Vanke is betting on robots. The Shenzhen-based real estate company sees them caring for the elderly and working as security guards, beginning with a robot called “Black Cat No. 1” that will sound an alarm when strangers approach.
“Vanke Management will release its first robot, Black Cat No. 1,” said Zhu Baoquan, Vanke Management CEO. Black Cat No. 1 is the name of a popular sheriff character from a Chinese cartoon.
The robot uses facial recognition to tell the difference between people who should be in an area and strangers who should not be there.
If a stranger approaches a Vanke housing compound, the robot will set off an alarm.
Vanke is collaborating with a local robot research center, according to Shenzhen Economic Daily yesterday. Vanke will also work on producing smart household appliances.
“Currently, a research institute is working on a robot named Roby-Mini ... with functions like preventing thieves and attending to elderly people,” said a person who is in charge of the program with Vanke. The newspaper didn’t identify the person.
The Fifth Canteen, a chain of restaurants owned by Vanke, already has eight out of its 20 outlets using robots to cook meals.
An area called Vanke Cloud Robot X Cafe was launched at a Vanke property in Guangzhou in January. It will host robot-themed salons and events.
The robots will do dangerous and repetitive work. The name of the robot research center was not disclosed, with a manager of the product saying it was confidential.
“We hope we can make robots serve better,” said Wang Shi, chairman of Vanke’s board of directors, Monday. Vanke hopes to transform itself from a real estate developer into a service provider.
Wang said the work with robots is to adapt to the growing population of elderly people. He said the number of staff working for Vanke will pass 1 million in 10 years. At the same time the number of the elderly will be at a record number.
“To compensate for a labor shortage, at least 30 percent of our service positions at Vanke-managed properties will be replaced by robots in 10 years. The use of robots for community service will happen sooner than we expect,” said Wang.
Midea and Foxconn have attempted the use of industrial robots.
“Industrial robots have higher standards of accuracy, while service robots focus more on smart functions. If Vanke can successfully develop and produce more service robots, it will be a breakthrough for our nation’s robot industry,” said an expert.