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Manufacturing gets intelligent boost

Ou Yang Shijia/Yang Jun
Updated: May 27,2017 7:18 AM     China Daily

Artificial intelligence and big data technologies will provide strong support to China’s efforts to upgrade manufacturing, according to the industrial regulator and technology tycoons.

The Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) will produce a white paper to promote the development of AI and its application in industries, a senior official said on the sideline of the Big Data Expo in Guiyang, capital of Guizhou province. The conference runs through May 28.

MIIT will ramp up efforts to integrate AI with the Made in China 2025 strategy, enhancing efficiency and sharpening the competitive edge of the country’s manufacturing capability, said Li Guanyu, deputy director of the information and software service division at MIIT. He did not provide details.

As AI theoretical research and innovative applications blossom in China, the country hopes to leverage cutting-edge technology to help manufacturers restructure.

Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, said, “Though machines are not as flexible as human hands right now, totally automated factories are likely to become a reality when the industrial data pool becomes big enough,” Gou said.

Foxconn, a contract manufacturer for Apple, employees 50,000 robots at assembly lines in five factories.

Robin Li, CEO of Baidu, said China has accumulated a huge amount of data, providing a sound foundation for the growth of AI.

“Without data, it is impossible for AI to make big leaps in voice and speech recognition. But more efforts are needed to train AI-savvy talent,” Li said.

The total amount of data in China is growing at above 50 percent a year and it is forecast to account for 21 percent of global data by 2020, according to MIIT.

Hangzhou Robam Appliances, a kitchen appliance maker based in Zhejiang province, shows where things are heading. Its factory, powered by industrial robots, big data and the internet of things — devices connected by the internet — cost 750 million yuan ($109 million) but saves 35 million yuan annually in labor and improves productivity by 30 percent, said Wang Gang, vice-president of the company.