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Qingdao harnesses industrial internet

By WANG HAO,XIE CHUANJIAO and CHENG YU in Qingdao, Shandong | (CHINA DAILY) | 2020-11-05

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Qingdao, a coastal city in Shandong province, aims to develop the industrial internet. [Photo provided to China Daily]

City forges ahead, attracting many overseas partners

On the night of Oct 13, home appliance provider Haier Group lost no time in supplying 100,000 sets of virus sampling tubes and throat swabs to Qingdao, Shandong province, through the city's industrial internet platform.

The company acted just 48 hours after Qingdao pledged to carry out a citywide nucleic acid testing campaign following the emergence of new cases of COVID-19.

The prompt action ensured testing for local residents, effectively resolving a shortage of medical supplies in the initial stages of such a large-scale undertaking.

The quick response from the local government and companies led to use of the term "Qingdao speed", a reference to nucleic acid testing being completed in the city of 11 million residents within five days.

The industrial internet, which uses technologies to improve industrial efficiency, has played a crucial role in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

For years, Qingdao has made huge efforts to develop the industrial internet, for which it aims to become a global hub.

Wang Qingxian, Party secretary of Qingdao, said that information technology manufacturing has put Shenzhen, Guangdong province, "on the global front line", and the consumer internet has given Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, "a great opportunity for development".

The industrial internet, he said, will be associated with Qingdao.

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Haier Group introduces an upgraded version of its industrial internet platform COSMOPlat at an expo in Hannover, Germany, last year. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Wang added that the industrial internet is not only an interconnected network, but also "an ecological system that is alive". It connects every industrial process, from consumption to production, and enables intelligent interaction across industry.

"This is especially the case when COVID-19 has caused a loosening of relations globally among industry chains, upstream and downstream chains, market supply and demand. Its impact will inevitably lead to the reconstruction of global supply chains, value chains, industrial chains and even market patterns," he said.

"The world badly needs a platform that can connect supply and demand, integrate upstream and downstream industrial chains, and optimize resource allocation to empower industries and enterprises. The industrial internet is such a platform."

Zhou Yunjie, president of Haier Group, said the industrial internet mainly uses the advantage of leading internet technologies to reshape all elements of the industrial sector, and can improve "the 'whole process' and 'all elements'".

"The term 'whole process' means that clients or users can be involved in every step, including product design, research and development, production, manufacturing, sales and marketing," he said. "'All elements' refers to connecting humans, equipment, data and technology."

For example, COSMOPlat, Haier's industrial internet platform, is a large-scale customization platform that allows users to engage in the industrial process across 15 vertical industries, including manufacturing, agriculture, clothing, culture and tourism. Vertical industry refers to a group of companies focusing on a shared niche or specialized market spanning a number of industries.

In the textile industry, COSMOPlat's subsidiary platform Haizhiyun recently helped a clothing company in Weihai, Shandong province, to undergo a digitalized transformation. As a result, the company can now carry out warehouse management, intelligent retrieval and sorting, and automatic inventory on the internet.

Ni Guangnan, an academician with the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said, "The industrial internet uses the internet and technologies to optimize the traditional industrial process, greatly improving production efficiency.

"In the long term, it will boost competitiveness of China's manufacturing on the global stage."

In Xi'an, Shaanxi province, COSMOPlat enabled a clothing manufacturer to embed intelligent manufacturing technologies in all its machinery, which helped it produce 60,000 sets of customized products a year.

Through using industrial internet technologies, the manufacturer has improved its production efficiency by about 28 percent, and by shortening the delivery period from 45 working days to seven, it has reduced its annual average costs of 1.8 million yuan ($259,000).

Zhou said, "The industrial internet has immeasurable value in weaving individual resources from all over the world into one network. In this way, a large, global ecosystem is formed."

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Workers assemble washing machines at Haier Group in the city. [Photo by WANG PEIKE/provided to China Daily]

Platform advances

COSMOPlat is also playing a vital role in providing medical supplies made around the world to locations where they are badly needed.

To date, the platform, which is based in Qingdao, has attracted 340 million users, 3.9 million ecosystem partners and has become one of the top industrial internet platforms globally, after those operated by General Electric Co and Siemens.

This year, China has called for accelerated efforts to develop new infrastructure, including 5G, artificial intelligence and the industrial internet, to offset the negative economic impact of the pandemic and drive sustainable long-term growth.

Alex Sinclair, chief technology officer for the Global System for Mobile Communications Association, an industry alliance, said: "China is betting big on the industrial internet of things to increase productivity and drive efficiency by streamlining and automating manufacturing processes via internet connectivity. Backed by positive government support, China is set to become the world's leader (in this field)."

According to the association, by 2025, there will be 13.8 billion industrial internet of things connections worldwide, with China accounting for some 4.1 billion of them, or one-third of the global market.

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Robotic arms play with a Rubik's Cube at an international software fair in Qingdao last year. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Latest data from the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology show that more than 70 influential industrial internet platforms have been built nationwide. Some 40 million sets of equipment are connected to the industrial internet and the number of related apps exceeds 250,000.

With the industrial internet gradually being viewed as the key to higher-level development, cities across China, including Chongqing, Hangzhou and Shenyang, Liaoning province, have stepped up efforts to develop the technology.

Wang, the Qingdao Party secretary, said, "The city has a well-structured industrial system covering 36 of all 41 industrial categories."

Qingdao is home to a number of world-leading enterprises, including home appliance company Hisense, Tsingtao Brewery Co and CRRC Qingdao Sifang, a subsidiary of China Railway Rolling Stock Corp.

In recent years, the local government has made significant investments in high-tech industries, including information technology, biotechnology, new materials and high-end equipment manufacturing. This has led to the city attracting technology startups and well-known high-tech companies such as Huawei Technologies Co, Tencent Holdings and artificial intelligence companies iFlytek and Megvii.

Last year, investment in Qingdao rose by 21.6 percent year-on-year, ranking first among the country's 35 major cities. Investment in strategic emerging industries and high-tech manufacturing rose by 24 percent and nearly 27 percent respectively.

In the first three quarters of this year, despite challenges posed by the pandemic, Qingdao achieved GDP of 873.9 billion yuan, a 2.2 percent year-on-year rise.

Kong Hanning, former head of the German Academy of Science and Engineering, also known as Acatech, said, "Qingdao's industrial internet platform has covered almost all the concepts described in the fourth generation of industrialization.

"The city has an edge in the ecosystem of globalized industries and has attracted many partners around the world."