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Suning signs with SAP for smart retail, finance, sport R&D

Suning also announced a partnership with Baidu Apollo to work towards mass production of unmanned delivery vehicles as early as 2020.

China's Suning Holdings Group and German software company SAP have partnered to conduct research in artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT), big data, cloud computing, and blockchain technologies in China's retail, financial, and sports sectors.

The agreement, signed by Suning Holdings Group chairman Zhang Jindong and Digital Business Services Organisation leader at SAP Michael Kleinemier, will see the companies conduct R&D of "small retail innovations" and explore the application of "digitised economy technology".

This will include establishing a platform for China's retail industry through supply chain solutions such as store management, product sourcing, logistics, and payment services for retail SMEs.

They will also focus on "intelligent warehousing and delivery", and in the sports sector, the companies said they will create a digitised platform for Chinese football clubs and youth training systems to help development of the sport.

Also announced this week, Suning Logistics has signed a self-driving vehicle partnership with Baidu Apollo for logistics development in China.

Announced at the Baidu Create 2018 event in Beijing, the companies revealed an unmanned delivery vehicle called the "MicroCar", which is equipped with Baidu's L-class intelligence system and designed to solve "the last 5km delivery problems", according to Suning.

Suning also introduced its smart logistics system, including Mobile Distribution for a self-driving distribution car and a fixed distribution route; Smart Community for a self-driving car and automatic picking-up cabinet; and Local Instant Delivery for self-driving vehicle delivery between Suning convenience stores and the customer, which the company aims to make its first service to use self-driving tech.

The company completed a road test of its heavy-duty self-driving "Strolling Dragon" truck in May this year, and in the previous month launched its Automated Guided Vehicles warehouse in Jinan, which uses robots to speed up warehouse processes.

Also using self-driving technologies for logistics is Elon Musk's Tesla, which in November last year revealed the semi-autonomous electric Semi truck, able to cover 500 miles on a single charge.

The delivery truck, which is priced between $150,000 and $180,000 depending on the mile range, has been ordered by companies including United Parcel Service, PepsiCo, Sysco, Anheuser-Busch, DHL, and Walmart.

Rio Tinto, meanwhile, got accreditation in May to commercially operate its autonomous fleet of two-storey-building-sized trains for ion ore delivery in Western Australia.

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