By utilizing real-time city data, Alibaba Cloud’s ET City Brain platform optimizes urban public resource allocations. City Brain has already cooperated with local governments in downtown Hangzhou, Xiaoshan District of Hangzhou, and Suzhou. According to the official site, it’s mostly applied in public transportation. With the aid of traffic cameras and big data, it reported more road accidents with 92% accuracy rate and reduced traffic congestion in downtown Hangzhou.

The City Brain is more like infrastructure that can think for itself and it’s arrogant to compare this brain directly to human brains, assuming objects or creatures other than human don’t have brains, said Wang Jian at TechCrunch Hangzhou event on July 2. Wang is the founder of Alibaba Cloud and chairman of Technology Steering Committee at Alibaba

“When cities have been evolving to today, when they have their own systems, it’s partial to call those systems artificial intelligence. Thus, we should call it machinery intelligence,” Wang said. The product is built on complex algorithms and a massive amount of data. It’s an intelligent system that has its own pattern of thinking.

“Cities are burdening themselves with too many smart systems,” Wang said. “Installing ten cameras on one utility pole is not a smart plan.”

Wang said he isn’t able to take down the already-installed surveillance cameras, but City Brain will help people to decide whether these cameras are necessary. Ultimately, people will understand that they don’t need that many cameras and neither do they need that many smart systems to accomplish the same goal.

Despite the fact that there is no official definition of City Brain, it has nothing to do with smart cities for sure, Wang said.

“Smart city constructions are turning cities into monsters,” Wang explained.

Companies are trying to fill cities with their own products and solutions, including autonomous driving, without considering whether they are practical technologies, he added. What Alibaba Cloud’s City Brain does, Wang emphasized, is trying to figure out the fundamentals. He said ignoring the fundamentals is the reason why after all these years of constructing smart cities, urbanization problems still exist.

Jiefei Liu

Jiefei Liu is a Beijing based tech reporter. She focuses on the union of tech and content creation and loves agriculture. You can write to her at

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