Chinese express delivery industry

AI Developers Innovate to Address Societal Problems

In meeting the various needs of different communities and industries, Chinese AI developers have worked to innovate new and effective solutions to societal ills, while also assisting disadvantaged industries like traditional manufacturing and agriculture in adopting intelligent ways of production. Making use of their technological skills, the developers aim to provide innovative ways to assist in a variety of different applications.

AI developer enables deliverymen to make 500 calls within one minute

On October 1, 2009, the amended Postal Law of China went into effect, legitimizing private delivery services. Since then, many have entered the industry and work as deliverymen, including friends of Li Liming, an AI developer who aims to “change the world with technology”.

When visiting his hometown in southwest China’s Sichuan Province, Li found that many deliverymen were poorly educated, making it difficult for them to gain recognition in their line of work.

“They don’t have any technological skills and have to manually inform their customers with individual calls and text messages.” Li realized the application of AI technologies to their daily work would improve the efficiency of deliverymen and would help them better integrate into modern urban life.

In 2013, during a period of fast growth in the Chinese express delivery industry, Li tracked the daily routine of deliverymen to analyze where improvements to efficiency could be made. Through this effort, Li found that informing the customers a vast network of customers on the status of their orders was a particular weak point in the industry. Due to access control in some communities, nearly half of the parcels had to be collected by the customers going downstairs, forcing the deliverymen to call them or send them messages. “It took one deliveryman 1.5 to 2 hours per day to make calls and his monthly phone bill was up to 200 to 300 yuan,” Li recalled.

Chinese express delivery industry

Based on his findings and through research and development over two years, Li launched the Cloud Notification App that can automatically make 500 phone calls and send 500 text messages within one minute.

Each phone call made through the app costs only 0.03 yuan and the app functions well even in peak service periods. Additionally, the “express delivery” name on customers’ phone call interface makes the calls more likely to be answered.

About three months after the app was launched, Li ran into a deliveryman who was using his app. “You have really done a great thing,” the deliveryman said to him.

As e-commerce has expanded to rural areas of China, an express delivery station could handle up to 1,200 to 1,500 parcels and 200 to 300 phone calls a day. The Cloud Notification App has benefited over 129,000 rural deliverymen by helping them make automatic phone calls at low costs. In total, the app has sent 3.12 billion express delivery notifications to 270 million customers over the past six years.

“To apply IT to people’s daily lives would be a main direction of technological development in China,” Li said.

Chinese AI company conducts 4000 experiments to develop a soil moisture sensor

In Ar Horqin Banner, the largest Alfalfa planting zone in China, herders used to ride their motorbikes between irrigation sprinklers and control cabinets to ensure proper irrigation. In hot weather, the Alfalfa farms need to be irrigated every day; even when it’s cool. This high frequency increases the workload on the herders and can also waste water through mismanaged irrigation.

As part of a national drive to develop smart agricultural, a “smart box” created by Zhang Hao and his team has been installed the planting zone by the control cabinets, enabling the herders to remotely control the irrigation on their mobile phones while maintaining the ability manually control the process. Furthermore, the smart sensor can dynamically analyze soil moisture and calculate the water needed based off weather to enable precise irrigation.

“Through such intelligent irrigation, it’s estimated that we save about 30% of our water supply and, at the same time, reduce the heavy burden on herders,” said Zhang Hao, CEO of Insentek.

AI Developers

In 2016, Insentek shifted its attention to the research and development of smart irrigation devices such as smart sensors, aiming to achieve smart technology-supported precise management of the country’s 1800 million mu (120 million hectares) of farmland.

The development of smart sensors requires large amount of investment and human resources. For example, in developing the smart soil moisture sensor mentioned above, the Insentek research team conducted around 4,000 experiments.

“While our smart sensor works well in the laboratory or factory, malfunctions can occur in the farmland,” Zhang said. He recalled that in field experiments, the smart soil moisture sensor readings fluctuated. It was later found out that the other equipment nearby caused electromagnetic interference, so his team had to add an anti-electromagnetic interference design to the sensor.

“We hope our smart soil moisture sensor can work normally in different soils around China. When the proper frequency was finally determined for detecting moisture in different soils, the whole team felt greatly relieved,” Zhang said.

While strides are being made, China is at an early stage of intelligent agricultural development and is facing a lack of sufficient quality data. Nevertheless, AI developers are working to empower fields with technological skills to promote the sound development of various industries.

AI developer pushes ahead with robot technology

In 2016, Song Junyi, founder of Elephant Robotics, started a business that develops collaborative robots for industrial production. However, his initial product line had sporadic success. “We won some major customers, but the return was far from matching our investment,” Song said.

After some exploration, Song and his team turned towards the oceanic lightweight robot market, as there was already a sizeable customer demand and relatively few competitors.

Elephant Robotics then launched its 6-axis robot arm, myCobot, that has been well received on e-commerce platforms. In 2000, the company achieved another breakthrough and produced the bionic pet cat MarsCat, that mimics the movement and vocals of an actual cat.

By constantly exploring market opportunities and keeping innovation in product development, companies like Elephant Robotics are advancing the application of robot technology.

AI Developers

AI developers bring warmth of technology to those “overlooked”

To help the 27.80 million Chinese citizens with hearing-impediments, Zeng Zhen, a post-graduate student of Northeastern University, has been focused on the development of a smart communication-assistance system.

The system developed by Zeng and his peers supports sign language translation and interaction with a smart sensor bracelet. The bracelet can capture and recognize the sign language of the hearing impaired, convert it into texts and speeches on cloud, and then display them on the app to abled users. At the same time, the speeches of abled users can be converted into texts and animated gifs of sign language on the app for the hearing-impaired. In this way, smooth communication can be achieved.

In developing the system, Zeng encountered issues specific to his consumer base. “Just like that everyone has some unique accent, each hearing-impaired individual uses different sign language. And even some trivial differences in sign language can lead to very different recognition results,” he explained.

However, with the assistance of the China Disabled Persons’ Federation, the Liaoning Provincial Deaf Persons’ Association, and other volunteers, Zeng and his team collected all the sign languages of the national standard while taking into account the minor differences between different age groups.

“We collected thousands of samples and then extracted and processed the data according to the characteristics found. That was a key to solving the technological problems,” Zeng said.

In the future, he hopes to further optimize the product and help the hearing-impaired realize barrier-free communication with the world.

AI Developers Innovate to Address Societal Problems

Zeng Jingqiang, another AI developer, created a smart pill organizer that provides sound and light reminders of medication while also transferring medication records to cloud in real-time. “In each of the 6 compartments containing different pills, there is a built-in alarm clock that will go off and vibrate on time,” Zeng said. “Also, the smart pill organizer supports other functions including emergency calls and voice chats.” So far, his 30-member team has served around 90,000 seniors and more than 60 nursing homes.

All five AI developers mentioned are members of the iFLYTEK Open Platform. Based on iFLYTEK’s AI technologies available on the platform, they have been running their own businesses and developing innovative products, jointly contributing to a thriving AI industry ecosystem.

At the 2021 iFLYTEK 1024 Global Developer Festival, more than 2.65 million AI developers gathered in person or online to discuss major social issues like rural rejuvenation, “carbon neutrality and CO2 emissions peak”, elderly-oriented technological development, and smart manufacturing. By applying their technologies to the social issues, developers like these five work to achieve the advancement of both their personal convictions and societal progression. Such efforts made in the AI industry ecosystem can be expected to create a better future.

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