Since the 'New Infrastructure Construction' policy and the Outline for Building China's Strength in Transportation were implemented — in 2018 and 2019, respectively — the digital transformation of the nation's transportation industry has reached a critical juncture, as it has in other countries around the globe. Traditional modes can no longer meet new requirements that digital transformation brings, so a new mode is needed. And in recent years, a new digital paradigm has started to develop.
The use of new technologies — such as 5G, cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), and Artificial Intelligence (AI) — is leading the transportation industry into the digital era.
The deep integration, bidirectional interaction, and real-time coupling of Information Technology (IT) and Operational Technology (OT) empowers the transportation industry's digital transformation and comprehensively improves the precise sensing, precise analysis, and intricate management capabilities of transportation infrastructure, as well as the modernization level of the governance of transportation.
Many countries around the world — in Europe, North America, and Asia Pacific — are planning comprehensive digital transformation solutions for transportation. For example, the European Union (EU) has devised a plan that will provide 2 trillion euros (about US$2.43 trillion) to finance a European economic recovery after the deep recession that the coronavirus pandemic is expected to cause. From that fund, 1.1 trillion euros (about US$1.33 trillion) will be used to build a 20,000-km high-speed railway network that connects the capitals of EU countries. In 2020, the German government and Deutsche Bahn AG released a railway construction investment plan for the next decade, indicating that Germany is expected to invest 86 billion euros (about US$104 billion) to build a comprehensive pan-European transportation network by 2030.
Digital Transformation of Transportation Industry Enters Uncertain Period
In recent years, we've seen several disruptive events; some of them were foreseeable, while others were impossible to predict. Clearly, the future is becoming increasingly uncertain. Many innovations have been gradually integrated into the transportation industry's production process. As the digital transformation of the industry develops, determining how to radically innovate and create that much-needed new digital paradigm has become a priority.
Transportation infrastructure generally has a low level of digitization. The transportation industry is asset-heavy, and it has strict security requirements as well as high specialization and mobility levels, so it faces significant challenges as it integrates with new technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, and big data. Frankly, it lags behind the Internet, finance, and telecom industries in terms of digital transformation.
In the past 30 years, the transportation industry adopted IT technologies very early, but most transportation infrastructure has lacked digital capabilities. Many roadside, trackside, terminal, and hub devices are still 'dumb'; they're not included in traffic operations management, and they can't be used for traffic management and dispersion. This is fairly typical of the industry: Most IT applications are scattered in various information silos, and transportation is still far from being truly digitalized.
Modern transportation isn't merely the independent transportation of passengers and cargoes in vertical transportation domains, including railway transportation, highway transportation, water transportation, and air transportation. Instead, it's integrated, comprehensive transportation based on the passenger, cargo, and vehicle flows, plus a digital, networked, and intelligent travel service system. Digital transformation is the only way to achieve comprehensive transportation, but it's very difficult because this kind of 'comprehensive' transportation is complex.
With the rapid development of urban rail transit and city cluster construction, urban rail construction has begun to evolve — from a series of separate lines to a complicated network consisting of diversified urban rail transit modes, such as metro, light rail, commuter rail, and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT). This has led to a sharp increase in the number of construction projects. For example, in recent years Shenzhen Metro's construction projects increased from 60 to 400, sometimes involving about 70,000 construction workers per month. This rapid development has also made the process management of urban rail construction much more complicated. No matter where you look around the world, there isn't a great deal of experience in making such a large rail network digital. To explore and innovate in the field, we need to make use of next-generation IT technologies — such as 5G, cloud computing, big data, IoT, and AI.
Further complicating matters, vehicles are always evolving and constantly being upgraded. The operations and management of new vehicles — drones, unmanned vehicles, electric vehicles, and intelligent rail transit — pose challenges to the digital operations and management of China's modern transportation systems. In this context, the priority is developing a new digital transformation paradigm.
Building a New Digital Transformation paradigm
With Information and Communications Technology (ICT) advantages accumulated over 30 years and more than 20 years of experience in transportation industry solutions, Huawei has provided transportation solutions for 23 Fortune Global 500 customers.
The Comprehensive Transportation Solution — jointly launched by Huawei and its ecosystem partners — is one of the most popular solutions; it integrates technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, big data, and AI with business scenarios, to achieve Huawei's vision of making travel as convenient as possible for passengers and ensuring that all logistics for cargo transportation are run smoothly, improving the security, efficiency, and experiences of transportation.
Comprehensive Transportation Solution
Future transportation won't be merely independent transportation of passengers and cargoes in vertical transportation domains — railway, highway, water, and air transportation, and so on; it will be integrated, comprehensive transportation. Integrated, comprehensive transportation covers people's door-to-door journeys and end-to-end transfers of cargoes; it makes those journeys and transfers quicker, safer, and cheaper, and it guarantees better experiences.
As more industrial plans are proposed — such as the Outline for Building China's Strength in Transportation, as well as other regional plans of the Yangtze River Delta, Guangdong-Hong Kong-Macao Greater Bay Area, Beijing-Tianjin-Hebei Region, Jiangsu province, and Guangdong — building an 'air, water, ground, and underground' integrated, comprehensive transportation system, from hubs to cities and then to metropolitan circles meets the transportation industry's development needs.
Integrated, comprehensive transportation
Ultimately, the aims of making transportation digital are to solve business problems, improve security, efficiency, and experiences, stimulate productivity, and ensure high-quality development of the industry by building a comprehensive transportation system that covers the entire process, architecture, and lifecycle. This digital, integrated transportation system must be implemented step by step.
The first step is to make each business scenario in vertical sub-industries — aviation, urban rail, railway, highway, logistics, and port — digital. Then, multiple digital business scenarios are connected in series to form streamlined business flows of passengers, cargoes, and vehicles. In this way, vertical sub-industries become digital.
The second step entails connecting digital vertical sub-industries in parallel to bridge breakpoints, forming a door-to-door travel service flow and an end-to-end goods transportation flow. This way, the entire process can be sensed, predicted, coordinated, and linked — building a future-ready comprehensive transportation system.
Huawei's Comprehensive Transportation Solution includes smart airports, urban rails, highways, logistics, railways, and ports — covering major modes of transportation and logistics. Huawei is also participating in the planning, design, Research and Development (R&D), and implementation of comprehensive digital transportation construction in several Chinese cities. For example, Huawei is helping Shenzhen strengthen its urban traffic governance capacity to alleviate congestion in the city and increase its travel service level to make public travel safer and more pleasant.
As a comprehensive transportation hub that integrates sea, ground, air, and rail transportation, Shenzhen Airport prioritized the converged development of transportation modes in recent years, to build an aviation service ecosystem of combined air-ground, air-sea, and air-rail transportation, becoming a '4-in-1' airport. This kind of convergence generates huge digital value, and it inevitably results in a vast amount of data traffic.
An important task for Shenzhen Airport is to explore how to enable 4-in-1 airports for digital transformation and build comprehensive airport hubs. To build a future-ready digital platform, Huawei and Shenzhen Airport are working together, following the 'Platform + Ecosystem' strategy, which entails the use of a digital platform and an ecosystem of partners working together. Based on Huawei's ICT infrastructure, the two parties have integrated the IoT, a combination of big data and AI, video cloud, Geographic Information System (GIS), and Integrated Communication Platform (ICP) resources.
Digitization and Digitalization
Digital transportation includes digital infrastructure (digitization) and digital business processes (digitalization). Digitization is the basis for digitalization, and digitalization is key to bridging breakpoints and addressing difficulties and pain points.
Digital transportation encompasses digital infrastructure and digital business processes.
Digital infrastructure is capable of all-round sensing and connectivity, and involves technologies such as IoT, 5G, machine vision, and radar. Digital business processes are converged, intelligent, visible, and they provide support for decision-making. These processes typically involve technologies such as cloud computing, big data, and AI.
Applying more than 20 years of experience in digital transformation of the transportation industry, Huawei has developed Traffic Intelligent Twins (TrafficGo), which integrate multiple technologies — such as connectivity, cloud, AI, computing, and application — and is an open, intelligent system that features three-dimensional sensing, multi-domain collaboration, accurate judgment, and continuous evolution — realizing cloud-network-edge-device synergy.
Taking connectivity and intelligence as an example:
Connectivity: 5G features high bandwidth and low latency, providing infinite possibilities for digital transportation.
The digitization of roadside, trackside, terminal, hub, and vehicle infrastructure is necessary for business process digitalization, and depends on sensing and connectivity technologies for data collection and transmission.
5G is one of Huawei's core technological strengths. With high bandwidth, low latency, wide connectivity, and high reliability, 5G can make a significant difference in the transportation industry. For metro facility maintenance, manual detection is inefficient and prone to false alarms and omissions.
The 5G train-to-ground wireless communications solution piloted on Shenzhen Metro's Line 11 can transmit data to stations, car depots, and monitoring stations when the train is running, so that the metro operation organization can monitor train facilities, train status, tunnels, and passengers. When a train runs for an hour, it generates about 25 GB of data. In the past, it took at least 120 minutes to copy that data. Now, that data can be automatically copied within 2.5 minutes. This supports prompt health management and status analysis of facilities.
Intelligence: AI reduces the amount of manual labor needed for major, frequent, and repetitive tasks.
To digitalize business processes, business experts and IT experts need to work together to select appropriate business scenarios and find the difficulties and pain points in the operations and production processes in the transportation industry. Then technologies can be used to solve the problems to improve security, efficiency, and experiences.
For example, whether the number of times passengers take shuttle bus at an airport is related to both the technology of aircraft stand allocation and the management system. An airport usually arranges for the most competent commander to allocate aircraft stands, and the commander typically spends four to five hours on this task. In the event of traffic control or weather changes on the following day, the commander needs to quickly adjust the allocation.
AI can complete the allocation in only one minute, and makes adjustments in seconds. Shenzhen Airport's intelligent stand allocation system first introduced AI algorithms to airports in China, helping Shenzhen Airport allocate stands automatically and intelligently. By deploying this system, the airport has greatly improved its bridge-to-aircraft docking rate, as well as bridge turnover rate — enabling about 2.6 million passengers to directly board the aircraft through bridges and reducing passenger waiting time by 125 hours each year.
The convergence of connectivity and computing will change all walks of life. Metcalfe's Law states that a network's value is proportional to the square of the number of nodes in the network. This means that a network's value increases exponentially when the number of connections in the network increases, ultimately creating value for society. In the transportation industry, connectivity and computing should be integrated with business scenarios and address pain points in production systems to create value. All of these scenarios constitute a blueprint for comprehensive transportation.
Three Business Flows
The transportation industry has three business flows: passenger, cargo, and vehicle.
Passenger flow: Providing personalized, differentiated, and more convenient travel experiences for passengers is the eternal pursuit of various transportation enterprises.
Cargo flow: Smooth circulation of cargoes can improve logistics efficiency and reduce social costs.
Vehicle flow: Resources and requirements can be better matched by linking elements such as passengers, cargoes, roads, vehicles, terminals, and stations.
We need to focus on core business flows and apply IT technologies in key business scenarios to resolve pain points — increasing production efficiency, enhancing operations management, innovating business models, and improving public service capabilities.
Three business flows
The combined application of IT technologies — such as 5G, cloud computing, big data, and AI — can deepen the convergence of multi-source data, integrate online and offline resources, and promote the opening and sharing and converged development of information about a range of fields — such as transportation, business travel, and tourism and shopping — building Mobility as a Service (MaaS) that's centered on mobility rather than on transportation resources. Mobility requirements and transportation service resources are matched based on data, making mobility an on-demand instant service and creating a new mobility experience.
How can we apply IT to improve the passenger experience at airports and shorten the passenger processing time? The Smart Airport solution is passenger-centric, and provides precise, all-scenario, personalized, and online-offline converged services along passengers' travel routes, building an airport travel solution that creates a seamless airport travel experience for passengers, in which only one form of ID is needed. Chengdu Shuangliu International Airport is expected to provide end-to-end seamless self-help services soon — creating an efficient travel experience for passengers and reducing the risk of ID document loss. Meanwhile, the smart flight information display system provides flight information and indoor navigation information for passengers. In China, all airports have equipped their boarding gates with self-service facilities, reducing the average passenger processing time by more than 15 minutes.
It usually takes several years from preparing to build transportation infrastructure to the infrastructure being used. As technologies develop rapidly, digital enablement should cover four phases: planning, construction, maintenance, and operations. Coordinated deployment and iterative innovation should go throughout the lifecycle. For example, smart urban railways need to be analyzed in terms of construction, maintenance, operations, business management, and passenger travel; smart highways need to be approached comprehensively, from road network sensing and road network cognition to road network intelligence; and smart railways need to be considered from operational communications to smart train maintenance, as well as from perimeter security protection to smart freight yards and smart stations.
The business of transportation enterprises and institutions is usually divided into the aforementioned four phases. Each phase requires careful planning and effective use of IT. The four phases should be aligned from end to end in order to obtain complete digital insights, support planning and decision-making, implement comprehensive scheduling and operations of all processes, scenarios, and elements, and verify and explore innovative business models.
Huawei's solutions and platforms are deterministic so we can decide how to deploy them to perform better services. Meanwhile, the application scenarios for those solutions and platforms are non-deterministic and constantly change, so we need to collaborate and work closely with ecosystem partners, create a unified architecture, with coordinated deployment, and efficiently iterate new technologies.
Industrial digital transformation is a systematic process. To keep this process on track, top-level design needs to be performed in the project planning phase. Under the premise of a unified architecture, decision makers need to consider the long project period and fast technology iteration, devise a plan, calculate the entire lifecycle and costs, and estimate the requirements of the maintenance and operations phases. Deterministic platforms and products should be deployed in a coordinated way. Digital platforms — as ICT infrastructure — are the foundation for the transportation industry's digital transformation, and they should be constructed first, to improve efficiency.
Comprehensive transportation, covering the entire process, architecture, and lifecycle
In the construction and maintenance phases, we should embrace new technologies — such as 5G, cloud computing, AI, big data, and IoT — and preferentially adopt stable and open platforms, as well as technologies and solutions that can be flexibly iterated.
In the operations phase, transportation enterprises and institutions can build customer profiles based on big data analytics to explore new business models and revenue sources.
We need to collaborate with ecosystem partners, and quickly iterate technologies to cope with non-deterministic application scenarios.
The Yangchenghu Expressway Service Area in Jiangsu province is an example of successful lifecycle alignment. Up to 100,000 vehicles stop by the service area every day. Each vehicle carries at least two people, and each person spends over CNY70 (about US$11) there, creating over CNY7 million (US$10.8 million) in revenue for the service area. Yangchenghu Expressway Service Area is planned as a node on the tourism industrial chain and operated as a commercial district.
Digital transformation should run throughout the lifecycle of transportation business. In the future, this will become normal for construction of new transportation infrastructure.
The digital economy has proven a significant driver for stabilizing investment, promoting consumption, facilitating industrial upgrades, and cultivating new momentum for economic growth. To create value, the digital transformation of the transportation industry requires synergy.
Huawei applies its technological capabilities and focuses on scenario-based transportation solutions through synergy across five tech domains: 5G, cloud, AI, computing, and industry applications. To succeed, the entire industry needs to work together. Only when the industry uses unified standards and builds a healthy ecosystem can all parties achieve collaborative division of labor, complement each other's advantages, and flourish.
To help establish that healthy ecosystem, Huawei will enable partners. As well as traditional partners, Huawei will also cooperate with five types of ecosystem partners: consulting and planning partners, data governance partners, integration implementation partners, application development partners, and platform operations partners.
To aggregate the capabilities of these partners, Huawei will explore multiple cooperation modes, including device-side sensing, software development, data governance, and smart applications, for joint innovation. As the construction of new infrastructure progresses and new business models evolve, the investment in infrastructure construction increases year by year. More investment and financing partners need to join in, to dig deep into the segmented business scenarios of the transportation industry. Huawei and our partners will complement each other's advantages and jointly build a digital cube — incorporating cooperation modes, partner capabilities, and application scenarios to create value for the industry — to continuously capitalize on ecological potential.
The digital cube of comprehensive transportation
Huawei adopts an open and cooperative attitude, and enables partners through this digital cube to promote the digital transformation of transportation.
The Comprehensive Transport Solution integrates technologies such as 5G, cloud computing, big data, and AI with business scenarios, to achieve Huaweis vision of making travel as convenient as possible.
— Wang Guoyu, Vice President of Global Transportation Business, Huawei Enterprise Business Group