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[ACC 2018] Alibaba Computing Conference 2018 Main Forum

  • Monday, November 5, 2018, 11:27 am
  • ACROFAN=Yong-Man Kwon
  • yongman.kwon@acrofan.com
Alibaba Group held 'The Computing Conference 2018' from September 19 to 22 at Cloud Town located in Hangzhou, China. The Computing Conference 2018, now in its ninth year, is the annual flagship event of Alibaba Group, and cutting-edge technologies and applications of the group under the theme of ‘Empower Digital China’ were presented.

This Computing Conference was held in Cloud Town, a special industrial zone in Hangzhou, China, with more than 60,000 people attending from China and abroad. This year, Alibaba Group's latest technological capabilities in cloud computing, big data, AI, IoT, etc., which have recently attracted a great deal of attention, were introduced. At the same time, Alibaba Group made clear its commitment to contribute to the transformation of society into a digital society by releasing various partnerships.

At the keynote of this event, Jack Ma, who is chairman of Alibaba Group, Simon Hu, who is president of Alibaba Cloud, Dr. Wang Jian, who is president of Technology Steering Committee at Alibaba Group, and Jeff Zhang, who is CTO of Alibaba Group, introduced about the latest technologies and the development direction of the company. The keynote highlighted that technologies of Alibaba Cloud are having a positive impact on the real world. Also, various partnerships for global change beyond changes in Hangzhou as well as examples of changes in Hangzhou and China were released through this keynote.

 
▲ Xu Liyi, Mayor of Hangzhou

 
▲ Yuan Jiajun, Governor of Zhejiang Province

Xu Liyi, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Hangzhou Municipal Committee and Mayor of Hangzhou, introduced “Cloud Town” in Hangzhou, where the event is held, as an area that is in a leading position in various future technologies. Specifically, with a thousand years of history and culture, Hangzhou has been in a position to connect history, culture, creation and innovation and is now one of the most innovation cities. Zhou Jiangyong, secretary of the Hangzhou municipal Party committee emphasized that the event has had a great impact on the digital economic development of Hangzhou since the event was first held, and that Hangzhou has become an increasingly attractive city with various innovations.

According to the speech, Hangzhou has created several 'towns' such as 'Silicon Valley' for the implementation of various innovations, and 'Cloud Town' is one of them, supporting for continuous innovation. And the digital economy is a very important part of Hangzhou, and digital and data make Hangzhou a younger and more attractive city. Hangzhou is also introduced as the top city in terms of start-up support and activity. He added that the digital economy has become an important growth engine, an important source for a better life, and is largely changing the traditional industries such as manufacturing, services and agriculture.

In addition, he mentioned that the digital technology has made the city smarter. ‘City Brain’ has significantly mitigated the serious traffic congestion in Hangzhou, and new applications such as Internet-based courts and healthcare have become examples of data innovation. And these technologies connect everything in the city to the world and even to the future. Lastly, he mentioned that Hangzhou is a hub for the digital economy and value chain that connect the world with clicks and it is also the best location for realizing the possibility.

Yuan Jiajun, governor of Zhejiang Province, stated that the theme parks in Hangzhou are creating the future and economic scale based on various innovations, and the ‘Cloud Town’ is showing alive example of the innovation. And it is mentioned that now Zhejiang and Hangzhou are pioneers of the digital economy, and with the movement toward politic digitization throughout China, data is considered a new growth engine. He also added that the changes to 'digital China' include changes in work and life, as well as changes in social structure and government.

According to the speech, in the global economy, the digital economy is growing in size, and in China, the digital economy takes an important part, and has also shown tremendous growth. In addition, Zhejiang is one of the most advanced regions in the digital economy in China, and has a forward-looking attitude and plans through active support and investment in digitalization. At the same time, the 'platform' is pointed out as a way to reduce damage from the recent large typhoons. It also makes it possible to reduce data loss and enable services in all areas through the construction of highly efficient government through sharing and utilization of information, so that the necessary problem solving is resolved at once.

 
▲ Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group

 
▲ Alibaba’s machine learning technology is now able to distinguish between intricate handmade and machine-made vehicle.

Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba Group, said that Alibaba Group has grown into a group dealing with a variety of business with entering its 19th year. Also, Alibaba Group's total sales volume is about $4.8 trillion, and its strength of the digital side is outstanding. To be specific, its size of users in digital finance reaches 870 million and it has logistics services that support numerous companies. In addition, he mentioned that the ability of digital technology to show in this event will make a change and have a big influence on various industries and lives.

According to the speech from Daniel Zhang, over the past decade, the Internet and digital technology has changed our lives. On top of that, over the next 10 to 20 years, new digital technologies such as the next generation of the Internet will affect not only the economy but also all areas of society, and Alibaba will cooperate with various ecosystems for leading the changes into ‘digital China’ and ‘digital economy’. This event will introduce the diverse achievements of the DAMO Academy, which was established last year to study Alibaba's future technology. Moreover, as a technology-driven company, Alibaba will go a way of technology-based business model and digital economy.

Meanwhile, Alibaba introduced the new growth engines in five areas at the 2016 event. The foundation for the engines is data, and a variety of new technologies and applications based on it are expected to lead the digitization of China. He lastly mentioned that the Internet, IoT, and IIoT are growing explosively in connection with the new manufacturing, thanks to the government support and the participation of many companies.

 
▲ Simon Hu, President of Alibaba Cloud

Simon Hu, president of Alibaba Cloud, introduced the changes in the new life of Hangzhou citizens. Hangzhou is a city with a long history and has undergone a great change in various meanings in history. He stated that Hangzhou recently has become a representative city of e-commerce and a city of cloud developers. The vision of "New Hangzhou" features the hosting city of G20 and the city scheduled to hold the 2022 Asian Games as well as digital technology-based features including cloud town, e-government, ET City Brain, and Hangzhou-style engineers. Therefore, he emphasized that Hangzhou is the area to most actively introduce digital technology.

These new digital-based technologies are largely changing the lives of people in the Hangzhou area. Typical examples include collaboration for implementing Alibaba Cloud and E-Government platform of Zhejiang, payment system support for small start-up companies through Alibaba Cloud and Alipay, implementation of virtual court based on the cloud technology, support for telemedicine such as mobile remote diagnosis and connection to doctor, and infrastructure support for start-up. And Simon Hu explained that all these cases use Alibaba Cloud, and the employees of Alibaba Cloud are doing their best to support these applications.

As a city of technology along with the activation of mobile governance, Hangzhou is introduced that the application level of Alipay reaches 98% in e-commerce, about 70 million people benefit from digital medicare, about 60,000 innovational start-ups are taking place for leading technological innovations and seeking for opportunities. In addition, the technology is making a change not only in the lives of citizens but also in the industry. Given that, he said that Alibaba Cloud is providing the infrastructure environment and various technologies in changes such as the extension of existing offline-based companies to online and the digitization of the infrastructure based on logistics.

In addition, as cases in distribution part, ‘Hema’ from ‘new retail’ environment based on Alibaba Cloud is mentioned, and it is introduced that Alibaba Cloud is supporting the system of implementing order and payment with QR code along with Alipay at ‘2dfire.com’ and connecting a variety of restaurants. Besides, such as CAOCAO, the cloud-based mobility services, Hangzhou Bank, Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport (HIA), smart elevator of XIZI OTIS and Geely have been using the infrastructure and AI technology of Alibaba cloud.

 
▲ Dr. Wang Jian, President of Technology Steering Committee at Alibaba Group

 
▲ 'ET City Brain 2.0' plays an important role in improving the traffic situation in Hangzhou City.

Moreover, the AI technology of Alibaba cloud affects the quality of life of Hangzhou. Data collection based on the cloud platform at the city level and decisions using AI will enable quick and accurate decisions, and the real implementation and application of this is the 'ET City Brain'. And its ‘2.0’ version was released at the site. It is also explained that Hangzhou collects a large amount of data through various sensors and analyzes it through a cloud platform to use the outcome in improving the traffic congestion, which was endemic in Hangzhou City, and identifying the site and optimizing the response time at the fire station.

Dr. Wang Jian, president of the Technology Steering Committee at Alibaba Group, said that the infrastructure of Hangzhou City is as complex as its long history, so it has been experiencing chronic traffic congestion. As of 2013, the average driving speed was less than 20km/h on the major roads in Hangzhou during the rush hours, and it was ranked as the fifth city with the most severe traffic congestion in China. In 2014, the movements to improve the congestion were started. Various methods and cases were analyzed, and the city introduced ‘ET City Brain’ with Alibaba Cloud.

This 'City Brain' is a platform that enables the most optimized traffic flow control by analyzing various data such as traffic volume, signal status and accident situation using AI technology. It brought down the city rank from 5th to 57th. In addition, the speed of progress in the most complex areas has been increased by 50%, and the share of roads has also been improved, enabling more efficient use of available road resources. Besides, in the situation of a medical emergency, the system allows emergency vehicles to drive faster through traffic flow control, which prioritizes ambulances, thereby speeding up their arrival times by 49%.

'City Brain 2.0' has expanded the area to be able to utilize the system not only in traffic but also in the fire department. It also provides various information including the location of gas pipes, water pressure, and the number and location of fire hydrants that can be used for firefighting, and optimizes the route of movement. This platform is also expected to be used in sustainable urban operations through urban resource management, including the detection of leaking water. Many regions are interested in this platform, and Alibaba is trying to solve more problems while continuing the relationship with many companies participating in the project.

Alibaba presents technology for cars as well as transportation infrastructure. Alibaba has introduced a vehicle navigation system that uses augmented reality (AR) technology, and said that ROEWE's Marvel X will feature an AliOS-based system. By using AR technology in the navigation system, the driver can see the route information on the real scenery, and active safety technology such as lane departure warning can be utilized. Along with this, the implementation of a smarter road environment will be possible by connecting all the infrastructure of vehicles and the surroundings, and Hangzhou will construct this environment sooner than anywhere else.

 
▲ Power to lead the change of the world was emphasized through announcements of various partnerships.

Announcing partnerships with a variety of regions, organizations and enterprises, Alibaba stressed that the change of Hangzhou through technology of Alibaba is not limited to Hangzhou but is connected to a wider world. First, Xiong'an region will work with Alibaba to establish Urban-X lab and apply digital-based modeling and simulation to urban development plans. This is a ‘digital planning‘ model that composes the actual space with a virtual object, analyzes the interaction of all the components, allows for a sustainable urban development plan in the most optimal form, and creates a new city through combination of the reality and the virtual.

In cooperation with UAE Abu Dhabi, the establishment of the AI laboratory for energy security and sustainability aspects with Khalifa University of Science and Technology was announced. Alibaba will provide cloud and AI technology for AI laboratories through this cooperation, and the AI laboratory will study AI for energy security and sustainability, machine learning technology for discovering new energy materials, and AI technology for a smart renewable energy system.

As a partnership with Madrid, Spain, collaboration between Olympic Broadcasting Services (OBS) and Alibaba Cloud was introduced. Alibaba Cloud will support the live streaming infrastructure of the OBS Cloud through this collaboration, and OBS commented that the collaboration became an opportunity to fundamentally solve the burden of service providers on the live streaming consumption of the growing Olympic Games. In addition, by efficiently servicing more contents with less resources through Alibaba Cloud’s latest technologies, ‘transforming’ in the consumption of Olympic Games would be possible.

As a partnership with Walldorf, Germany, collaboration with SAP was introduced. At the main forum, Alibaba Group and SAP have announced that they will be offering SAP S/4HANA cloud and SAP cloud platform through IaaS of Alibaba Cloud. Through this collaboration, SAP continues to leverage Alibaba cloud technology and Alibaba also plans to use SAP S/4HANA software for its own innovation and new business model development. At the same time, the services of SAP solutions through Alibaba Cloud will help companies in China enter global, and it would also be a critical moment for SAP.

With Kenya, a partnership with Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife was announced. Through this collaboration, Kenya will use IoT and cloud technology to protect wildlife such as elephants. Wildlife observation in Kenya is an important tourism resource, and Alibaba's technology is expected to play an important role in managing them. The AI and IoT competencies are key to the project. They are expected to track the location of animals, tracking their health status and movement by collecting data in real time via sensors, IR cameras and drones, enable more wise coexistence with human and maximize visitors’ experience with more sophisticated management.

 
▲ Cheng Li, COO and CTO of Ant Financial International Business Unit

 
▲ Damo Academy’s future technology research includes 5 sectors, composed of ‘4+X’.

Cheng Li, COO and CTO of Ant Financial International Business Unit, explained that Hangzhou is a world-famous city in terms of mobile payment, and it basis is well established. It is also linked to financial products like microloan. Moreover, beyond China’s own service, Alipay offers services in 10 countries including Korea. In case of Korea, the service is provided through KakaoPay, and Alipay users in 10 countries have reached about 870 million. Alipay was introduced to make it possible for people around the world to change their daily lives more conveniently.

In Hong Kong, the penetration rate of AliPay payment system is more than 80%, and in India, it is possible to take a taxi with AliPay. On top of that, Malaysia became the second country in the world to use the QR code for the subway. Besides, Hong Kong and the Philippines have also played a role in linking the world, for example, presenting the world's first bank remittance service based on block chain. On the other hand, it is stated that still many people are using credit cards, and AliPay wants to work with various partners to benefit more people. Also, technology could make society better and truly connect the world.

Jeff Zhang, CTO of Alibaba Group, has introduced the achievements of Damo Academy, which enters its first year of foundation. Founded in October 2017, Damo Academy, which is an organization focused on future technology research that looks ahead to the next few years, studies five key areas: Machine Intelligence, Robotics, FinTech, Data Computing and Quantum Computing. It gathered more than 300 researchers, including a number of IEEE fellows. Moreover, he added that the academy is dealing with AI technology, which will be a means to deal with the data that it currently has.

Algorithms, big data, and computational power are the basis of AI's implementation, and domain and ecosystem are formed based on this. And Alibaba has a vast amount of data based on the e-commerce platform in the data part, and has introduced that data is being collected from various paths. What’s more, he explained that the ability to analyze and control vast amounts of data requires high performance and cost competitiveness, and the research on algorithms for effective use in various areas is also important.

In the area of chip for improving computing power, the first in-house developed AI reasoning chip 'AliNPU' in 2019, and it has a strong advantage in utilization in autonomous vehicles, smart city, and smart logistics. The resulting performance improvement is shown to be up to 40 times that of image processing. Also, Damo Academy will put spurs to research development of AI chips for future cloud training and IoT applications. Furthermore, CK902 series chips for security-related features are introduced, and it is emphasized that this series of environments will be built with unique technology.

In terms of 'quantum computing', Damo Academy said it is developing its own quantum processor. As a scenario for realizing quantum computing, it introduced a plan to leverage a powerful computing power by tightly integrating Alibaba Cloud platform with the system, which uses construction of its own ‘Quantum Lab’ with quantum computing simulate in the existing environment before the chip and the production of its own ‘Quantum Chip’. Alibaba, meanwhile, said it has established a company related to semiconductor chip under the group as a way to realize the plans regarding such a series of chips.