Streets of Kuala Lumpur at night

Alibaba’s AI traffic management system to be rolled out in Malaysia

Image credit: Dreamstime

Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba has launched its traffic management service, ‘City Brain’, in Kuala Lumpur. The service uses cloud computing and machine learning to minimise congestion on the city’s roads.

Alibaba’s cloud computing arm, Alibaba Cloud, which has a data centre in Malaysia, is integrating City Brain with the Malaysian capital’s existing traffic management systems. It aims to launch the completely integrated system in May 2018.

City Brain sorts through a mass of incoming data from 300 traffic lights, 500 CCTV cameras, public transport systems and other streams in order to minimise road congestion. It will use data mining, video and image recognition and other processes to determine live traffic predictions and recommendations, for instance, calculating the fastest and least disruptive route for an ambulance through the city using the inflow of real time data.

The complex system is powered by Alibaba Cloud’s Aspara, a computing engine which uses the technology underlying Alibaba’s online marketplaces.

The City Brain pilot is in partnership with the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation and Kuala Lumpur City Hall. It is part of Malaysia’s National Artificial Intelligence framework, itself an expansion of the country’s ‘cloud first’ Big Data Analytics Framework, which aims to accelerate the adoption of digital technologies in the private sector – particularly cloud computing – and boost the economy.

Although City Brain is already in use within China, having first been rolled out in Hangzhou, this is the first time that the system will be deployed internationally. The system was considered a success following its deployment in Hangzhou, resulting an average traffic speed increase of 15 per cent, and reporting traffic violations with 92 per cent accuracy.

There are reportedly plans in place to expand the programme to the outskirts of Kuala Lumpur, where it could perform more effectively due to the greater amount of data made available by including this area.

In 2017, Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, and Najib Razak, Prime Minister of Malaysia, launched an e-hub facility, aimed at helping break down trading barriers for SMEs.

While Alibaba is primarily an online retailer, in recent years the company has invested heavily in research and development into emerging technologies, including virtual reality, cloud storage and machine learning. Recently, a neural network developed by Alibaba surpassed humans in a reading comprehension test for the first time.

These machine learning programs can be used to assist employees with customer service, among other tasks.

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