New Technologies

5G networks and artificial intelligence

5G networks and artificial intelligence"We are facing a new technological revolution that will cause socio-economic changes deeper than those of the industrial one". Zhu Long, co-founder and president of Yitu, one of the main artificial intelligence companies in China, affirms that humanity is at the dawn of a new era that will be determined by the development of a wide range of new interrelated technologies. "The imminent arrival of 5G networks will lead to the creation of the Internet of Things, in which objects can communicate with each other. This connectivity, combined with artificial intelligence, big data and robotics, will end up creating a world in which it will be necessary to redefine what it means to be human, "he adds during an interview with EL PAÍS.

Zhu, who develops facial recognition systems and algorithms for medical diagnostics, advances that "many of the things that we now consider essential for the performance of our lives and our training will no longer be so." And he warns that it is not science fiction, but something that will happen in the next 10 or 20 years. In addition, this scientist is convinced that this new technological stage will be led by a country: China.

Zhu supports this prediction with three arguments. "First, because both the Chinese population and the government are much more receptive to new technologies than the rest. This has allowed business opportunities to abound in the market and investment in R & D has skyrocketed. Second, because there are many people who, like me, have trained in elite centers around the world and return to China to put what they have learned into practice and go further. And third, because nobody can match the demographic weight of the country. The 1,400 million inhabitants create economies of scale and challenges that are an incentive to develop technologies such as artificial intelligence, which in China has more practical applications than in other countries, "he concludes.

The statistics seem to be right. Last year, the Asian giant allocated 1.79 trillion yuan (238.6 billion euros) to research. It is a growth of 14% compared to 2016 and 70.9% more when compared to the figure of 2012. And the second world power still has room for growth because its investment in R & D is only 2, 1% of GDP. It exceeds 9 decimals to that of Spain, but is still 7 tenths behind the United States and 1.2 points below Germany. "China needs access to the group of the most innovative countries and become a great power by 2050," hailed Minister of Science and Technology, Wan Gang.

China is also the country with the most students outside its borders. According to figures from the Ministry of Education, last year 608,400 Chinese people traveled abroad to train. 11.74% more than in 2016. The number of Chinese students who returned to their country also grew at a similar rate -11.19% - and reached 480.900. Of those, 227,400 returned with a master's degree or a higher degree. Since China decided to open up to the world, this year four decades ago, more than 5.1 million Chinese have studied abroad.

"Statistics show that between 1978 and 2017 the number of returnees has grown gradually. In total, 3.1 million - 83.73% - have returned to China, "the ministry stresses. As if that were not enough, last year eight million Chinese graduated from the country's universities, a figure that is twice that of the United States and nearly 10 times that of China in 1997. The good results of Shanghai in the PISA report also reflect the great investment made in the education sector. According to forecasts of The Economist Intelligence Unit, China will lead the world in number of graduates in STEM studies (science, technology, engineering and mathematics).

Many of them find work in a growing number of Chinese technology companies, which have also become a magnet for foreign talent. "China's economic development began with the delocalisation of production. Foreign companies came to manufacture cheap, export to their markets and thus increase their profits. But the Chinese government enacted legislation that, in the long run, has favored the transfer of technology and the increase in the quality of life and the purchasing power of the population. This situation has made local companies competitive in many sectors and the Chinese market is a great economic driver ", explains Xu Bin, vice-dean of the China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS).

China is since 2014 the main commercial power of the world -2.55 billion euros last year, according to the World Bank, and now wants to make a qualitative leap with the Made in China 2025 plan, a government initiative that will promote the development of 10 industries that he considers key to leading the world: from electric vehicles - for which the Government has announced the installation of half a million electric stations by 2020 and in which China already represents more than half of global sales, with 800,000 units sold in 2017 - to the new materials industry, going through robotics - its goal is to sell 100,000 robots manufactured in China in 2020 - or rail technology - it has a high speed network that exceeds the sum of the rest of the world-.

The local multinationals have picked up the glove. "The 2G was led by Nokia, 3G belonged to Apple and Samsung, in 4G we already see strong Chinese competition, and we are convinced that the 5G world will be led by our companies," says ZTE's vice president, Zeng Xuezhong. Huawei, its main competitor in the manufacture of telecommunications equipment, agrees. "The 5G is China's great opportunity," says Shao Yang, its vice president of Strategy.

The majority refers to the future potential of China, but already leads some sectors. It is the country that has revolutionized electronic payments thanks to the rapid adoption of systems such as Alipay or TenPay: last year, Chinese consumers paid with their mobiles products and services worth 81 trillion yuan (1.44 trillion euros) . On the other hand, Xiaomi has created the largest intelligent ecosystem in the world thanks to its investments in dozens of start-ups that develop their particular vision of the smart home, and other technology companies are following in their footsteps at full speed.

Another of the fields in which China is taking the baton is that of autonomous vehicles. For this, cities such as Shanghai or Beijing have granted licenses that allow companies such as NIO or Baidu to test their driverless cars in real streets in different peripheral neighborhoods in real conditions. "We want to take the initiative to create an environment that encourages innovation and the development of driverless vehicles", justified the vice-president of the Commission of Economy and Computerization of Shanghai, Huang Ou, during the inauguration of the pilot area that the Megalopolis has established in the Jiading district for testing.

The Communist Party has set out to make 30 million autonomous vehicles circulate along its roads - or with a high degree of automation - in the next 10 years. "We are taking the first steps for China to be a pioneer in this industry," says the deputy director of the pilot zone, Chen Hailin. "And we want this example to guide many others so that the country can develop the potential of its economic power and its human capital," he says.

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