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  • Huawei

    AI Lets Cities Learn to be Smart

New Horizons: You are listening to New Horizons, the podcast channel for Huawei’s ICT Insights Magazine. Join us as we talk to innovators and thought leaders from around the world.

Hi everyone. Today, we’re here with Edwin Diender who’s the Vice President of government and public utility sectors the Enterprise Business Group at Huawei. And this is going to a three-part interview, and we’re going to talk about Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence; Smart Cities and the IoT; and Smart Cities and Big Data. So, first of all, let me introduce Edwin. Edwin thanks for joining us today.

Edwin Diender: My pleasure to be here, thank you.

New Horizons: So, Edwin, what can you tell us about Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence?

Edwin Diender: Well, what is not to tell about it because there is a lot. Maybe we should start first with where Huawei positions Smart Cities first.

New Horizons: Fair enough.

Edwin Diender: And then see if we can link it to Artificial Intelligence if that’s okay with you.

New Horizons: Sure.

Edwin Diender: So, for Huawei, Smart City is not something that you can get a purchase order for because it’s not something that sits in a box as such.

New Horizons: Right.

Edwin Diender: For Huawei — the idea or the principal — would be more on a conceptual level. We’re looking at it as something like a platform that’s capable of linking different programs and initiatives that would allow and help a city, or a residential area, or what have you, move higher up the value chain.

And these different programs and initiatives combined eventually would lead to, let’s say, a Smarter City. Artificial Intelligence would be a component where you could think of pieces of technology that do not require any pre-configuration, any pre-staging, and maybe not even configuration, or onsite implementations. What we mean by that is consider Artificial Intelligence almost like a brain of a child, waiting to be opened up to be addressed, and via learning-by-example, and learning-by-doing.

It builds experience and handles as such. An artificial component in a Smart City as an example could learn from other elements in the city by itself and understand maybe an Artificial Intelligent-enabled camera would perhaps just be put in the network of the city, and it understands automatically that it looks at images of maybe cars that are speeding.

Without the camera itself needing to be configured to do that because from an artificial intelligent component such a camera would get it, and it would also learn. Perhaps the crossroad that it’s looking at today has a speed limit of 50 miles an hour, and maybe over time, perhaps the city government decide that perhaps the speeding limit should go to 30 miles an hour. Normally speaking, all these speeding cameras need to be configured separately.

And at one moment, it needs to be pushed into all these cameras, so they get it now. There’s a new rule that applies. That would be one example.

New Horizons: Okay.

Edwin Diender: Another example of Artificial Intelligence for cities would mean it understands what it does, and what happens with traffic congestion as an example, or maybe water floods from canals, or levies that are rising, and it understands that it relates perhaps to a weather report that sits in a database that it has pieces of information from it. It can learn from it, and it then understands that there are similarities from back then to today, and it needs to do something with notification, or what have you.

New Horizons: Well, would another example be let’s say there’s a big football event in a city, and the city may not be really well set up for traffic flow, for a large influx of cars, and trucks, and all the catering that has to happen.

Where an AI could learn or be told that, you know, on this particular day there’s going to be an event. You may need to monitor or change traffic signaling intervals, how long the lights go… or, to be able to move traffic around. Would that be a good example?

Edwin Diender: That would be a very fair, and a very perfect example; another example of how and where Artificial Intelligence comes in. Another point that we could perhaps bring to our conversation is the one that when it comes to intelligence, there is not really a clear definition of what intelligence actually is. That makes it very hard to then determine the artificial side of that. And as a result, of that it makes it very difficult to put in place whatever anyone could think about what artificial actually is, or what Artificial Intelligence actually does.

All the examples that we’ve now discussed could be debated as yeah, you know, those are examples of advanced algorithms, which is fair because they are, but that’s exactly what a child’s brain processes in a very advanced way. It goes from trial and error. It does something and learns from it. It puts a hand on a stove, and it understands that this is too hot to handle are all part of a learning process, and to improve the capacity of a brain of a child to prepare that child for whatever comes next.

I think when it comes to Artificial Intelligence in city and in city management, as I said before, it’s not something that you can buy out of a box. You cannot buy a Smart City. It is a process, and it moves higher up the value chain, and as such, it learns by trial and error. It learns from mistakes, and it learns from things that go very well. It triggers incentives just like a child’s brain would do it. I think Artificial Intelligence and Smart Cities combined are a learning curve. They’re on a learning track which I think is very, very interesting to be a part of.

New Horizons: Well, and I agree with you. I think it’s absolutely right. We’re still in the fairly early stages of Artificial Intelligence development. They have a very narrow focus, there’s no general purpose AI, yet. So, what would be another potential example in closing out this first part of the discussion about Artificial Intelligence in Smart Cities?

Edwin Diender: The component and the element of Artificial Intelligence within Smart Cities is something that sits very much on the side of the equation where you could say items are AI-enabled or AI-prepared.

It means, in all fairness, that whatever we as Huawei Technologies are able to put in place is that the solution stack that we provide for Smart City deployment are AI-prepared, and AI-enabled for whatever bright application, or for whatever Artificial Intelligence service is coming up in university labs, as an example, to be put in place, and to be tested and to be monitored, and to be controlled.

That is where Huawei sits right now. We provide a solution stack that is AI-enabled, that has the early features and functionalities of what eventually Artificial Intelligence in the full meaning of the word, encompasses as a potential: from a chip set point of view, from an application-carrying point of view, from a distribution, and a transmission, and a data collection, and analysis, and from a self-learning, and a deep learning point of view.

New Horizons: Would you say that most major cities have some type of Artificial Intelligence or Smart City long term plans, or should they?

Edwin Diender: They should. I wouldn’t say that all or the majority of most cities would have this in their, let’s say on paper. What they have is a clear view of the fact that they need to do something, and they need to move higher up the value chain over a certain amount of time. What they struggle with is what to do, and what to do first. And they do think in a digital way. So, digital transformation, digitalization, and digitization — which are two different things — are in their minds. I think what that also means is that within that is a component of Artificial Intelligence already embedded, but it’s not clear because there is no definition yet. The very defined, and very end-to-end, in a very closed definition.

New Horizons: Well, I don’t think we’re going to ever see things become less complicated. I mean entropy rules. So, this is a very interesting subject that I’d like to touch on again at some point in the future. So, I think this is a good stopping point for the first section talking about AI and Smart Cities, and please stay tuned for part two which we’ll be talking about Smart Cities and IoT.

Thanks for listening to this episode of New Horizons. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to share it on social media. Once again, thanks for listening.


As Chief Digital Transformation Officer in the Enterprise Business Group, Edwin helps to advise our customers and partners regarding innovation, business, and growth using Digital Transformation with a focus on Smart City/Safe City economics, eGovernment and Government cloud, and Big Data Analytics and Digital Transformation for Smart Cities.