JD.com Utilizes 5G to Advance its Mission for the Future

At this point in our lives, wireless internet has become so fully woven into the fabric of our society that we hardly have to give it a second thought. As the world becomes increasingly reliant on mobile and internet-related devices, cellular technology has needed to evolve with it in order to keep up with increasing demand, with the latest iteration “5G” being the most advanced and set to generate a variety of new applications, uses and business cases as the technology is rolled out. According to a study conducted by the semiconductor company Qualcomm, 5G has the potential to support a broad range of industries and enable up to $13.1 trillion worth of goods and services, while its value chain alone could support up to 22.8 million jobs – more than one job for every person in Beijing, China.

In order for this global economic impact to come to fruition, companies will need to work to help fully realize the potential of 5G. One such company is JD, China’s largest retailer both on and offline, which is playing a significant role in supporting the expansion of 5G in China. Not only has the company worked to bring 5G shopping experiences to its retail customers, but has also led the technological innovation of 5G across multiple sectors, providing operators and 5G device enterprises with industrial support and developing advancements in everything from healthcare to logistics.

Today one of the largest ecommerce companies in the world, JD.com has experienced a meteoric rise in the two decades since its humble beginning. Richard Liu, founder and chief executive officer of the company, began the business as a tiny stall in an electronics bazaar on the streets of Beijing, and within five years had transformed the company into a chain of 12 brick-and-mortar electronics stores across China. A temporary closure of those locations due to the SARS epidemic lockdowns saw Liu turn a difficult situation into an opportunity as he began to post his merchandise on the then still burgeoning internet and soon moved his business entirely online.

As JD.com has grown it has increasingly moved beyond retail, developing a robust logistics network, making considerable investments into research and development and building a healthcare branch that has helped China advance its telehealth sector. In 2020, Liu updated the company’s strategic positioning to better reflect its goals, transforming from that of an ecommerce business to “a supply chain-based technology and service company.” Their new mission, “powered by technology for a more productive and sustainable world,” also reflects this desire to have a bigger impact on China and the world as a whole, and through 5G advancements across the board they have moved closer to reaching their goal.

As 5G has begun to be adapted by cell phone carriers and manufacturers, JD Retail has seen a significant increase in the popularity of their phones on their ecommerce website. In the first two quarters of 2021 sales volume of 5G mobile phones increased by 400 percent when compared with the previous year. Transaction volume of televisions with 5G network capabilities increased by 100 percent as of August 2021, and 5G routers increased by 120 percent in that same time period. Between January and July of 2021, the number of 5G brands on JD.com increased by 104 percent, the number of 5G products increased by 158 percent, and users increased 95 percent, all when compared with the same period last year. This explosive growth within the category is indicative of the prevalence with which 5G is increasingly being found, and as a result JD has built a series of 5G applications in both ecommerce and retail scenarios, including implementing augmented reality and virtual reality into their shopping solutions, live streaming, and providing cloud shelf solutions based on 5G technology to its offline retail partners. 

JD has become known for its extensive logistical network, developed in-house early in the company’s online journey. Rather than rely on third parties for its logistical needs JD has worked to build a frame that allows it to offer same-day delivery on nearly all of its orders, and much of these capabilities have been driven by the implementation of 5G technology. The resulting JD Logistics has become a full-fledged company in its own right, having made its own debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in 2021. The company’s first fully automated smart logistics park in Beijing has been powered by 5G since 2019 – the first in China to do so – and in 2020 it enabled the full operation of warehousing robots powered by 5G in a demo lab at one of its warehouses. For the new year, JD Logistics intends to launch 5G-enabled warehousing robots at scale and establish standardized warehouses, logistics parks and 5G smart logistic products and solutions.

Another branch of JD.com that has become its own distinct arm in the company is JD Health, which made its debut on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange in December of 2020. In light of the coronavirus pandemic that rocked the globe, JD Health was instrumental in ensuring that the people of China were able to continue receiving quality medical care from the comfort of their own homes, introducing a standalone telehealth app that allowed for consultations with doctors in a number of specialities including cardiologists, psychologists and general health practitioners. 5G is extensively utilized within JD Health’s smart healthcare services, including in its Family Doctor Guardian Star smart sneaker which is integrated with JD Health’s Family Doctor telemedicine service program. Customers can use the speaker’s smart voice command technology connected via 5G to call their general practitioner for video or telephone consultations and also make face-to-face appointments with ease and convenience.

JD Technology is the glue that binds the advancements in every other branch of JD together, and their developments in 5G technology are what have spurred growth for these other areas. The solutions developed by JD Technology often have applications well beyond the sole interests of JD itself, such as its “Industrial Brain” project which promotes the transformation of traditional manufacturing, enhancing production efficiency while also lowering operation costs. While much of manufacturing has been automated in recent years, the quality assurance procedure is one that is still labor-intensive, with a single smartphone requiring at least 20 seconds of manual inspection by an employee. By utilizing 5G, JD’s Industrial Brain uses sensors including cameras to simulate the functions of human hands, eyes and ears, with artificial intelligence algorithms simulating the cognitive and execution abilities. Through 5G technology, the time of a quality assurance procedure in the manufacturing industry can be accelerated by nearly 15 times.

During the 2021 World 5G Convention, Lei Xu, chief executive officer of JD Retail, said that 5G has become a “must” and the accelerator of industrial development. Indeed, its technology and applications are already profoundly impacting user experience, and with speeds up to 100 times faster than 4G, 5G is creating unprecedented opportunities for development in the world. With the power to advance societies and transform industries, companies like JD.com are recognizing the importance of utilizing 5G to its full potential, and have put it to work in facilitating its mission of creating a smarter, safer and more sustainable future.

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