It’s not only you who cares about your city’s traffic jam. Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, is now entering into the public sector with its smart city plan, powered by its cloud solutions and AI technologies.
At its Computing Conference Shenzhen Summit on March 29th, Alibaba Cloud announced that it has upgraded its machine learning platform PAI. Built on large-scale, high-performance and distributed computing, PAI 2.0 will help customers easily deploy large-scale data mining and modeling. Its advanced and diversified artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms are aimed at empowering innovations in the life science and manufacturing sectors, and its smart city plan.
“As China’s first machine learning platform, PAI is born to make our AI program an effective tool for helping people and businesses to resolve practical issues. We are also seeing our data intelligence capability being leveraged to assist customers in creating better healthcare services and endorsing smart manufacturing in China,” said Dr. Jingren Zhou, Chief Scientist of Alibaba Cloud in the press release.
Alibaba’s Smart City
Alibaba already has started “Hangzhou Brain” in its home city, Hangzhou. Alibaba Cloud provides its AI, deep learning and data analytics capabilities to perform real-time traffic prediction. It enhances the transportation department’s efforts to ease traffic congestion and provides users with real-time traffic recommendations on travel routes.
“The public sector has a huge potential in a business sense because the government has budgeted for the smart city. It’s easy for us to establish distinctive advantages as a post to competitors, they focus on IT efficiency such as computation speed but we focus on value-oriented application. For the people, by the people, and of the people,” Dr. Wanli Min, data mining scientist of Alibaba Cloud told TechNode at the press conference in Alibaba Cloud’s Computing Conference Shenzhen Summit.
Alibaba Cloud’s target is not only aimed at helping Chinese cities but also cities in South East Asia and Europe. Dr. Min, previously a researcher at IBM T.J. Watson Research Center and senior statistician at Google, made a contribution to smart city development in New York, Singapore, and Sweden.
“Smart city project is not for only Chinese cities. If you have a huge problem of traffic in your city, we have traffic signal adjustment, which is applicable to any cities in other countries. Cloud has no boundary globally and we can collect big data,” he says.
Apart from Hangzhou, Alibaba has tested its cloud solution in Guangzhou, the capital of Guangdong province in southern China. At last year’s Tianchi Competition, aimed at helping on Guangzhou’s airport traffic, Alibaba Cloud deployed its cloud system to the city’s traffic lights.
“We have the technology foundation to expand to overseas market. We were the first of its kind globally to deploy the system to Guangzhou city project,” Dr. Min told TechNode. “We are now working on a smart city project with cities in South East Asia and Europe. They are the perfect test bed for innovation.”
Public sector and B2B is equally important to Alibaba Cloud
Alibaba is focusing on solving the pain points in the client’s manufacturing process and add value for their customers. One Alibaba Cloud’s B2B customers GCL Power (协鑫光伏). Alibaba Cloud has been helping the company to improve the product yield of their solar panels.
“GCL Power is a huge business customer. In the strategic level, public sector and B2B is equally important to us,” Dr. Min says. “In the past, we focused too much on IT side of the public sector. We are trying to cut the share on the IT budget of the public sector. Ultimately, we want to replace data center with clouds.”
Sometimes, working with the public sector is more complicated than handling B2B clients. Even if the company initiative can bring the clear value to the city, they still have to consider the government policies.
“Going B2B is easy for commercial progress. Going public sector is to establish the reputation, brand image, and value proposition for entire citizen and the government. So they are equally important,” Mr. Min remarks.