Highlights of the Computing Conference 2018 — Empowering the Economy through Data and Technology

The Computing Conference 2018 kicked off in Hangzhou, Zhejiang province on September 19. In 2016, the conference featured New Retail, New Manufacturing, New Finance, New Technology, and New Energy proposed by Jack Ma, and the 2017 conference highlighted Alibaba’s plan to invest RMB 100 billion in establishing DAMO Academy, the group’s in-house technology and science research arm.

In this year’s conference, the focus was on nurturing economic growth through technology and big data. The key topics in this year’s conference include: Alibaba setting up a new chip subsidiary, the launch of ET City Brain 2.0, and Jack Ma’s focus on New Manufacturing.

Image for post
Image for post

Hangzhou Government Officials: Digital Hangzhou for a Younger Hangzhou

In their opening speeches, both the municipal Party secretary and the mayor welcomed the global tech enthusiasts attending the conference. They said the Hangzhou government is now seeking to build the city into China’s first city of digital economy and an Internet-powered innovation and entrepreneurship hub, adding that the government will continue to boost the digital economy development and attract more leading enterprises and top talents to the city. Hangzhou is home to a number of Internet giants, such as Alibaba, Hikvision, and NetEase, and it sees an average of 602 market players emerge every day. In addition, the city has also bred several characteristic towns led by the Cloud Town and an array of world-renowned research institutions. “Digital makes Hangzhou younger.” The wider application of mobile payment and ET City Brain is increasingly beefing up the city’s attraction.

Yuan Jiajun, Deputy Secretary of the CPC Zhejiang Provincial Committee and Governor of Zhejiang Province, also staged for the conference. Yuan said Hangzhou’s digitalization is influencing the whole world. He added that the Cloud Town is a result of Zhejiang’s high-quality development. Zhejiang will continue to push ahead with the development of its digital economy and drive the construction of a digital China, in a bid to highlight the province’s unique position.

Daniel Zhang: Alibaba Drive Economic Growth through Technology

Although the host allocated only eight minutes, Daniel Zhang, CEO of Alibaba, made perfect use of his time.

Image for post
Image for post

He said that Alibaba reported a gross merchandise volume (GMV) of over RMB 4.8 trillion for 2017, and the figure is expected to hit USD 1 trillion within the next two years. Currently, Alibaba has become a digital economy with businesses covering e-commerce, financial services, logistics, and cloud computing. The group’s entire ecosystem is flourishing in the wake of constant evolution.

Alibaba hopes to create a diversified ecosystem and collaborate with its partners to boost digitization, which is part of the group’s vision. The objective of technologies is to make the impossible possible, create new service modes, match economic resources efficiently, and revolutionize the experience of all participants.

Zhang said that the Internet had influenced individuals in the past, but digital technologies and the next generation of the Internet will influence the whole society in the next two decades, including politics, culture, people’s livelihoods, and commerce.

He also answered a widely discussed question over Alibaba’s positioning.

He said Alibaba is and always will be a technology-driven digital economy focusing on making a different commerce and creating new business models.

In addition, Zhang mentioned that DAMO Academy has begun to take shape this year, as 20 of its research projects have secured the world’s top awards. Zhang also offered his insights on the five new strategies proposed in 2016, namely, New Retail, New Manufacturing, New Finance, New Technology, and New Energy.

Among them, New Technology will definitely be the engine. The perfect combination of new energy and new technologies can really drive the development of a digital China and drive the world to an amazing era of the Internet of Things (IoT).

Simon Hu: “Hangzhou Plan” Has Become a New Term

The next speaker was Simon Hu, Vice President of Alibaba Group and President of Alibaba Cloud.

Image for post
Image for post

Hu started his speech with a search of the keyword “Hangzhou Impression” to demonstrate technology as a new icon of Hangzhou. After that, he shared five cases of “technologies drive transformation of cities”: The number of certificates Liu Yukou and his wife needed for their transportation business dropped from 17 to only one; Xu Cuiqin no longer needed an account book for her shop; Xiao Fangxun completed a trial through an online court; Xu Hao established a medical image on his mobile phone; Xu Haijun used an app to save construction costs. Hu also shared how Alibaba’s five new strategies have innovatively changed our lives through the cases of Intime Department Store, Century Mart, Hema Fresh, 2Dfire.com, Caocao Zhuanche, Bank of Hangzhou, Hangzhou Xiaoshan International Airport, Xiolift, Geely Automobile, CHINT, etc.

He said these cases indicate that Hangzhou is on its way to being a city of mobile services, a city of mobile payment, a city of smart healthcare, and a city of innovation and entrepreneurship.

Despite not being an expert at urban management, Alibaba Cloud is good at optimizing policies through data collection, and is helping relevant government authorities address this new challenge.

Seattle, Washington in the US nurtured Amazon and Microsoft in the past, and today, the two tech giants are using digital technologies to give the city a new look. Today, Hangzhou has incubated Alibaba Cloud, one of the world’s leading cloud computing enterprises, and in turn, Alibaba is pushing the ancient city to lead a new wave of digital transformation.

Hu also announced a plan to integrate AR navigation video into Ali OS to build a vehicle-road collaboration system.

Hangzhou ET City Brain 2.0 Expands Scope of Jurisdiction

Jin Zhi, Deputy Chief of Zhejiang Provincial Public Security Department, announced the launch of Hangzhou ET City Brain 2.0.

Jin said the new version covers the main urban area, Yuhang District, and Xiaoshan District, with a total coverage of 420 square kilometers, which is 28 times larger than the coverage area of last year. ET City Brain 2.0 connects to 1,300 traffic lights and 4,500 traffic cameras to monitor the seven vital signs of urban traffic, and to dispatch over 200 traffic officers via mobile devices. Moreover, ET City Brain 2.0 is being applied to firefighting for the first time and has become a capable assistant to firefighters in the protection of citizens’ lives and property.

Thanks to ET City Brain, traffic efficiency in Hangzhou has significantly improved. According to a ranking of China’s most congested cities for the second quarter of this year, Hangzhou has moved from 5th place in 2016 down to 57th place. In addition to urban traffic and firefighting, ET City Brain is now also being piloted in other fields such as credit reporting, cityscape management, municipal administration, and tourist traffic.

Wang Jian: Paving Digital Roads in Cities with Data

As a major contributor to ET City Brain, Wang Jian was naturally an important figure at the conference.

Image for post
Image for post

Dr. Wang now serves as honorary Chief of the Cloud Town and Chairman of Technology Steering Committee of Alibaba Group. His speech at the conference was titled “ET City Brain: Evolution of a City.” Dressed in a plaid shirt, Wang said, “The city is the greatest invention.” When Cloud Town was just a wasteland, Dr. Wang spent his loneliest time there.

“When we talk about big data, we are not viewing data as an urban resource, but when we look at data from a resource perspective, we will find that a city’s development needs more than resources like space and water,” he said.

“Currently, a number of cities in China haven’t maximized their road resources and have been facing many other challenges such as serious loss of running water, however, ET City Brain has left more resources for cities,” Wang added. Since the Cloud Town introduced ET City Brain in January 2018, a total of 76 mayors of prefecture- and municipal-level cities have visited Alibaba to draw experience, fulfilling the group’s commitment to exploration for other cities.

After Wang’s speech, representatives from the China Academy of Urban Planning and Design, Khalifa University of Science and Technology, OBS, SAP, the Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife of the Republic of Kenya, etc. also shared their stories related to Hangzhou.

Ant Financial’s CTO Cheng Li: Alipay Building Overseas pPresence

According to Cheng Li, CTO of Ant Financial, Alipay has served more than 870 million users from China and nine other countries and regions (India, Thailand, South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Pakistan, and Bangladesh) over the past three years. Mobile payment has become part of daily life in these countries and regions.

Image for post
Image for post

Malaysia has already opened a service allowing local passengers to scan QR codes to take metros, making it the second country after China to introduce the service. In addition, Ant Financial has achieved the world’s first blockchain-based cross-border electronic funds transfer between Hong Kong and the Philippines. Cheng said Ant Financial’s blockchain technology will be widely used for more secure funds transfer and settlement.

He added that Alipay hopes its finance and technology (fintech) banking services can benefit the two billion or so people in the world who do not yet have access to banking services.

Jeff Zhang: Alibaba Sets Up New Chip Subsidiary

Image for post
Image for post

Jeff Zhang, CTO of Alibaba and President of DAMO Academy, announced that Alibaba has established a dedicated semiconductor subsidiary, which is the merger of the chip team of DAMO Academy and microchip maker C-SKY Microsystems Co., Ltd. Like DAMO Academy, the new subsidiary also plans to operate independently and develop cloud-based integrated chips.

Alibaba believes in the power of small forces. The official Chinese name of the new subsidiary contains a nickname of the honey badger, an animal living in much of Africa, Alibaba hopes it can persist in dreams like honey badgers persist in their fearlessness. Zhang said Alibaba will launch its first neural network chip next year and develop quantum chips to provide limitless computational power for artificial intelligence (AI).

Jack Ma: Embracing New Manufacturing for the Future

Image for post
Image for post

Jack Ma said that it is not the manufacturing industry, but the manufacturing laggards, who will be doomed. IT turns human beings into machines, whereas data technology (DT) seeks to make machines human-like.

Whereas IT aims to control the future, DT seeks to create the future. Whereas the age of IT nurtures the manufacturing industry, the age of DT shall nourish creativity. Whereas IT is to benefit ourselves, DT is to benefit others. Whereas the age of IT requires standardization, the age of DT asks for personalization.

In today’s external environment, turning away from New Manufacturing is like driving in blindness, because you won’t know who your customers are and what they want. New Manufacturing will redefine the manufacturing industry, supply chain, business services, and operations. It will lead a revolution not only in technology but also in ideology.

When New Manufacturing replaces the traditional one, the trade war will cease to exist.

Ma believes that trade wars, like assembly lines, are products of the Industrial Age. It is ridiculous to maintain employment through a trade war, because future manufacturing will not be a major job creator. In the future, everything will be “made on the Internet.” When manufacturing has no borders and everyone can engage in trade, all the rules will be reshaped, and trade wars will never break out.

Ma also predicted that IoT, chips, AI, big data, and cloud computing will reshape today’s production workshops in the same way that steam machines and petroleum oil changed the handicraft industry. In the future, data algorithm experts will write code at workshops instead of offices. Successful manufacturers will all be those who embrace the Internet, the IoT, cloud computing, and big data.

Speaking of the IoT, Ma said it is essentially an Internet of Intelligences (IoI), adding that an IoT without IoI is like a vegetable. Over 90% of the machinery and equipment in China are not interconnected. If all the machinery and equipment are interconnected and intelligentized, there will be a different landscape.

Appendix: Transcript of Jack Ma’s Speech

I had so much to say before the wonderful show given by the mathematicians. However, compared to what they have shared, my sharing seems to be less appealing.

I have had good conversations with these mathematicians last night. Now I don’t know what I’m going to talk. During their two hours of speeches, I didn’t get much, but I am very touched. I have always regretted that I didn’t choose the world of mathematics. However, I also feel lucky that I didn’t choose it, because I probably would have been kicked out.

I know nothing about those formulas they talked about, except 1+1=2 and the Pythagorean theorem, but I feel good, as I know those formulas are a foundation for science. Without the firm foundation of mathematics, science wouldn’t be possible; and without the foundation of science, there wouldn’t be any technology. I think I should express my special thanks to those true heroes who keep working in obscurity yet making great contributions to the whole society.

Alibaba feels honored to be able to develop and do something for these basic sciences today. When talking about what mathematics can be used for, I believe its “uselessness” is its biggest value. We have been used to readily accessing whatever is of great value these days. However, nothing significant can be achieved without great effort. Everyone wants instant gains, but you can only reap what you sow.

  1. From New Retail to New Manufacturing


Written by

Follow me to keep abreast with the latest technology news, industry insights, and developer trends.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store