.
In the wider public sphere, another GBA firm, Guangzhou-based Gaoxin Technology Group is putting out robots running on 5G networks to monitor public spaces for potential virus carriers. Guangzhou, Shanghai and Guiyang have been using the robots since February 5. They are equipped with five high-definition cameras and an infrared scanner, which enables them to check people’s temperatures and see whether they are wearing masks, from a distance of up to five meters.
“It can measure 10 people at the same time, with a temperature margin of error only 0.5 degrees Celsius,” Bo Lin, general manager of Gaoxin Technology, said in a press release. “If the temperature exceeds the set value, or if the person is not wearing a mask, the robot will immediately activate an alarm system to inform police.”
This is not the first example of AI being used by robotics companies in public safety control, of course. Shenzhen-based Intellifusion, a leader in dynamic facial-recognition technology, has helped Shenzhen police to identify jaywalkers and banned drivers for over two years. Using the graphic and facial recognition system, it can distinguish car number plates and pedestrians’ faces within a blink. Combining the information stored in the police system, it can display the names and faces of jaywalkers on nearby LED screens to publicly shame their misconducts.
The coronavirus outbreak has provided a natural opportunity for Intellifusion to step up. Its “DeepEye” program can recognize people with abnormal temperatures and also track the path they have followed. However, the system has not yet been used on the front lines of the coronavirus outbreak. This might be partly because of data-privacy concerns. Still, the unicorn has attracted three rounds of investments, raising funds from Bank of China and ZhenFund, among others. It was named in July 2018 as a “Greater Bay Area Unicorn Enterprise” and is on track for an IPO.
Shenzhen-based drone giant DJI has also joined the fray in fighting against the coronavirus. The company is using plant-protection drones and mapping drones to conduct large-scale disinfection of Shenzhen’s industrial parks, as well as several garbage landfills in the Nanshan, Luohu and Longgang districts. It has covered more than 128,000 square meters and aims to expand its operating area to more than three million square meters in the following days, according to local reporting.
Established in 2006, DJI has more than 70% of the global drone market and has been developing drones for agricultural use since 2016. It is not alone in this market, however, as another GBA firm, Guangzhou-based XAG, is competing hard in developing agricultural drones.
DJI has high hopes for its agricultural drones and is obviously keen to burnish its social-responsibility credentials with the applications in Shenzhen. The result is that the city is able to save manpower and boost safety.