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Panasonic, Midea, and Robotics Upstart Address Aging Population in China

UBTech Robotics showcases service robot for mobility-impaired users. China's "silver economy" reaches 10 trillion yuan and projected to exceed 20 trillion yuan by 2027. iFlytek offers health management services for older adults through voice-activated remote control.

As China's population continues to age, technology-powered solutions are gaining momentum in addressing the needs of the elderly. Both local and international players are seizing opportunities in this growing field.

UBTech Robotics, a robotics upstart, showcased its service robot at its headquarters in Shenzhen. The robot, designed to assist mobility-impaired users, can be easily controlled from a screen and has the ability to navigate around obstacles. A company representative mentioned that the robot is already being used in nursing care facilities in China and has received positive feedback in Japan.

Founded in 2012, UBTech has been developing robots for various applications, including logistics and cleaning. The company recently listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange and has shifted its focus towards developing robots specifically for older adults. These products aim to aid in physical therapy and provide companionship.

The "silver economy" in China, which refers to industries targeting older adults, reached 10 trillion yuan ($1.4 trillion) in 2022 and is projected to exceed 20 trillion yuan by 2027, according to iiMedia Research. This growing market has attracted the attention of many technology companies.

iFlytek, a leading voice recognition provider, offers older adults a way to manage their health through their TVs. The service tracks heart rates and blood oxygen levels using a voice-activated remote control and provides AI-based health consultations.

Tencent Holdings has developed a compact smartphone that can notify family members of unusual movements, providing an extra layer of safety for older adults. While the product is not currently planned for commercialisation, Tencent continues to explore new technologies that can assist the elderly.

In the realm of home appliances, Midea launched a brand of kitchen and bathroom products specifically targeting seniors in 2021. The lineup includes an AI-powered stove that can adjust burners to prevent accidents such as heating up an empty pot.

Some companies are seeking expertise from Japan, which has been dealing with an aging population for a longer period of time. For example, a state-of-the-art assisted-living facility in Yixing, Jiangsu province, equipped with high-tech features, has drawn inspiration from Japanese housing and urban design. The facility, developed by Yada International Holdings in collaboration with Panasonic Holdings, has seen strong demand since its opening in February 2023.

UBTech has also partnered with Medical Care Service, a nursing care unit of Japan's Gakken Holdings, to leverage AI and robots in enhancing the productivity of caregivers.

Recognising the importance of addressing the needs of the aging population, the Chinese government has released a 26-point document outlining support for related industries. The plan includes establishing industrial clusters, promoting the use of robotics, and reducing barriers to entry for private-sector companies.

However, despite the significant demand, many companies in this field are struggling to turn a profit due to intense competition. Additionally, a significant number of older adults are unaware of the services available to them.

With China's population continuing to age, the number of people aged 65 and older is expected to surpass 300 million in the 2030s, putting a strain on nursing care and medical resources.

  • UBTech Robotics showcases service robot for mobility-impaired users

  • China's "silver economy" reaches 10 trillion yuan and projected to exceed 20 trillion yuan by 2027

  • iFlytek offers health management services for older adults through voice-activated remote control

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