Alibaba Cloud bridges world's longest distance with City Brain

Jian Wang, chairman, Technology Steering Committee, Alibaba GroupAlibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, announced today at its Alibaba Computing Conference 2016 that it will apply its artificial intelligence (AI), deep learning and data analytics capabilities to two new developments in China: smart traffic system and astronomical big data analysis.

Running at the seventh consecutive year, the four-day Alibaba Computing Conference 2016 was held at the International Convention Center in Yunqi Cloud Town in Hangzhou, China. The event attracted 40,000 participants, and some 6.5 million viewers who viewed the video feeds online.

Hangzhou City Brain automates traffic signals

"The world's longest distance is not between the South Pole and North Pole, or between friends that dine together but keep staring at their own smartphones.

"The world's longest distance is between a city's surveillance cameras and the traffic lights, as they sit on the same pole, but were never connected with each other through data," said Jian Wang, chairman of Alibaba Group Technology Steering Committee.

"To covert an image that is taken by a traffic surveillance camera into the data required to direct traffic light signals, you will likely need the data to pass through several grids, several government departments, and a number of enterprises," he continued.

Wang added that Hangzhou city is now exploring the possibility of having its roadside surveillance cameras to direct the traffic light signals.

Initiated by the Hangzhou government, the "Hangzhou City Brain" is designed to address urban challenges, primarily, the traffic congestion problem.

The "Hangzhou City Brain" will serve as a hub to consolidate data and provide real-time analytics. It relies on Alibaba Cloud's A.I. program "ET," as well as big data analytics capabilities to perform real-time traffic predictions, using its video and image recognition technologies.

The backbone of the "Hangzhou City Brain" is Apsara, Alibaba Cloud's large scale computing operating system. Apsara is able to cluster millions of servers into a super computer and to support a multitude of cloud-based services by analyzing terabytes of data points. Using propriety algorithms, this computational engine is said to be one of the largest of its kind in the world.

With the use of Apsara, Hangzhou City Brain can "view" the videos taken by some 50,000 roadside surveillance video cameras in Hangzhou within a short time frame, and make [traffic signal] decisions in just seconds.

For example, the automated traffic system capabilities can make intelligent adjustments of traffic lights on the spot: When a vehicle changes direction, the green light will automatically be extended. The pilot of the world's most advanced smart traffic management system in the Hangzhou Xiaoshan District, which commenced last month in September, has seen an increase in traffic speed by 11%.

The "Hangzhou City Brain" will also support the city's transportation departments to ease traffic congestion, and provide users with real-time traffic recommendations and travel routes.

The "Hangzhou City Brain" is being led by the Hangzhou government in coordination with 13 firms, including Alibaba Cloud, Foxconn, H3C. A research and development team of scientists from various companies has also been formed as part of the project.

"By establishing the Hangzhou City Brain, Hangzhou is taking the lead in harnessing artificial intelligence and deep learning technologies to promote greater sustainability and improve the quality of urban living for Chinese citizens," said Wang.

"Hangzhou hopes to become a forerunner in the big data and cloud computing industries," said a Zhao Yide, Secretary of Communist Party of China Hangzhou Committee, at the Conference. "Using big data, Hangzhou will become the first city in China that can advise drivers on the smartest route to adopt on the roads."

Serving astronomical data storage and analytics

At the Alibaba Computing Conference 2016, Alibaba Cloud also announced to form a research collaboration with the National Astronomical Observatory of China (NAOC) on deep space exploration.

Aiming to leverage its technologies for astronomical data collection analysis, Alibaba Cloud’s plans are to set up a data and research center for astronomy, as well as a virtual solar observatory which will be supported by Apsara's massive scalability and advanced capabilities to process astronomical data.

In due course, we will be able to answer questions like: What was the origin of the universe? What caused the Big Bang of the universe?

China aims to be placed as the global leader in deep space radio telescope research and has taken the lead in astronomical data storage and collection. Operating since 2010, the Large Sky Area Multi-Object Fibre Spectroscopic Telescope (LAMOST), also known as Guo Shoujing Telescope, is one of the largest astronomical spectroscopy base, and has collected over five million astronomical spectroscopies. A few years later, Beijing launched China’s second space station, the 500-meter diameter Aperture Spherical Telescope (FAST), which is capable of generating 50TB (1TB = 1,000GB) of data every day.


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