Technology

Can Robots Make Us Safer? Chinese Retailer JD.com Thinks So

Omnichannel retailer developing robots to aid detection and disinfection
Photograph courtesy of JD.com

Much of what the world’s food retailing industry will learn about dealing with both the effects and the aftermath of the coronavirus will come from the same place the threat first arrived: China. One of that country’s leading omnichannel retailers said this week it was looking to a safer future through robotics.

JD.com and Gree, a state-owned major manufacturing enterprise, have formed a strategic partnership to develop three unique types of robots for disinfection and inspection to aid the fight against COVID-19 around the world, JD said.

One proposed robot would use an infrared sensor to discern people’s body temperatures in densely populated indoor environments such as stores, hospitals, airports, schools and office buildings—places thought to have served as cauldrons for contagion. The robot would be able to issue a warning when it senses an abnormally rising temperature. “In this way, the robots are equipped to reduce human-to-human contact in a meaningful way,” JD said in a corporate blog post.

The companies are also working together to develop robots that can disinfect both indoor and outdoor environments.

These units can automatically spray disinfectant gas and liquid for 24 hours a day, which they say can greatly increase the efficiency of traditional approaches to disinfecting environments. Indoor units can also disinfect when there’s no personnel available at night via ultraviolet lamps. “In this way, there is an added benefit of reduced labor cost in addition to protecting staff who conduct disinfection,” it said.

JD said the partnership would marry JD’s strength in autonomous driving with Gree’s experience in product manufacturing and supply-chain management.

“We plan to sell these robots on JD’s platform when they are produced in bulk and leverage JD and Gree’s mutual sales network to continue doing our part to fight COVID-19,” Jun Xiao, president of JD-X, JD’s logistics innovation lab.

“The partnership between JD and Gree can effectively solve industry challenges for smart, safe and efficient disinfection and inspection methods. [By] leveraging JD’s technology and Gree’s production capability for smart devices, both companies will create smart robotics which will aid the fight against COVID-19 and accelerate its overall development at the same time,” said a Gree representative.

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