Economic review

Tencent sees huge advances for AI in manufacturing

2017-04-21 13:30:00 (Beijing Time)        

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China's manufacturing sector is set to climb the adoption curve of cloud computing and artificial intelligence this year, after the service industry reaped early gains from the internet, said Pony Ma, chairman of Tencent Holdings Ltd.

As new technologies cascade through markets, less productive business models will cede ground to more innovative ones which are streamlining business processes and optimizing supply and demand, he told a packed audience at a digital economy conference on Thursday.

"With initial strides being made in the service sector, manufacturing, which is the backbone of China's economy, has begun heavily investing in the building blocks of the internet economy. Traditional manufacturers, rather than internet firms, are leading this wave of disruptive innovation," Ma said.

Tencent, the gaming-to-cloud computing conglomerate, will play its part as "an infrastructure provider and a connector", he added, by sharing its big data analytics, location-based services, artificial intelligence and payment solutions with industrial players.

As part of that initiative, Tencent is providing its cloud computing might to build an industrial big-data platform for Sany Group Co Ltd, the nation's leading machinery equipment maker.

The virtual platform connects Sany's existing 300,000 devices globally and uses predictive analysis to head off problems before they happen, according to He Dongdong, Sany's senior vice-president. Through remote monitoring, malfunctions can be detected in real time and repaired within 24 hours, he said.

Ma told the conference that digitally-enabled innovation is likely to penetrate into the agricultural sector. Similar improvements are taking shape in the marketing and distribution of Tongwei Group, a feed and aquatic products maker.

Ma said it relied on Tencent's WeChat service to pair supply with demand. The increased digital engagement, including the adoption of location-based services, also expanded the company's reach and enriched customer interactions, he said.

Yang Yuanqing, chief executive officer of Lenovo Group Ltd, said Chinese manufacturers are exploring ways to employ big data on inventories and shipments to improve product planning, and were banking on artificial intelligence to provide predictive analysis and self-servicing capabilities.

"Companies will realize broad productivity gains in their operations by automating processes, streamlining product development and digitally reinforcing their supply chains," said Zhou Qiren, a professor of the National School of Development at Peking University.