Alibaba rolls out first overseas smart city AI platform in Malaysia

Dubbed City Brain, the artificial intelligence system runs on Alibaba's cloud computing infrastructure and is the first to be deployed outside its domestic Chinese market.

Alibaba has deployed its smart city artificial intelligence (AI) platform in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, marking the Chinese vendor's first such implementation outside its domestic market.

The initiative was launched Monday with local ICT agency, Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), and city council Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL), according to Alibaba Cloud.

Dubbed the Malaysia City Brain, the AI-powered platform operated on Alibaba's cloud infrastructure and was developed to support smart cities in their digital transformation. It was touted to analyse large data volumes extracted from various sources in an urban environment, through video, image, and speech recognition. The system then used machine learning to provide insights for city administrators to improve operational efficiencies and monitor security risks.

"For example, by combining insights from the transportation bureau, observatory, public transportation systems as well as mapping app, City Brain is capable of constructing a virtual digital city model and optimising this through ongoing machine learning to make decisions in areas such as road planning, bus routes and frequency, and the length of time a particular red traffic light should be on, to increase traffic efficiency," Alibaba said.

It added that the AI platform was first implemented in Hangzhou, China, in September 2016.

In its first phase, the deployment would enable Kuala Lumpur to use City Brain for traffic management with the goal to improve mobility around the capital city. The AI system also would generate structured data summaries, such as traffic volume and speed in specific road lanes, which then could used to facilitate tasks such as incident detection.

In addition, the smart city platform could connect with other urban management systems including emergency dispatch, ambulance call, traffic command, and traffic light control. This integration would enable the city to analyse real-time data extracted from the systems and optimise urban traffic flow, such as by identifying the quickest route for emergency response vehicles.

As the City Brain's functionality expands, enterprises, start-ups, entrepreneurs, universities, and research institutions will in the future also have the opportunity to access and leverage its artificial intelligence tools to drive a wide range of innovation.

Alibaba also announced the Malaysia Tianchi Big Data Program, a big data crowd intelligence platform that aimed to gather global data experts to collaborate and compete in developing applications for real-world problems.

Supported by MDEC, the program hoped to incubate 500 data professionals and 300 startups in Malaysia within two years, offering the use of the Chinese vendor's cloud computing and AI systems.

The Malaysian iteration also would be integrated into Alibaba Cloud's global Tianchi community, which encompassed more than 120,000 developers and 2,700 academic institutes and businesses from 77 markets.

Alibaba last March said it would set up a distribution centre in Malaysia as part of a wider agreement to build up a digital trading network in the country. Slated to open by end-2019, the new facility would be located near the Kuala Lumpur International Airport and serve as a regional e-commerce and logistics hub.

The logistics centre was part of a wider agreement between Alibaba and the Malaysian government to establish Electronic World Trade Platforms (eWTPs), an initiative first mooted last year by Alibaba's founder and executive chairman, Jack Ma.

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