Chinese tech firms ready to export COVID-19 prevention services

XAG’s agricultural drone sprays pesticide on wheat field in March 4, 2020. Photo courtesy of XAG

By Huang Ge, Global Times

 China’s adoption of high technology is playing a vital role in reining in coronavirus spread across the country, which are expected to be exported to help other countries fight against the deadly virus, corporate representatives and analysts said on Thursday.

To help fight the coronavirus, domestic technology companies have developed specific technologies such as those for performing basic diagnostic functions, spraying disinfectants and conducting contactless delivery.

The Global Times spoke with many of these companies, which said they are ready and willing to share such technology and products with foreign partners to contain the virus.

China’s Alibaba Cloud announced Thursday it would offer free CT image analytics for COVID-19 to all countries and regions. Baidu Inc told the Global Times that on Tuesday it launched online services such as medical and psychological consultations for overseas users.

Chinese agricultural drone-maker XAG said since the virus outbreak, it has tried to combine drones with ground robots to release disinfectants in public places to replace hand sprayers.

“We have seen rising demand for such services and received increased overseas inquiries. For instance, our clients in South Korea and Vietnam have begun to explore the solutions,” the firm told the Global Times on Thursday.

Apart from medical supplies such as masks that should be shipped to COVID-19 hit countries, the experience or products used by Chinese high-tech companies to combat the viral epidemic are also expected to be exported to help contain the spread, Dong Lei, key account manager of Shanghai-based technology company Inventec, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“Developed countries like the US have edges in research and developing advanced technology, but that does not indicate their application to epidemic prevention has been widely promoted,” Dong said.

“I heard that robots are used to take patients’ temperatures in hospitals in California, but as far as I know, there are not more high-tech factors like artificial intelligence (AI) or facial recognition employed in other social venues to monitor or prevent the epidemic spread,” Jack Luo, who is in his 20s and lives in San Jose, California, told the Global Times on Thursday.

“An online real-time tracking platform for COVID-19 information focusing on the US and Canada, which many of my friends and I used, was developed by a Chinese firm,” he said.

China’s AI industry has driven many practical applications during recent years, which is the main reason that domestic firms in the sector are able to deploy their technology into various scenarios to help fight the virus in a timely manner, Xu Yiya, senior vice president of Shanghai-based Xiao-i Robot Technology Co, told the Global Times on Thursday.

During the epidemic, the Xiao-i has offered inquiry services about epidemic information to users in more than 30 cities across China. Industry analysts said the export of such high-tech related experience will be helpful, but some Western countries may not buy it because of their conventional stereotype of not believing in China’s technology development.

Dong also said the export of high-tech products for epidemic prevention will encounter barriers as foreign markets, the US in particular, is always on guard against China’s high-tech products such as drones, citing the so-called excuse of national security.

“We just started trying to use drones to spray disinfectant in China, and since other virus-hit countries still have restrictions over the technology, it is hard to predict the prospect for exports,” XAG said.

Alibaba’s CT image analytics technology is used in COVID-19 treatment. Photo courtesy of AilHealth.