China Tech Companies Fighting against the Coronavirus Outbreak

Monday, February 24, 2020 - 16:53

Facing with a massive public health crisis, Beijing is pushing its tech companies to join the fight against the novel coronavirus.

According to the report released by By Michelle Toh and Serenitie Wang in CNN Business, China’s tech giants have responded to the outbreak by deploying autonomous vehicles to bring supplies to medical workers, fitting drones with thermal cameras to improve detection of the virus and lending their computing power to help develop a vaccine.

"The fight against the epidemic cannot be achieved without the support of science and technology," Chinese President Xi Jinping said earlier this month, according to state news agency Xinhua.

He added that China should ramp up clinical research for vaccines and antiviral drugs, as well as expand online shopping options for the tens of millions of people who are staying indoors to prevent the disease's spread.

The Chinese Ministry of Science and Technology on Thursday called on the tech sector for help, suggesting that robots, temperature screening machines and devices that can help reduce human contact should be deployed.

As China now fights the coronavirus, technology won't be the "dominating factor" that stops the outbreak, according to Danny Mu, a Beijing-based analyst of emerging technologies at Forrester.

But he said the sector has its uses, including offering digital services like food delivery and mobile payments that help people "better face the epidemic."

This month, Tencent (TCEHY) opened up its super-computing facilities — which include machines that can run calculations much faster than an ordinary PC — to help researchers racing to find a cure. The Beijing Life Sciences Institute and Tsinghua University are among the participants.

And Didi, China's biggest ride-hailing provider, has teamed up with medical and aid organizations to allow workers who need to perform tasks related to data analysis, online simulation or logistical support to use Didi's servers for free.

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com (JD), meanwhile, recently enlisted self-driving robots to bring goods to medical workers in the central Chinese city of Wuhan, where the virus originated.

The bots, which look and run much like pint-sized vehicles, have been delivering packages to a hospital that primarily treats coronavirus patients. The route is relatively short — about 600 meters to the hospital — but cutting humans out of the equation has helped protect customers and employees, said Qi Kong, head of autonomous driving at JD Logistics.

Drones have also been put to use during the outbreak. The technology allows authorities to scan through large crowds and spot if someone's in need of medical attention, according to MicroMultiCopter, a drone startup based in Shenzhen that has dispatched about 100 of the devices across the country. They've also sent nearly 200 employees to command centers where they can monitor what the drones are seeing in real time.

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