China’s Tech Giants Are Back to Work, and Here Is How They Did It

According to official statistics, China’s fight with the COVID-19 epidemic has so far been successful. The number of cases is consistently going down with domestic infections nearing zero, while imported cases are under strict control. Employees of some large enterprises have returned to offices after roughly two months of working from home. Yet, resumption of normal operations has come at a price for Chinese companies.

Chinese telecom giant Huawei is currently enforcing a strict epidemic prevention and control protocol on its campuses. The company has built a smart campus anti-epidemic solution using its cloud, AI, and big data capabilities and other technological means. 

Huawei combines infrared thermal imaging and facial recognition to keep track of personnel’s body temperature. The company’s system is capable of identifying whether a person is wearing a mask and even tracing their movements throughout the campus. It also serves as a contactless pass, allowing employees to open doors and gain access to certain areas of the campus by simply scanning their faces.

Robots have played an especially important role in helping the tech behemoth deal with the impact of the epidemic. Huawei is using robotic solutions for disinfection, temperature measurement, cleaning, distribution and even security. All of these scenarios have already been tested on Huawei’s main campus.

Another Chinese tech powerhouse, Lenovo, chose a slightly different approach, providing employees with free medical supplies, including masks that can be replaced every four hours, hand sanitizer and disinfectants. The company also regularly measures employees’ body temperature, requires lab personnel to disinfect their shoes, hats and work clothes, while the factory area, dormitories and warehouses are disinfected and ventilated once per shift.

Xiaomi, as a much younger contender for China’s tech throne, resumed operations way earlier than many of its counterparts. The company had several high-profile releases slated for the beginning of the year and decided not to hold back its plans. 

Xiaomi resumed operations via cloud office platforms on Feb. 3 and by Feb. 10, summoned some employees back to the office to prepare for the release of the Xiaomi 10 series, a highly anticipated flagship 5G smartphone lineup that became the first major smartphone release of the year.

A Weibo post by Lin Bin, cofounder and vice chairman of Xiaomi, about the company’s resumption of work, became a hot topic on the platform. Users debated Xiaomi’s decision to continue operations despite the almost palpable threat.

As of March 19, Xiaomi had resumed operations for over 80% of its supply chain, according to Wang Xiang, the president of the company. The phone-maker is preparing to launch another flagship 5G handset, the Redmi K30 Pro, at a virtual press conference on March 24.

To protect its employees from COVID-19, Xiaomi‘s administrative department has prepared “three-piece kits” that it distributes throughout the company’s offices. These include hand sanitizer, an alcohol-based disinfection spray, and medical masks.

Another Chinese smartphone-maker, OPPO, has not only resumed work but has also allocated part of its factory capacity to mask production. Vivo, OPPO’s sister brand also owned by BBK Electronics, is also up and running. In addition to the conventional prevention and control measures, OPPO and Vivo have developed health check-in apps for their employees, who are required to check in daily and provide all necessary information requested by the app to contain the spread of the virus. 

OPPO is not the only Chinese company using its resources for mask production. BYD, SAIC, and GAC Group, three major local car manufacturers have been quite active on that front, while other mobility payers like Geely have decided to take a different path and dedicate their efforts to developing a whole new concept of “healthy vehicles.” The company has already announced that it would invest 370 million yuan in developing, essentially, a car with virus protection functions, and a full-capacity N95 vehicle purification system.