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Varied sectors embrace 5G transformation

China Daily | Updated: 2022-09-02 09:35
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Visitors gather at the booth of Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) during a new energy vehicle expo held in Beijing in August. [Photo provided to China Daily]

BEIJING-China has been expanding its 5G infrastructure at a rapid pace, utilizing next-generation wireless technology to facilitate the digitalization of different sectors of the country.

By the end of June, some 1.85 million 5G base stations had been built, supporting over 450 million end users, accounting for over 60 percent of the global total.

The rapidly expanding telecom network, featuring high speed, high reliability and low latency, has enabled futuristic scenarios in sectors like manufacturing, medical services and farming.

Smart factories

China's leading automotive lithium-ion battery maker Contemporary Amperex Technology Co Ltd (CATL) is digitalizing its battery plants.

The centrally controlled production, ultrahigh speed visual quality inspection and augmented-reality expertise system at the CATL production plant are all 5G enabled.

5G technology allows CATL engineers to monitor the entire workshop in real time and quickly handle technical issues remotely as if they were on site.

Cell coating is one of the most delicate processes in battery production since materials must be evenly spread on micrometer-thick copper or aluminum foils. In the workshop, employees use tablet computers to control the extrusion heads of coating machines at full pace.

A two-story-high coating machine, measuring 100 meters in length, can handle a 100-meter-long foil per minute, producing one cell in 1.7 seconds. Its defect rate is recorded as merely one in a billion, thanks to fast and stable 5G transmission.

The factory also has more than 200 5G-enabled automated vehicles shuttling through its assembly lines to transport batteries and other materials.

CATL plans to implement 5G technology in its 10 global production bases, said Chen Ling, the company's chief information officer.

The Jiangnan Shipyard under the China State Shipbuilding Co Ltd in Shanghai is also embracing 5G.

The State-owned shipbuilder is working with scientists from Shanghai Jiao Tong University to develop a 5G-enabled smart system to shorten the working process in shipbuilding from 14 hours to about two hours.

Intelligent production facilities in China such as CATL and Jiangnan have continued to proliferate, making high-tech manufacturing a trend.

Remote surgeries

In 2019, a surgeon at Shanghai-based Huashan Hospital performed an endoscopic surgery to remove a pituitary tumor in a patient's brain.

About 20 kilometers away, nearly 60 interns closely watched the operation, which was livestreamed on a 4K high-definition screen. Thanks to 5G wireless devices developed by Chinese telecom giant Huawei, such cutting-edge training was possible.

It marked the launch of Shanghai's first 5G smart medical pilot base. Surgical procedures in China are evolving due to the 5G network's low latency advantage.

On Jan 17 this year, surgeons at Huashan Hospital made an attempt to excise a basicranial tumor, bolstered by 5G mixed reality (MR) technology developed by a Shanghai-based startup.

Wearing VR headsets, they cut out target tissues precisely through a five-centimeter incision. The brain's enhanced 3D holographic images were projected in real-time upon the patient's scalp to indicate exact locations inside the brain.

Huashan's 5G+MR surgery was listed among the Top 10 Cases at this year's World 5G Convention held in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, in early August.

5G technology also supports remote-controlled robotic operations. Medical workers from two hospitals in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing and the westernmost prefecture of Kezilesu Kirgiz in the country's Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region collaborated to conduct surgery for stone removal through a 5G-enabled robot.

Experienced surgeons in Nanjing, Jiangsu province, used a long-distance ultrasound machine to give instructions on the precise place of the puncture, while their counterparts 5,000 km away operated accordingly to remove the stone.

During the operation, the average two-way 5G network latency was reduced to only 135 milliseconds, meaning the surgeons could communicate without any noticeable time delay.

As of Aug 1, the Kezilesu Kirgiz hospital had completed 22 stone removal robotic operations, making high-quality medical services more accessible to patients living in the country's remote areas.

Digital farming

Agriculture, commonly seen as a natural resource, has also been integrated with 5G technology.

At a rice paddy field in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, a probe equipped with a 5G-enabled AI camera is used for leaf age diagnosis, disease identification, pest control and prevention of plant diseases.

Along lush crop rows, water-level sensors are installed to measure soil moisture and enable automatic irrigation.

"The 5G digital farm has improved tillage, making agriculture more manageable," said Meng Qi, a contractor of the smart farm.

"5G agricultural machinery, the internet of things, artificial intelligence and other digital technologies are becoming the new tools for rural development," said Li Daoliang, director of the International College Beijing under China Agricultural University.


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