One of my friends from Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province, sent a unique birthday gift to her father recently.
The custom-built air conditioner had the calligraphy aficionado's favorite phrase — "Tian Dao Chou Qin", or "God Rewards the Diligent" — embossed in Chinese, with the AC also sporting his preferred color and style.
I am really excited that consumers can now be product designers, supervisors in the manufacturing process and beneficiaries of intelligent technology. Gone are the days when she was just a passive buyer with no say in any of the features of a product.
The industrial internet, a new type of manufacturing automation that combines advanced machines, internet-connected sensors and big data analysis, is driving this revolutionary approach to the production of customized products.
This is expected to boost productivity and reduce costs in industrial production.
China's industrial internet sector has developed rapidly in recent years.
According to the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the country has nurtured over 240 industrial internet platforms that have strong regional and industry influence, with more than 81 million units of industrial equipment connected to the platforms, which have served 250,000 enterprises covering over 40 key industries.
The revenue of China's core industries related to industrial internet reached more than 1.2 trillion yuan ($168.4 billion) in 2022, up 15.5 percent year-on-year, said the China Academy of Information and Communications Technology.
The ministry said in a work plan released last year that it will promote the application of superfast 5G wireless technology in the industrial internet and support initial public offerings of eligible industrial internet companies.
It will further propel the application of 5G plus industrial internet in the consumption sector, as well as accelerate innovation of key technologies to advance the digital transformation of enterprises, as per the plan.
China's largest home appliance maker Haier Group has built an industrial internet platform, COSMOPlat, which allows companies to customize products quickly and at scale by collecting and analyzing data from consumers, suppliers and factories with internet-connected sensors, while boosting productivity and cutting costs.
China's accelerated push to boost the development of the industrial internet will inject new vitality into the country's industrial economy, enhance the competitiveness of manufacturing on the global stage and empower high-quality development of the digital economy.
"The application of digital technologies has been expanded from the consumption to the production field. In particular, new industrial forms such as the industrial internet are taking shape, which has become a new engine driving the growth of the digital economy and has shown remarkable development potential," said Liu Xiangdong, a researcher with the China Center for International Economic Exchanges.
Liu said the booming industrial internet will see surging demand for accuracy in data acquisition, transmission speed, storage space, computing capacities and intelligent application. This will, therefore, drive the development of big data and cloud computing infrastructure and foster a batch of industrial internet companies with global competitiveness.
The industrial internet should be established on the basis of traditional industries and information and communication technology, said Ni Guangnan, an academician at the Chinese Academy of Engineering.
Greater efforts must go into facilitating the development of the industrial internet, which will boost the long-term international competitiveness of China's manufacturing industry, Ni said.