Robots and drones to power China's annual shopping extravaganza
Updated 19:14, 12-Nov-2018
Over 1.87 billion express parcels are expected to be delivered across China and the rest of the world next week, China's State Post Bureau revealed on Wednesday, as eager customers have started planning and creating shopping lists in advance for the country's annual Singles' Day online shopping festival.  
The nationwide Singles' Day shopping extravaganza, known as "Double Eleven" as it falls on November 11, has been proven to be a stressful time for both E-commerce and logistics companies. To sort through the package overflow and speed up the shipping process, some industry leaders have turned to the latest technology for help, employing robots, drones and unmanned trucks to optimize the last mile delivery.
To better prepare for the upcoming shopping festival, Chinese E-commerce giant Alibaba, a main player of the "Double Eleven" competition, opened a 30,000 square-meter high-tech warehouse in east China's Wuxi City last month and hired 700 robots to improve sorting efficiency, Science and Technology Daily reported. 
Cainiao, a logistics firm majority-owned by Alibaba, unveiled China's biggest robot warehouse in east China's Wuxi city in Jiangsu Province on October 25. /VCG Photo

Cainiao, a logistics firm majority-owned by Alibaba, unveiled China's biggest robot warehouse in east China's Wuxi city in Jiangsu Province on October 25. /VCG Photo

The box-shaped robots, which are fully automated and computer-controlled, can read the shelves, pick up orders and deliver packages to designated shipping containers. They navigate around the warehouse without bumping into each other and are smart enough to recharge themselves when batteries run low. 
As the founder of the "Double Eleven" shopping festival, Alibaba processed over 812 million orders and raked in over 24 billion US dollars during last year's online shopping carnival. Alibaba's CEO Daniel Zhang claimed at a "Double Eleven" launch event last month that the company was expecting one billion packages to be delivered this year., a major competitor of Alibaba, is also a pioneer in robot warehouse. For this year's Singles' Day, the company has planned to have 50 unmanned warehouses in operation across China to speed up the order processing time.
The ambitious tech giant also told Science and Technology Daily that it would start a trial run of its intelligent delivery robots, which are able to navigate themselves around the town and hand over packages to customers.
An intelligent delivery robot made by /VCG Photo‍

An intelligent delivery robot made by /VCG Photo‍

The company also promised to continue delivering packages to remote, sparsely populated regions using its drone service.
A delivery drone. /VCG Photo

A delivery drone. /VCG Photo

Responsible for the last mile delivery are the express couriers. "Since this year online transactions during the 'Double Eleven' shopping festival are likely to reach a new record high, express delivery services, especially tail-end courier services, will be tested," Sun Kang, deputy director of the China Express Association, told 
Partnered with E-commerce retailers, companies including ZTO Express and Deppon Express have also incorporated artificial intelligence (AI) such as cloud video monitoring system to improve efficiency during the shopping extravaganza.
The smart surveillance system has cameras that not only monitor the safety of the warehouses but also calculate the stock and update the dispatching system.
"It's expected that after being tested this year, express couriers are likely to offer more solutions in last mile delivery services, not just for the 'Double Eleven' sales this year or the next, but for an indefinite future to come," the deputy director said.