Nation gets creative in challenging times

By Fan Feifei and Ma Si | China Daily | Updated: 2020-03-20 10:02
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A worker uses a 3D printer to produce protective medical glass at a factory in Changsha, Hunan province. [Photo/Xinhua]

Solutions developed

With the outbreak preventing many people from returning to work and living a normal life, high-tech enterprises have been quick to develop targeted AI and 5G-enabled solutions for different virus control scenarios, providing frontline workers with more flexibility and convenience.

Remote healthcare services powered by 5G are among the most eye-catching applications, with the three major telecom carriers, China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, providing strong technological support to ensure quality communication services for hospitals in different regions.

For example, on Feb 27, doctors in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong province, used 5G technology to treat a severely ill 67-year-old patient in Wuhan, capital of Hubei province and the epicenter of the outbreak in China.

By using the network's speed, large-size medical photos and videos can be shared quickly among doctors in different areas of the country, enabling them to formulate the best options for treatment.

Lyu Tingjie, a communications professor at Beijing University of Posts and Telecommunications, said,"Although remote medical services existed before the commercial use of 5G, this network has solved problems such as video lag and remote control delay experienced under the 4G network, ensuring a nearly real-time operation."

Wang Zhiqin, deputy head of the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology, a government think tank also known as CAICT, said China is entering a critical period of 5G network construction, with more than 550,000 new base stations expected to start operating by the end of this year.

In the battle against the virus, a string of smart robots powered by 5G technologies are working with medics in Shenzhen, Guangdong.

Developed by Chinese AI pioneer UBTech, these robots are being used at the Third People's Hospital of Shenzhen to offer medical advice, deliver drugs and to disinfect wards and other areas. They can also check a patient's temperature and perform a range of other work.

Liu Yue, head of the hospital's fever outpatient services, said a robot equipped with an AI-enabled fever-screening system can take the temperatures of 200 people in just one minute. "It greatly reduces our burden, and it can also prevent us from missing infected patients," Liu added.

Similar 5G-powered robots are being used in Hubei, Shanghai, Beijing and other regions as part of broader efforts by the nation's tech companies to use cutting-edge technologies to fight the outbreak.

Wang, from CAICT, added that 5G-powered telemedicine and smart robots have emerged from trials into front-line practice, while remote office solutions and online teaching have also contributed to quarantine efforts and the resumption of production.

Xiang Ligang, director-general of the Information Consumption Alliance, a telecom industry association, said the outbreak can inject new development momentum into the digital economy in the long run by promoting the transformation of a large number of traditional industries.

The technological prowess, quick response and resilience shown by Chinese tech companies appear to suggest that the outbreak could be a key point for emerging technologies, just as the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, in 2003 triggered an e-commerce "explosion" in the country, he said.

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