How tech is helping during the pandemic

By Charlene Chin
/ EdgeProp Singapore |
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SINGAPORE (EDGEPROP) - Covid-19 has forced companies to adopt and scale digital solutions at an unprecedented pace. In the retail sector, e-commerce has helped to ensure business survival. Cloud-based working tools and video conferencing have helped office staff to operate remotely from home. Meanwhile, players in commercial real estate have utilised virtual reality to conduct site visits and interior viewings, while AI has been used by facilities management to track crowds in buildings. Amid Covid-19, CBRE highlights how various industries in China’s real estate have remained nimble:

1. Retailers adapt to virtual environments

Shopping mall landlords in China have allowed shoppers to visit malls and stores from their homes. These include Shanghai’s Mixc, which has been using a VR channel to aid visualisation and merchandising. Users navigate their way, via their touchscreen devices, in a 360° tour inside the mall and view images of products and their price tags, before purchasing items.
The result? The mall’s VR channel recorded more than 500,000 views and raked in RMB500,000 ($100,796) in sales over the Valentine’s Day weekend.
Such platforms also help landlords and retailers improve insights into consumer behaviour, gathering intel related to merchandising, advertising and marketing.
Other efforts to drive sales include live-streaming to boost retail merchandising. Intime Department store partnered with influencers to host live-streaming sales events, fostering a “see now, buy now” culture. Chinese skincare brand Forest Cabin boosted sales by 45% y-o-y within 15 days of live-streaming in February. Various fitness centres have also set up live-streaming classes via social media platforms.
As a testament to the technology’s heightened demand, Taobao Live reported a 110% y-o-y increase in live-streaming sessions on its platform since January 2020.

2. Office turns to cloud, digital project management and video-conferencing

Many employees in the government and private sector have been forced to work from home, limiting social contact. The cloud has played a crucial role in supporting remote working, connecting users with their enterprise databases.
Usage for video-conferencing platforms such as Zoom, Blue Jeans, Cisco’s WebEx, Alibaba’s Ding Talk and Tencent’s WeChat Meeting has surged in recent months. In particular, Zoom registered more than 2.22 million new monthly active users between January and February, after just adding 1.99 new million users for the full year of 2019.
Project and workflow management platforms that foster remote collaboration have also seen rapid take-up rates, including Microsoft 365 Suite, FeiShu, Jingoal and Teambition. Those in human resources have turned to Beisen and Moka, while staff who deal with sales and client management are using software such as Salesforce and FXiaoke.

3. Autonomous vehicles, drones deliver food and goods

Logistics providers have deployed autonomous vehicles to conduct neighbourhood deliveries. Meituan — a group-buying website for local food delivery and retail services — used autonomous vehicles guided by 5G networks to deliver food and grocery orders in Beijing’s Shunyi district. and Suning played to the same tune in other cities.
In hotels, autonomous vehicles have been used to deliver food to guest rooms and conduct disinfection.
Drones have also been of help. ran a drone service in the rural areas of Hubei province in February — the peak of its outbreak — to deliver packaged snacks, electronics and daily necessities within a range of 2km. The drones have also flown around cities to broadcast information in affected Chinese neighbourhoods, instructing them to stay home.

4. Facility management adopt AI

The outbreak has placed an emphasis on building security and crowd management. In China, Megvii and Baidu run AI-enabled scanners that send alerts to buildings and office managers when they detect a person with an abnormal body temperature. Collected data can also help inform cleaning works to ensure building hygiene.

5. Robots and automation help in warehouses

The surge in e-commerce sales due to the outbreak has turned the spotlight on logistic requirements — warehouse and logistics networks suffer from considerable strain as providers struggle to balance demand with a severe shortage of labour and movement restriction.
Tools that rely on less manpower now include robotics and AI-controlled automation systems in warehouses to fulfil inventory management, sorting, order-picking, scheduling and distribution.
A leader in warehouse automation is, which has built 25 automated distribution centres across the country.
Beyond China, Yusen recently opened a robotic warehouse in Singapore featuring an automated storage and order-picking system.
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