Emerging Industries (Bi-Monthly Newsletter, Issue 13)

Date: 25 Aug 2016
China’s Internet of Things (IoT) industry set to surge following the commercial deployment of 5G technology by 2020
It is believed that 2020 will mark the start of the initial adoption of the 5G wireless network in China, U.S.A, Japan, and Europe. Many telecom operators, telecom equipment manufacturers, and mobile phone chip makers have made an effort to research and develop (R&D) the 5G technology and China’s top three telecom operators have all mapped out their plans to ensure commercial deployment of the 5G network by 2020.
Zhang Feng, Chief Engineer of the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, said that China will kick off the commercial adoption of the 5G network by 2020. China started 5G technology R&D officially in January 2016, and tests will be carried out from 2016-2018 in three stages: key technology verification, technical solution verification, and system verification.
The 5G technology is expected to drive its own technical revolution. 5G technology will allow data traffic to increase from 100Mb/s (under 4G technology) to tens of Gb/s. It is believed that the extensive commercial applications of 5G technology will drive an exponential growth in many segments of the IoT industry, including internet of vehicles, big data, cloud computing, smart home and unmanned aerial vehicle, and will also spur the rise of artificial intelligence and smart manufacturing sectors.
China unveils guidelines to enhance service-orientated manufacturing sector
For the past few decades, China, dubbed the Workshop of the World, has been using advanced manufacturing equipment and technologies to manufacture products under other manufacturers’ names. As a result, less than 10% of the total operating revenue of its manufacturing firms have come from service offerings, far below the 30%+ enjoyed by developed countries and 70% for General Electric, an industry giant from the U.S.A..
To address the above concerns, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT), together with Chinese National Development and Reform Commission and China Academy of Engineering, jointly released a guideline calling for improvements to be made in the service-oriented manufacturing sector and outlines targets to be achieved by Chinese manufacturing firms by 2018 to keep in pace with its international counterparts.
“Service-oriented manufacturing” refers to a new industrial segment that combines both manufacturing and service and encourages manufacturing firms to personalize, customize, and be more innovative with their production, operation management, and business practices. With the above transformation and upgrading efforts, Chinese manufacturing firms may focus more on service offerings, rather than merely product sales, and thus, add more value to their products, increasing their competitiveness and improving the productivity.
Outbound data roaming: blue sea market for virtual network operators expanding overseas
Each year more than 100 million Chinese travel abroad for business or vacation, and the number is expected to grow year by year. In this connection, many Chinese virtual network operators are competing to expand their business to the international communications market. Snail Mobile started to release international SIM cards to outbound Chinese travelers in June; 263Mobile cooperated with both Chinese and foreign telecom operators and terminal vendors to provide data roaming services to Chinese travelers. Sharing Mobile announced at the end of March that it will acquire Nigeria’s telecom operator GiCell and aims to export its telecom technology.
The virtual telecom network sector saw a rapid growth in the last couple of years since China allowed private investments into its mobile telecom sector. At the end of May 2016, virtual network operators in China saw 3.1 million users. Despite this huge user base, most Chinese virtual network operators have been losing money and are hence eager to seek profits from other markets. The internal telecommunications market is a blue sea highly sought after by these telecom operators due to its broader profit margin and is set to embrace a boom in the future.
Photovoltaic power sector sees robust growth
Statistics show that at the end of 2015, China installed a total of 43.18 gigawatts of photovoltaic power capacity, and for the first time, surpassed Germany as the country with the most installed solar capacity. Within just slightly more than 10 years, China has become the world’s biggest supplier of photovoltaic solar panels and started to set the pace for the solar power sector.
China previously saw a rapid growth in photovoltaic power and used to import low-cost solar panels to Europe and U.S.. This was because the sector was backed by favorable domestic policies, but encountered setbacks in 2012 when Europe and U.S. imposed anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tariffs on Chinese photovoltaic solar panels. This sector rebounded with the support of the Chinese State Council in 2013 and started exporting to Africa and the Middle East to reduce its reliance on European and U.S. markets.
Backed by favorable policies, China’s photovoltaic power sector have renewed their efforts in making technological breakthroughs and created an increasing number of core technologies with proprietary intellectual property rights. This sector is expected to grow faster in the coming future under the “One Belt, One Road” Initiative.
Stanford, IBM craft new catalyst for making biodegradable plastics
The development of plastics is one of the crowning achievements of the 20th century, but these petroleum-based plastics come with a hefty cost.
A group of chemists from Stanford University and IBM has developed new chemical approaches to generating biodegradable plastics efficiently and inexpensively. This catalyst is derived from recyclable materials and will be a promising alternative to petroleum-based plastics.
As with many chemical reactions, creating biodegradable polyesters requires the assistance of a catalyst – a special class of chemicals that increases the rate of a reaction or pushes it over the energy hurdle. The standard catalysts used to make biodegradable plastics are metal-based, which are difficult or expensive to remove from the final material, and do not degrade.
The new catalyst presented by the research group is made from common organic compounds and comes with a lower cost and a more friendly environmental impact. It is also highly tunable and can be used for many things. It can produce polylactic acid, a commercially compostable biodegradable polyester used in disposable plasticware, such as tableware, cups, plates, and forks. It also has medical applications for resorbable sutures, implants, and stents, as well as biomedical implants and drug delivery materials. Its function can also be extended to everyday items such as food packaging and non-woven fabrics.
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