China's Internet era: Changing the way we eat
Pan Zhaoyi

Technology has revolutionized China's catering industry in ways beyond our imagination.

From app-based food delivery services to robot-aided restaurants, people's eating habits have been totally transformed thanks to recent innovations. 

In the catering vertical, the food delivery business has been one of the biggest players, feeding off of people's busy lifestyles and late-night food cravings. 

Apps have made food widely accessible. A couple taps on their phones give them access to any type of food, at any time, from any place. 

Robot-aided restaurant in Shenzhen /VCG Photo

Robot-aided restaurant in Shenzhen /VCG Photo

According to an industry report published by EO Intelligence, the annual revenue of China's catering industry has reached 3.9 trillion yuan (578.2 billion U.S. dollars) in 2017, with food delivery service contributing 204.6 billion yuan (30.3 billion U.S. dollars).

China's food delivery industry has seen an 8.4 times increase from 2011 to 2017, its customer base is now able to compete with the country's top e-commerce platform – Alibaba's Taobao. 

AI+IoT: building the next-generation delivery system

Driven by new technology, delivery itself has become much smarter. 

Meituan, a Tencent-backed online food delivery service platform, has published a new system featuring instant delivery service and smart applications.

The artificial intelligence (AI) system estimates the delivery time, works out the optimal route and the available deliveryman within seconds based on the data collected from their employees, food vendors, customers, and surrounding environment.

Users are able to check the order's arrival time, the delivery route, and locate the person who ferries their order since all of information is available on their smartphones.

Concept vehicle for food delivery /VCG Photo

Concept vehicle for food delivery /VCG Photo

Besides the real-time delivery system, deliverymen are equipped with cutting-edge IoT devices like smart scooters, voice-assistant powered helmets, self-controlled food-distribution boxes which can adjust the inside temperature automatically.

Shuttling between streets, deliverymen's safety concern is always a top priority. The new generation scooter increases driver safety by freeing their hands, while allowing them to access the information needed to deliver packages on the scooter's dashboard. 

Meanwhile the distribution box at the back of the scooter also has specific functionality to keep carriers safe by casting a "safety following distance" light automatically at night. The electricity it needs comes from the solar panel lid.

In the food delivery sector at least, people are hungry for more. 

(CGTN's Zang Shijie, Ge Kai also contributed to this story.)