China Deploys 5G Patrol Robots to Monitor the Spread of the Coronavirus

March 23, 2020 by Luke James

From using drones to scold citizens for not wearing masks in public to deploying robot assistants in hospitals to deliver medical goods and conduct disinfection operations, China has been using a largely tech-led approach to tackle its coronavirus outbreak.

In the Chinese city of Yinchuan, a drone can be heard hovering overhead, scanning for citizens walking the streets unmasked. Suddenly, it shouts: 

“You there! The gentleman wearing a red coat holding an umbrella in your left hand—yes, you. You are not wearing a face mask, please put one on immediately. If you do not have one, come to the police car and we will provide you with one,”

No—this isn’t a passage that has been taken from Orwell’s 1984; 5G-powered patrolling robots and drones have been deployed in certain Chinese cities to monitor the spread of sickness, remind people to wash their hands, and make sure that masks are being donned. 

And with the news in mid-March that China had closed its last coronavirus hospital as cases fell, with most new infections coming from abroad, could this tech-savvy approach be responsible? 


A 5G patrol robot.

A 5G patrol robot. Image credited to Xinhua


Monitoring Body Temperature with Robots

As part of its effort to contain the spread of COVID-19 coronavirus, China has also been using these robots and drones to keep tabs on citizens’ body temperatures in public places. 

The already-existing police patrol robots developed by Guangzhou Gosuncn Robot Co. Ltd—a leading provider of smart city IoT products and services—were upgraded with new capabilities to assist first-line responders in conducting disease prevention inspections and exercises. 

According to the China News Service website, these features include high-resolution cameras and infrared thermometers that are capable of scanning the temperatures of up to 10 people at once who are in a radius of 5 meters. If one of these robots discovers somebody who is not wearing a mask or who has a high temperature, an alert is sent to the authorities. 

And although these robots are autonomous, they can be controlled remotely, thereby saving manpower, reducing pressure on already stretched emergency services, and limiting the potential for cross-infection. 


Disinfection China Robot Hospital

Medical staff controlling a disinfection robot at Renmin Hospital at Wuhan University. Image credited to Xinhua 


Powered by an Industrial Edge Computer

The 5G robots integrate IoT, AI, cloud computing, and big data technologies to carry out environmental sensing, decision making on the fly, and autonomous motion control. Naturally, this requires a lot of computing power which is provided by a high-performance industrial edge computer with an 8th gen Intel Core processor and a GPU iModule. Combined, the processor and GPU provide a high-performance system for AI training and inference. 

Other key areas where the robots have been deployed include airports and shopping malls in the cities of Guangzhou, Shanghai, Xi’an, and Guiyang. 

Robots have also played a huge role in hospitals as part of China’s nationwide battle against the virus. According to a Bloomberg report, robots equipped with cameras enable remote video communication, patient health monitoring, and the safe and contact-free delivery of critical medical goods are being seen more and more in China’s hospitals.