I can’t say that I was too surprised to see a couple of robots lurking around the lobby when I first checked into my Beijing hotel. The rate of new technology adoption is much faster in China than other countries.
Even though one of the machines was being touted as a service bot for delivering items to guest’s rooms, I would suspect that the main value of the two devices currently lies as a marketing tool. They certainly attracted enough attention and social media engagement from both domestic and overseas visitors to justify their cost. But I don’t think it will be too long before such machines will be able to carry out more business-critical tasks like checking in guests using facial recognition, booking cars and taxis for them, and securing reservations for VIPs in exclusive restaurants. Of course, some human staff will still be required to add a personal touch to the guest experience – but not quite as many as now I would guess.
The same will also apply to pig farms, according to a leading Chinese pork producer that I met on Monday. He told me about his plans to fully automate the process, including the utilization of porcine facial recognition systems to identify each individual animal and sensors to track its diet, health, and weight.
Given the speed with which the technology required for such applications is advancing, I don’t think it will be that long before his plans become a reality. Indeed, given China’s pressing need to boost domestic food production, I’m sure that the adoption of AI, IoT, and blockchain technologies in agriculture will accelerate at lightning speed over the next five years.
It’s no longer a question of if but when the country will achieve total supply chain integration from farm to table. The number of jobs that will be created or eliminated by this transformation is of course still open to question.