Click is back in China on a mission to find out how our gadgets go from ideas to finished products. Plus the week's tech news.
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This week we are back in China on the hunt for innovation.
With gassy fabrics, liquid metal, and a good, solid meal...
It probably won't surprise you if I tell you China makes a lot
of stuff, but would you believe it makes quite this much?
In 2011, the country produced 90% of all computers, 80%
of all air conditioners and energy-saving lightbulbs,
70% of all cellphones, that's just over a billion of them,
and they also found time to make 63% of the world's shoes.
And much of all of that would have come from this place.
Welcome to the city of Shenzhen, in the Guangdong Province.
So much of the world's electronics come from Shenzhen.
So much of your electronics started life here.
Cases, components, chips, circuit boards.
Nestled away on the southern coast, it's called the Workbench of China,
Less than 40 years ago, only 30,000 people lived here.
And that explosive growth is built on foundations of silicon.
This week, I'm on a mission to find out how our things
And as the saying goes, when it comes to electronics,
This is the HAX, Hardware Accelerator, in downtown Shenzhen.
Each year, teams of hopeful entrepreneurs make a pilgrimage
to this place to plan, prototype and perfect
But before I show you around, time for a spot of lunch.
We call it micro foods, so it's insects as the new protein.
It is something that's been eaten for a very long time in all parts
The hive is the smallest possible footprint of producing protein
So better than plants, better than owning a cow?
Better than plants, definitely better than owning a cow.
You don't have to add additional water, they take it out
They can actually be mixed into any types of recipes.
In this way, we just roasted them, so they are just roasted and crispy.
But you can also make them into a meat patty and make
It's a shrimp that came on land a really long time ago.
Living Farms is only one of the companies currently
in residency, and there is no shortage of interesting ideas.
There's the roadie auto guitar tuner, the skiing boots that
track your skiing style, the orthopaedic foot insert that
analyses how you walk, there's the internet
of things farm monitor, and the remote control
This device takes liquid materials, special formulations,
and it converts them into nanofibres using an electric field.
What happens is this little spinning needle produces a fabric
Primarily, this machine is aimed at researchers right now.
We are looking to get into the market and help people
bring advanced textiles to a commercially viable
point by offering a fast, affordable lab machine.
Shenzhen has a wealth of manufacturers and vendors,
so for prospective in the bay area, there might be two CNC
There's hundreds, maybe thousands in Shenzhen, and they're quick,
cheap, they respond to text messages, and it allows us to do
work in a short amount of time for cheap.
It's high quality work as well, so good for manufacturing
HAX has been here since 2011, and over 100 companies
It's a little empty today because there is another HAX
office over in the US, and at the moment, everyone
is over there showing off their creations,
It's very bizarre that you're in San Francisco
Why do you have a space here and a space in San Francisco?
Yes, the early stage action is there, definitely,
and all of the entrepreneurs in the world who go to Shenzhen
and work with suppliers to build the best products to get to market,
but after investing and accelerating about 145 companies in the last few
years, I realised it was important to sell those products,
and it is equally difficult to sell a product as to build it.
So we have been building the next phase of the programme
The big appeal of HAX is that it is within a short walk
of some of the best and biggest electronic markets in the world.
That means instant access to the cornucopia of components
you will need to source if you want your thing
There, I said the word "thing" again.
The markets of Shenzhen are so vast that it would be foolhardy
So we are at Singapore Airport and heading to Hong Kong.
Andrew Huang, or Bunny for short, is an MIT alumnus, entrepreneur
That's hacker in the breaking and building stuff sense
He's a few written books, including Hacking The XBox,
and most recently, The Essential Guide
Our core product are the peel and stick electronic LEDs.
Today, Bunny is making the pilgrimage to Shenzhen,
I'm tagging along to find out what it is all about.
This is where I come to do a lot of searching
to see what is available, what is selling and not selling.
There are these cables here, and these cables there.
That's the whole idea of this market.
Discounts are easily 10-1 over what you can get in online retail
They are made here and then resold there.
And, I'm afraid to say, it's not long before I succumb
So far, we've only walked a couple of levels.
So if you can't find it on this floor, don't worry,
This guy's selling a variety of switches.
These are the battery holders inside toys.
Connectors you'd find inside mobile phones.
I could come here and ask her today, I want a wire that's a little bit
longer, and she'll go ahead and make up 1,000 for me and have them ready
A lot of times when I come to Shenzhen, I don't even
I buy everything I need as it's such a hassle to get
Then I just leave them in the hotel when I leave.
It's cheaper than paying for checked luggage.
They sell soldering irons, diagonal cutters, development kits
Within ten metres of here, you can probably get everything
you need to take some simple project and bring it into existence.
I've spent a decade here looking around.
By the time you walk from one end of the market to the other,
the beginning of the market has already reinvented itself.
Do you shake on it or have some kind of...?
It's a crazy thing where sometimes you say you need 10,000 of these
parts, and it's not a small amount of money.
A lot of times a person will come along and say, come
I could stiff them and not come with the money, and
And a lot of time they don't ask for a deposit.
Just come back and they will have them for you.
Rather you than me, if you do this regularly.
China is not all cables and chips, you know.
Then you rule books kicking in August. -- the new rules. Microsoft
researchers have dealt a high-tech mosquito track to battle outbreaks
like this eco- outbreak. -- Zico. They can detect the species and only
capture ones that spread diseases. Another algorithm, developed by MIT,
they have been using their deep learning systems to predict the
future or how humans will respond to events. It can predict whether to
individuals will handshake or high five. China is not all cables and
chips. It is starting to become known for its fully fledged devices.
It sees itself as a global player. The company has 170,000 employers.
60,000 work here. It's here that new devices
are developed and tested. Welcome to my own private
anechoic chamber. This particular box here
is where they put their network And after all that stress,
it's time for lunch, again. Yeah, it's becoming a bit
of a theme really, isn't it? But on a campus this big,
the midday meal itself can be Right, so it's 11:38am,
and I'm reliably informed in the next few minutes this place
is going to fill up like crazy. And now it's 12:00pm,
and everybody has eaten. If it looks like everyone's
in a rush, well, they are. The quicker they eat,
the longer they have I kid you not, having a roll-up bed
under your desk is Despite the huge numbers,
Huawei's path to world domination It's still trying to lift a ban
on providing network equipment to the US,
after it and fellow Chinese manufacturer ZTE were accused
of building back doors into their networking equipment,
which could allow the Chinese It's something Huawei's founder
denied in a BBC interview last year. There's no way we can possibly
penetrate into other people's systems, and we have never
received such a request But the company carries
on undeterred, and is still focused Its latest tablet,
the MateBook, is set to launch Now, if Shenzhen is the R
department, then the neighbouring city of Dongguan, about an hour's
drive away, is the factory floor. Time to hook up with Bunny again,
as he visits a factory to see if it's suitable
to make his new product. All the bits and bobs that you see
inside a phone or electronic gadgets They can make different
products just by If I go ahead and squeegee that
solder right onto the board... And everything gets
stuck to that, does it? This machine is called
a chip shooter. So it's a robot that's able to shoot
chips onto this board. Listen to that, it sounds
like a machine gun as well. Once the machines have
placed the components, everything goes into a big oven,
which melts the solder and sticks It's like one of those
hotel toasters, isn't it? Where the bread goes
in and very slowly comes round. In fact, if you look at some
of the hobbyist DIY crowd, they will actually essentially
replicate this at home It's still quite warm,
so be careful with it. Machines like these allow even
a relatively small factory But humans are still needed
in this room, mainly And across the way,
there's even more of them. This is your typical assembly-line,
your material comes in the front. She's responsible for putting
on glue, she's responsible for putting on connectors,
she's responsible for putting on diodes, resistors,
so on and so forth, It turns out that, for example,
it's really hard to build robots that can reach into a box full
of components like this, figure out there's a little line
here, there's a diode, you have to figure out
which way to put it, and then drop it in the board right
in the hole. So, even here, the human's
days are numbered. Wages are rising in Dongguan
as businesses compete Because of that, factories
are looking to automate even larger Case in point, Foxconn,
manufacturer of the iPhone amongst other gadgets,
recently revealed that it had more than halved its workforce in one
factory, replacing 60,000 workers There is one task up here though
that I think everyone is glad You see that pool of
liquid metal? That is the T-1000
in there, right now. Well, until the rise
of the machines, the humans Oh come on, it does that?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's got rainbow keys?
It feels good. Never mind all this speech
recognition, I want to type stuff. I tell you what, blink and you miss
a mass movement of people here. They've all gone home.
It's 5:30pm. So those keyboards could be
in the boxes, into the storage room and then onto the shelf
within about a week, But what about a mobile phone
in your hands four minutes Let's put four minutes on the clock,
because that's what China's biggest They've let us inside their largest
robot-run warehouse to show us just how they can deliver,
often in hours, sometimes in just JD.com shift 3 million orders
a year from the latest Well, you might need those
in under four minutes. 20,000 packages an hour
are sorted here, not by hand, Robots pack, pick, unpack
and shelve, computers track, As you can see, things move pretty
quickly around here. Each parcel goes along that
conveyor belt, and then It's scanned by that bar coder,
which tells the machine which one of these shoots to send
that parcel to. That will then be taken to one
of over 100 different district Which means that actually now
in this warehouse where they used to have 500 people doing this job,
just with this row of shoots along This is one of the first places
in China where machines could replace workers entirely
over the next few years. These are their plans for a fully
automated warehouse, And self-driving
vehicles we know about. So drones will reach the parts that
others struggle to get to. This isn't just talk,
last month JD revealed their own prototypes for carrying anything up
to the size of a home computer There basically would be 200,000
spots on the map where we can They will be responsible
for distributing to the villagers. But even if drones were allowed
to fly anywhere, and they won't be, it would be still tricky
to deliver something That's JD's record,
so how did they manage it? Well, this is one of more than 100
much smaller delivery What they've found is if you can get
one of these packages to one of these local delivery places
before it's even been ordered, then you don't have to wait
for the package to come You've seen the big data,
we analyse the purchase pattern, we predict which small community
is going to have And then we deliver before
the ordering happens. It's like Minority
Report with shopping. We tailed the electric scooter
to see if the kettle I'd randomly chosen could be delivered in less
time than it would take to boil. Now you see we've caught a red light
there, and that's going to cost Underneath that helmet he's
going to be absolutely fuming. He's just gone down the bike lane
and I think we've lost him. In fairness, this purchase
hadn't been predicted, so it had to come all the way
from the massive Asia 1 warehouse. Still, a robot and China's
very own Stig delivered He's found the place,
and he's off the bike. So how much over the
four-minute record was he? We finally made it, that one took
about two hours and ten minutes. It would be on the sixth
floor, wouldn't it? Dan Simmons in the
suburbs of Shanghai. And that's it for us
in China for this week, In the meantime, you can see
loads of backstage photos
For the second episode of Click's Designed in China special, the Click team travel to China's tech capital, Shenzhen, to meet with some of China's largest technology companies and find out how our gadgets go from ideas to finished products. Plus the week's tech news.