Midea Group, a technology giant doing business worldwide, has developed from a traditional Chinese household appliance company. It shared its insights for the future of human-machine collaboration at an annual strategy conference on March 7 in Shanghai. Midea believes that the interaction between human and machines will become a more profound, and integrated, collaborative relationship, and that this will herald a new era of people working together with artificial intelligence systems and machines.
This is not only an extension of the ‘smart²’ strategy, but also strives to enable products, machines, processes, and systems to be loaded with awareness, cognition, understanding, and decision-making driven by big data and AI. This will bridge the company’s various unique advantages in products and industrial layout, pushing its practices in manufacturing and living to new heights, as well as bringing users into an ‘ahead of life’ environment.
Smart manufacturing is more than just introducing robots and building unmanned factories. Previously, all R&D, supply chain, manufacturing, logistics, sales and after-sales services, including consumers, were fragmented in the manufacturing field. Today, smart manufacturing is developing ways to change this fragmentation and interconnect all processes, based on the analysis and flow of big data.
After almost three years of production standardization, and digital transformation, the Midea Group has successfully developed whole value chain software, thereby essentially achieving the ‘One Midea, One System, One Standard’ global collaborative production platform.
Based on this, Midea, partnering with the world’s leading robotics company KUKA, plans to deepen R&D and innovation in big data and AI technologies to gradually launch automation and business solutions adaptable to various types of complex production scenarios, and lay a solid foundation for furthering the vision of human-machine collaboration via smart manufacturing.
Midea believes real human-machine collaboration is carrier-free,’ Dr. Xu, Vice President of Midea Corporate Research Center, said at the strategy release press conference. To address this, Midea has invested almost 100 million yuan annually to build the largest AI team in the household appliance industry, to study, in-depth, how to get rid of the carrier between human and machine.
Midea released a number of AI products and applications, such as smart cooking robots, AI refrigerators and smart new retail at the Appliance & Electronics World Expo (AWE). ‘We will not be limited to the field of manufacturing – robotics will become important parts of logistics, medical care and even Smart Home,’ the General Manager of Midea Robotics Company (MRC), Olaf Gehrels said.
Midea will also apply mature robotics and automation technologies to the domestic field. Smart wheelchair robots, running on the same technology platform as logistics robots, will soon be introduced to houses to address the increasingly severe aging problem. This is undoubtedly a large market – everyday, ten thousand people will reach 60-years-old in the US alone, with as many as 795,000 paralytics each year. With the aid of human-machine collaboration, Midea will upgrade its smart household appliances to smart home appliances, allowing it to leapfrog its portal-based rivals.