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AI looks certain to reshape our daily lives
Last Updated: 2017-12-05 08:10 | China Daily
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Robin Li (front center), CEO of Baidu Inc, and Lei Jun (front right), founder and CEO of Xiaomi Corp, at the 4th World Internet Conference in Wuzhen, Zhejiang province. [Photo by Zou Hong/China Daily]

Artificial intelligence will play an important role in reshaping an array of major industries such as retail, manufacturing and healthcare.

Leading senior executives told the 4th World Internet Conference on Monday that rapid technological changes will transform companies and society.

Robin Li, CEO of Baidu Inc, felt that in comparison with mobile internet technology, which revolutionized consumer services, AI will have a far bigger influence on how companies run their businesses.

"For instance, Baidu is leveraging AI to help supermarkets better manage their supply of fresh food, by analyzing and predicting which products are most popular," said Li, who runs China's largest search engine.

He pointed out that such solutions had effectively reduced food waste and boosted the profit growth at pilot stores.

In other sectors, AI can be used to help coal mining companies reduce accidents by bringing in precautionary measures, while steel mills will be able to automatically check product defects.

Li's comments came as China starts to accelerate artificial intelligence applications in manufacturing, healthcare, automobile, consumer electronics and other key sectors.

In July, the country unveiled a national development plan to build a 1 trillion yuan ($151 billion) AI core industry by 2030. This is supposed to stimulate as much as 10 trillion yuan in related businesses.

A 3D-printed terra cotta warrior is displayed at the conference. [Photo by Zhu Xingxin/China Daily]

Lu Yimin, general manager of China United Network Communications Group Co Ltd, said China Unicom is experimenting with the next-generation mobile communication technology.

The country's second largest telecom carrier by mobile subscribers aims to lay down a sound information infrastructure for the application of AI.

"Connection is ultimate power for all intelligence," Lu said. "We will start offering pre-commercial 5G service in 2019."

China Unicom has set up a 10 billion yuan fund to promote the development of the internet of things, or IoT.

In the future, components at assembly lines, as well as electronic home appliances, will be connected to the internet, producing massive amounts of data to fuel the development of artificial intelligence.

"A key factor of digital economy is integration," said Lei Jun, founder and CEO of Chinese smartphone company Xiaomi Corp.

"Only by integrating AI with various sectors can we give full display of the technological advancements the world has made," Lei added.

Last month, Xiaomi had more than 85 million consumer electronic devices on its IoT platform.

Alibaba Group Holding Ltd, the largest e-commerce company in China, is also scrambling to apply AI, this time to the care of the elderly.

Chen Lijuan, head of Alibaba AI Lab, announced that the company will bring its voice-assistant smart speaker, Tmall Genie, to selected nursing homes in Beijing by the end of the month.

Senior residents will be able to activate the device through voice commands.

Among a host of applications, it will then be able to turn on, or off, lights, search for weather reports and control other smart-home devices.

"Such applications can enhance the quality of life for the older generation, and help improve work efficiency of the nursing staff," Chen said.

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