Tech: Alibaba Cloud’s City Brain could reduce KL travel time by 12%

This article first appeared in The Edge Malaysia Weekly, on October 21, 2019 - October 27, 2019.

The Apsara Conference 2019 showcased an array of cutting-edge technologies by Alibaba Cloud and its partners. The conference demonstrated Alibaba Cloud’s vision and mission to drive digital transformation through IT infrastructure development.

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TRAFFIC congestion has become part of daily life for Malaysians, particularly residents in the Klang Valley and Penang. In the Klang Valley, the World Bank estimated that in 2014, the cost of traffic congestion due to lost time and higher transport expenses came to 1.1% to 2.2% of gross domestic product.

This has likely increased over the years, which is why the government has been looking for ways to improve traffic conditions in major urban centres, including investing billions in mass transport systems such as light rail transit and mass rapid transit.

The proliferation of artificial intelligence (AI) and cloud computing in recent years has contributed to the development of city-wide smart technology systems, which help local governments manage pain points for the public, including traffic management.

In May, Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) began a pilot test of an intelligent traffic management system using proprietary technologies of Alibaba Cloud and Sena Traffic Systems Sdn Bhd, a local traffic control and management system company.

According to Selina Yuan, president of international business, Alibaba Cloud Intelligence, data from the pilot project revealed that travel times could be reduced by 12% with proper implementation of the system.

“The smart traffic solution will constantly learn and adapt to changing traffic environments, making the traffic management system a smart learning platform and no longer just an analytic tool. It has the potential to improve traffic situations not just in Malaysia, but also in the Asean region,” she says.

The smart traffic management system is part of Alibaba Cloud’s City Brain system that has been implemented in Hangzhou, China. Apart from improving traffic congestion, the system has also cut emergency response times and increased utilisation of public transport.

Alibaba Cloud utilises real-time information from sources such as loop detectors, traffic light information and traffic cameras to get insights into traffic conditions, including incident detection, queue length, vehicle count, vehicle type, illegal stopping and traffic signal change rate optimisation.

In a medical emergency, the technology is able to change traffic lights so that ambulances and fire engines can head to the scene of an incident without interruption, accelerating their arrival time by 49% in the Hangzhou experience, according to Alibaba Cloud.

But can Malaysia afford the new technology?

Yuan says Alibaba Cloud will continue to work closely with local partners to provide tailored information to prospective and existing customers, including industry bodies and universities, on the group’s offerings.

The company also provides tailor-made services and products to meet the different needs of its customers, including small and medium-sized enterprises, big enterprises, multinational corporations and the public sector.

“Since the establishment of our first local data centre in Malaysia, Alibaba Cloud has been paving the way to support local businesses to accelerate their digital transformation,” says Yuan.

“As the No 1 cloud provider in Asia-Pacific, we want to continue to promote inclusiveness through technology so that customers can experience a world-class cloud system in terms of reliability, security, efficiency and interconnectivity.”

City Brain is just one of Alibaba Cloud’s latest technology offerings. At the Apsara Conference 2019, organised by Alibaba and held in Hangzhou from Sept 25 to 27, it introduced a wide array of cutting-edge technologies, including a new AI chip, HanGuang 800.

The chip can boost computing performance to 78,563 instructions per second (IPS) at peak moment with computation efficiency at 500 IPS/W, outpacing the industry average, according to Alibaba Cloud.

With almost 85 new products and features announced in the first two days of the conference, Alibaba Cloud is boosting the evolution of data intelligence and AI-powered cloud to take business to the next level.

The third generation of X-Dragon AI architecture was also announced during the conference, with the upgrade scheduled to be rolled out to millions of Alibaba Cloud servers around the world from next year, increasing their performance fivefold in key metrics.

Accompanying the chip, Alibaba Cloud also introduced the sixth generation of elastic compute service (ECS) instance, based on the X-Dragon architecture. This generation of ECS instance will offer 20% improvement in computing, 30% reduction in memory latency and 70% reduction in storage latency, the company says.

Alibaba Cloud is the provider of cloud and data intelligence across all business units in the Alibaba ecosystem, from e-commerce to logistics, payments and entertainment to travel. Its AI supported 350 million conversations, one billion translations and 45.3 billion product recommendations within the 24-hour window of Alibaba’s Double 11 e-commerce festival.

The company also provides cloud services for Alipay. It supports 870 million active users in 870 cities. For insurance and credit assessment, Alibaba Cloud’s infrastructure allows applications to take only three minutes to be completed, and a mere one second to be approved, the company claims.

In logistics, Alibaba Cloud supports Cainiao by processing one billion parcels a day and enables next-day delivery in more than 1,500 cities. Its cloud-based solutions have sped up Cainiao’s cross-border shipment time by 60%, the company claims.

 

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