Day 3 in China came pretty quickly. I’d already started to get used to what it looked, sounded and felt like being in Beijing – I’d acclimatised. I was still absorbing all the pieces of information I’d learnt from the Lenovo HQ trip, and figured another big day of learning was ahead.
We all loaded onto a bus for a 90 minute ride to the China National Convention Centre as Yanqi Lake, where we departed and immediately walked into some sort of security shouting about a drone being flown overhead, as apparently it wasn’t legal to fly anything on government land – I haven’t verified that claim, but civilian security seemed to be much more of a focus than what I’m used to in Australia – in fact, I felt a lot safer in Beijing due to the frequent presence of officers of some sort, but with a population of the city almost as much as the entire continent of Australia, I can imagine it’s needed.
The hall itself was a very well designed and clean setup, giant screens on the back, lots of lighting effects and a seat with my name on it, along with a transmitter. The event itself was to be communicated in Chinese, and interpreters would convert it to English on the fly for us to listen to. This experience of focusing on the noise coming from the headset vs watching the person on stage and listening to them took a few minutes to adjust to, but was fine after that. The interpreters did a good job of keeping up, and occasionally seamlessly swapped around.
The next two and a half hours, we heard from several executives of Lenovo including the CEO, Yang Yuanqing. What information this contained was all new to me – for all I knew, Lenovo made computer type hardware, and some accompanying software. Little did I know what their business integrations and aspirations were, and here’s my rundown on what I learnt:
Lenovo was heavily investing in SIoT (Smart Internet of Things), machine learning, and AI. Usually buzzwords, but they conveyed how this would be used in the real world. For example, they had a focus on smart transportation. Not just smart cars, but looking at the entire environment a car was in, and having all devices find out about what else was going on. Cars would be aware of other cars around them and their speeds, the status of traffic lights ahead and so on, with a goal of having safer and better driverless cars that used information they were fed from the other devices, rather than being a car in isolation relying on what the car could detect with cameras and sensors.
Similar logic was being applied to the Finance, Healthcare, and Manufcaturing industries – have all these parts talk back and and then drive what they do. The difference between IoT and SIoT seemed to be that the ‘smart’ was a two way thing, rather than IoT devices being purely reporting points to feed back data. Their way of putting this was: Data + Computing Power + Algoriths = Data Intelligence:
These changes Lenovo saw as leading to a few high level outcomes:
Intelligence creates disruption to industries around the world, and Quality of life would be improved.
Next we had a video from Satya Nadella, CEO of Microsoft who’d recorded a short message talking about how important the partnership between Microsoft and Lenovo was, and that both companies planned to continue to work together for the future.
Then, a big announcement. A partnership between Lenovo and Schneider Electric. This was around customer solutions that would use Schneider electric hardware and systems, but use Lenovo’s SIoT technology and infrastructure to help drive efficiencies on power usage – their combined goal was to use their synergised systems to reduce power consumption for their customers, knowing that global warming is a looming threat to all of us.
We then dove deeper into some of the areas the keynote speech had covered. Artificial Intelligence for IT Operations was one area, where they compared engineering staff going over log files to find a problem. It would take 2 Senior Engineer 2 days to identify a problem in their example (which I don’t have more details of sorry), vs 1 Engineer 2 hours using Lenovo’s AI driven solution.
I also found out that Lenovo already had a partnership with McDonalds China by having an Energy Management System installed that monitored electricity and water usage amonst other things. Again, these were areas I had no idea Lenovo even played in until this event!
I’m glossing over many details – but the event ended with all the speakers coming out and celebrating the day; puffs of snoke exploded with lots of clapping, and with that the first day’s main event was done!
Afterwards I headed around the 4 floor building exploring. Most of it was aimed at the business side of things that other businesses in particular industries would be interested in, but wasn’t for me personally.
There was something I did find interesting though – Lenovo had a big popup store selling items. There’s a whole product line I didn’t know about called ‘ThinkPlus’ and they sell a bunch of different techy/business items that seemed to be pretty good quality including laptops, air purifiers, suitcases, portable hard drives, chargers, robot vaccuums, scooters, and many, many more things:
The people running the store were very nice, and because I kept hassling them asking about things I was given two gifts! A Lenovo Kids Education Robot which wasn’t actually for sale, and only spoke Chinese, plus a makeup mirror with LED light and powerbank to charge a mobile phone! Quite rightly they said I should probably buy something since I was getting these gifts, so bought another powerbank , but this one had a games system built into it. That cost me about 160CNY so it was a good deal. (Later I would learn a harsh lesson – you’re not supposed to put batteries in your checked-in luggage. I lost the makeup mirror along with another battery I bought that actually charges laptops, but had the games powerbank in my carry-on so that made it through).
I’ve played with the robot a bit, and tried to use a Chinese language converter. I can’t get it onto wifi yet, but I know it talks using WeChat – one day I’ll have some time and work this out! Instead all it can do is sing Christmas songs in Chinese to me.
A tech demo I found was Lenovo’s current unnamed AR glasses. These were planned to be released in 2020 sometime, and gave the wearer 3 virtual desktops to use in a high resolution. They had them demoed on airplane seats, to show that you could use a keyboard/mouse and have these glasses as your screens, needing less space than trying to squish on the table tray with your laptop. You could also block the AR part and use them as pure VR, say if you wanted to watch a movie. I quite liked this one and look forward to seeing how it progresses.
Another thing I learnt was that it was Lenovo’s 35th anniversary!
We headed back from the first day, had yet another amazing dinner and got some rest for day 2 of Lenovo Tech World.
On the day itself I of course tweeted a bunch of things, and here’s a thread of it for anyone interested:
There’ll be a few more posts about my trip soon!