A visitor shakes hands with a robot during a science and technology week in Beijing.
China is ramping up its efforts to develop artificial intelligence in manufacturing to boost its productivity as well as create new momentum in the future market, an official at the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology said.
The moves are part of the country's broad effort to integrate AI with the Made in China 2025 strategy, aiming to enhance efficiency and transform China into a global manufacturing powerhouse, according to Li Guanyu, deputy director of the information and software service division at the ministry.
The ministry plans to release a white paper to drive the development of AI and its application in industries, Li said at the China International Big Data Industry Expo last month in Guiyang, Guizhou province.
With its booming big data sector and mobile internet technologies, the nation has rapidly risen up the ranks of international AI research. The official said that now the country aims to use AI to drive the upgrade of its manufacturing, which is the backbone of the economy.
Zhou Ji, president of the Chinese Academy of Engineering, said that AI technology now plays a key role in the new technological revolution and the transformation of industry.
Supported by AI technologies, smart manufacturing is set to become the core technology for the next round of industrial upgrading, Zhou said.
Terry Gou, founder and chairman of Foxconn Technology Group, said that AI and big data technologies would help reduce costs and improve efficiency, paving the way for factories of the future.
"The new wave of application and revolution for big data have brought opportunities for the transformation and reconstruction of the manufacturing sector," Gou added.
Apple Inc supplier Foxconn already has five factories that can operate smoothly without the monitoring of workers, because production lines have been automated, and it is set to build a new one in Guizhou, said Gou at the big data expo.
Employing AI and deep learning technologies, Foxconn aims to build not only a smart manufacturing system but also a reliable network for the industrial internet.
"Our smart factories will collect data in the cloud platform via automatic detection and remote monitoring systems, ensuring timely repairs when problems occur," he said.
Currently, the company has 50,000 robots at assembly lines in five factories.
China launched the Made in China 2025 strategy in 2015, a 10-year national plan to transform the country into a worldwide high-tech manufacturing power, which is also echoed in China's 13th Five-Year Plan (2016-20). Smart manufacturing is deemed as a significant development area in the two documents, which provides numerous opportunities for domestic manufacturers.
Vice-Premier Ma Kai called for further innovation and application in big data and AI to speed up transforming the manufacturing sector.
"Big data has become a fundamental resource," Ma said during a big data expo."
"The development of big data is driving profound changes in numerous areas, including social and economic fields. As a key entity of the real economy, the manufacturing sector will become a main application area," Ma said.
In 2016, industries directly related to the big-data sector had a market value of 16.8 billion yuan (.47 billion), up 45 percent from the previous year, according to a survey by the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.