Robots are now 90% as effective as humans at collecting debts, China’s real estate is being mapped in 3D for full virtual reality tours at scale, and the Chinese automotive industry is going on the blockchain to eliminate almost all inefficiency. This Week In China Tech is your way to stay on top of the tech stories that matter most from China each and every week. Here are the headlines you need to know.
A robot looks at a man as he uses his mobile phone at the 2018 World Robot Conference in Beijing on August 15, 2018. (Photo: Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)
Robots Are Almost As Good As Humans When Collecting Bad Debts
There are plenty of artificial intelligence (AI) trends emerging from China these days, but arguably the most intriguing are those that show just how close humans are to meeting their match at the hands of machines. This week, we saw 100Credit, a big data platform company, has launched a low-cost robot called "Little 100Credit" that reportedly collects bad debts over the phone 90% as often as its human counterparts .Yes, a robot calls up customers who owe money and helps people repay their debts almost as well as a human.
Little 100Credit (article in Chinese) consists of four modules that identify voice, understand conversational context, synthesize voices, and manage a conversation. You can think of it like if your Google Assistant or Amazon Alexa could carry out a very specific conversation with almost human-like precision (in this case, the robot can only talk about collecting on your bad debt). The technologies used are similar to technologies used by most AI driven machines; deep learning, reinforcement learning, and knowledge graphs.
But wouldn’t someone who doesn’t want to pay their bills just not answer their phone? You’d think so, but surprisingly enough, debtors do pick up quite often. This low-cost robot learns from debtors objections and updates its software to handle the most common pushbacks, incorporating that feedback to make every subsequent call a little more likely to close. Little 100Credit also performs emotional analysis and can identify users interruptions and can respond quickly and naturally.
China’s Huge Real Estate Market Is Going Virtual
China's largest real estate website 58 Group announced (article in Chinese) an investment into 123KanFang, a Chinese producer of low-cost 3D modeling technology provider. 58 Group has determined that many customers hate having to go see dozens of apartments or homes before deciding what to buy or lease. The ability to view real estate in 3D from the comfort of your home or a real estate office has long been promised, but the technology to accurately map a space in 3D is expensive and usually requires a professional photographer.
That's no longer the case. 123KanFang’s 3D mapping solution is relatively low-cost, as it only requires a real estate agent equipped with a smartphone app and a 3D camera costing about $150. Using this solution, the agent can take a photo of each room in a 100 square meter apartment (~1,100 sq ft) in under 10 minutes. The results are not only as good as their competitors, but 123KanFang’s solution also provides home improvement services based on the measurements taken by the real estate agents to help buyers improve their new property.
The China Automotive Industry Meets The Blockchain
This week we also saw a big announcement (article in Chinese) from China’s insurance giant Ping An Group stating that it had signed a partnership with Foton Auto to implement the country’s first fully integrated, blockchain-enabled, automotive supply chain. While financial firms have been working with the auto sector for generations, there’s never been a fully integrated financial supply chain system. Ping An and Foton Auto are endeavoring to solve thousands of inefficiencies in this industry by putting all of the contracts and financing onto the blockchain.
As other auto startups like Tesla have discovered, building a car requires hundreds of suppliers, financing institutions, and logistics providers to bring all of the parts and processes together to make a single car. Ping An and Foton believe that they can eliminate much of the inefficiencies and wasted time in this process via establishing this blockchain auto supply chain where contracts are automatically opened, cash is transferred and contracts are closed and passed to the next step in the process. The new system will not be affected by time zones like current auto supply chains, and will drastically reduce transaction costs. Whether they can achieve such a system, however, remains to be seen.
That's it for this week in China Tech. If you have any stories you think we should cover next week, feel free to message me and make sure to check back for more stories coming from China next week!