Using technology to add value to traditional industries promises huge benefits for society
The engine of every industrial revolution is technology, and digital technology is becoming an important component of the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Digitalization can help lower production costs for every industry.
This has been my second trip to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, the theme for which is “Globalization 4.0: Shaping a Global Architecture in the Age of the Fourth Industrial Revolution”. In the era of Globalization 4.0, data is becoming a key production factor. How to use data more efficiently and rationally, and how to use digital technology to drive economic development, have been hot topics at this year’s forum.
On Jan 22, I had a discussion with guests in Davos from the European Union, the United States, India and China about how to use digitalization to bring more benefits to society and to assist with the revolution, while at the same time enhancing data security and protecting privacy.
Perhaps a simple example best explains how digital technology can help traditional industries improve efficiency and lower costs. China is the world’s largest consumer of pork, and every year the country raises 700 million pigs for slaughter. The sector generates about 1.1 trillion yuan (US$162 billion). But the industry still faces many problems, including low breeding rates, high costs, and being unable to trace the food-consumer flow.
To solve these problems, a “smart breeding” system using real-time robotic sensors has been developed to monitor the temperature and humidity on pig farms as well as growth statistics for each pig. This includes monitoring each pig’s daily feed consumption, weight and growth, temperature and health statistics. The big data center can then react with a smart response based on the specific circumstances. For example, if the farm’s temperature is too low, the system will automatically turn on heaters. If it finds that some of the pigs are behaving differently than normal, then the system can check and provide a solution based on the findings.
The smart system can reduce breeding-labor costs by 30 to 50 percent, cut the amount of feed required by 8 to 10 percent, and shorten the breeding time by five to eight days. If the system could be broadly applied across the agricultural industry in China, it could effectively lower industry costs by more than 50 billion yuan. This is an example of how digital technology can be used to add value to a traditional industry and achieve greater benefits for the general public.
Of course, digital technology can be applied in many other areas. It can be used in urban designing and management, relieving problems closely related to the lives of everyday people, including air pollution, water pollution, noise pollution and other problems found in urban environments. For example, technology can predict the air quality of a designated place in a city, predict the quality of a water supply system and diagnose noise pollution.
In China’s banking system, services previously provided by traditional financial institutions were more focused on high profits and large client numbers. By adopting big data from the e-commerce industry and applying AI technology, risk management models can be compiled to help financial institutions reduce transaction costs and improve the efficiency of risk identification. Using digital technology, we can thus help individuals and small and medium-sized enterprises with reasonable demands to get access to the fair and reasonably priced financial services they need.
While we want to use digital technology to benefit society, we also need to rigorously protect data privacy and security. We need to provide plenty of education for consumers about data safety and raise consumers’ awareness. Companies should also adhere to the related regulations when obtaining, using, storing and transferring data.
Data has already become a key production factor. With everyone working hard together, we will absolutely find a way to protect data to the fullest, while still using data technology to benefit society.
The author is CEO of JD Digits. The views do not necessarily reflect those of China Daily.
HONG KONG NEWS