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Hohhot Metro Benefits from Innovative Urban Rail Cloud

By Chen Huijuan, Global Transportation Business Unit of Huawei's Enterprise Business Group

Rapid urbanization and technological development go hand-in-hand. And as urban development accelerates, so too does the demand for better performing public services. Here, urban rail transit is no exception. We have, therefore, now arrived at a new, pivotal period: Technologies powered by 5G, cloud computing, and big data are being applied during the construction and operations of urban rail transit.

On December 31, 2019, Hohhot — the capital of Inner Mongolia — officially opened its first metro line, Line 1, which also happens to be the first in the world to deploy Huawei's Urban Rail Cloud, an industry-leading multi-line, multi-system cloud solution. In short, this solution provides comprehensive support for rail transit operations, in turn revolutionizing the experience for passengers.

Implementation of the Urban Rail Cloud

As early as 2016, during the initial phase of Line 1's construction, Hohhot Metro proposed and subsequently followed a 'cloud computing + urban rail' guideline and model. This model encourages the use of emerging technologies, such as cloud computing and big data, to support everything from subway operations and production, to the management of the enterprise, construction and resources. An intelligent cloud platform was therefore built for the design, construction, and operations of Hohhot Metro, implementing full coverage of informatization services as well as unified Operations and Maintenance (O&M) and security control. To ensure smooth implementation for the project, Hohhot Metro adopted an approach of 'bold planning, careful verification, testing first, and ensuring reliability,' all while using innovative technology to ensure safety and improve efficiency during construction. As the cloud solution provider of the project, Huawei has world-class technologies in the field of cloud computing, big data, Internet of Things (IoT), and emergency communications. It also has extensive experience in rail transport informatization.

In the implementation phase, Huawei's project team organized leading industry experts to work onsite. Throughout the entire process — starting from the centralized deployment of a single system, developing into that of multiple systems, then ending with that of full systems — the solution was constantly optimized to meet evolving requirements. If and when service requirements changed, each and every step was carefully reviewed, ensuring smooth solution implementation.

In the testing phase, the project team performed multi-phase, multi-batch, and long-term tests together with several other mainstream service providers, all at the Urban Rail Ecosystem Lab of Huawei's OpenLab in Suzhou. Verifying feasibility was crucial and it required extensive testing, involving eight service systems, more than 30 mainstream equipment vendors, six test directions, and more than 600 test cases. Huawei also set up test platforms in Hohhot itself and in Horinger County, some 60 km south of Hohhot, to perform simulations based on actual project requirements. This not only helped ensure the successful delivery of the solution, it also enabled invaluable experience to be collected — experience that can be applied elsewhere, in the future.

The solution achieved full coverage across the entire metro system, consisting of one control center, one train depot, and a total of 20 stations. All service systems — including the Integrated Supervisory Control System (ISCS), Passenger Information System (PIS), Auto Fare Collection (AFC), Access Control System (ACS), Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV), and Automatic Train Supervision (ATS) — were supported through a unified Huawei cloud platform.

At the top-level design, Huawei built three cloud platforms — for the production center, the Disaster Recovery (DR) center, and stations and depots — providing Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) for multiple systems. This meets the existing requirements of Hohhot Metro Line 1 and Line 2 — the latter first opened on October 1, 2020 — and also reserves capacity to accommodate Line 3, Line 4, and Line 5 in the future.

All of this means that, despite being a relative latecomer, compared with other Chinese cities, Hohhot Metro is now leading the way in innovative subway construction. That's all thanks to Huawei's urban rail cloud solution. Indeed, According to the China Association of Metros (CAM), the Hohhot urban rail cloud project improved resource usage by over 50%, compared to similar projects, slashed initial investment by approximately 40%, and increased operational and management efficiency by more than 30%.

In terms of security and reliability, the 'inter-network isolation and intra-network protection' approach has improved the security of the entire platform by more than 80%. Meanwhile, the three-level assurance mechanism — based on the active center, the DR center, and the station cloud nodes — has improved service reliability by more than 50%.

On September 6, 2019, during the Urban Rail Cloud Innovation and Application Seminar held in Hohhot, more than 300 urban rail transit experts and scholars from across China visited the Network Operations Control Center (NOCC) of Hohhot Metro. The visitors were especially impressed with the multi-line and multi-system urban rail cloud. They spoke highly of Hohhot's urban rail cloud construction, highlighting its benefits for subway construction and improving operational efficiency. They also recognized the exemplary role it is playing, leading the urban rail transit industry in China toward digitalization and intelligence.

Benefits of the Urban Rail Cloud

At the end of the day, improving production, operations, and passenger services is the core goal of any smart urban rail construction project. Therefore, existing fragmented construction modes need to be eradicated, paving the way for new platforms that can make the most of new Information and Communications Technology (ICT) capabilities. These platforms can collect and accumulate general customer requirements, in turn simplifying the development of smart applications while also driving innovation.

To this end, Huawei developed the urban rail cloud solution with five fields in mind: operations and production, enterprise management, construction management, operation management, and asset management. In addition, a unified cloud platform architecture — consisting of a safe production network, internal management network, and external service network — was adopted to support the construction of the informatization platform, delivering five key benefits to customers in the urban rail transit industry.

Secure and reliable service operations: Strict compliance with China's Level-3 security protection requirements is assured. The safe production network, internal management network, and external service network were designed for the active center, DR center, and stations and depots, respectively, implementing horizontal full coverage and vertical end-to-end security protection for metro services.

Centralized O&M management: The solution unifies service processes and operation guidelines, supports automatic service deployment and intelligent device status analysis, and implements visualized management and control of hardware resources. This improves O&M efficiency and reduces the need for highly trained maintenance personnel.

Complete enterprise information architecture: Production and operations, enterprise management, and customer service are optimized and integrated by establishing a complete enterprise information architecture. In the future, massive amounts of service data will be shared, maximizing its utility and facilitating enterprise management.

Source: China Association of Metros

Reduced initial construction costs: Information Technology (IT) resources and station resources such as equipment rooms, power supplies, and environmental control and firefighting equipment are all integrated, boosting overall resource utilization.

Elastic capacity expansion and efficient services: The cloud platform streamlines the computing, storage, and network architectures of all lines and systems, maximizing the value of investments while maintaining high service efficiency. In addition, with the advantages of elastic resource expansion and on-demand resource allocation, the solution supports evolution to cloud databases, big data, and industry-enabled Platform as a Service (PaaS), providing strong support for new service rollout and new line construction in the future.

Huawei's 'Platform + AI + Ecosystem' Strategy

Digital transformation is an ongoing process. The application of new technologies — such as 5G, big data, cloud computing, and Artificial Intelligence (AI) — will constantly drive the construction of smart urban rail. 5G applications, specifically, are reshaping connectivity, providing the urban rail industry with full-service data sharing, data governance, and data analysis. Meanwhile, the future will see intelligent O&M, intelligent operations, and intelligent services develop further in the industry, thanks to the application of AI.

Huawei's contribution to the urban rail industry has been extensive, further evidenced through a joint innovation lab established with Hohhot Metro, Beijing Jiaotong University, and Traffic Control Technology (TCT) Co. Ltd. What each division of the partnership offers is clear-cut: Huawei provides platform products and technologies; Beijing Jiaotong University provides talent cultivation and theoretical research; TCT focuses on developing segmented applications for urban rail transportation; and Hohhot Metro provides application scenarios. Thanks to the efforts, investments, and complementary strengths from all sides, the joint lab has been able to successfully integrate production and research with actual applications.

On one hand, the joint innovation lab can implement Huawei's 'platform + AI + ecosystem' development strategy, to accelerate the integration of new technologies into scenario-specific solutions. On the other, it boosts the construction of the urban rail industry ecosystem. Simply put, it makes the urban rail cloud the foundation of smart urban rail construction, meeting ever-changing industry requirements.

With clear strategies and cutting-edge solutions, Huawei has provided solutions and services for more than 170 urban rail lines in over 70 cities around the world. The urban rail cloud has become the development standard for the entire industry and a solid foundation for digital transformation.

Looking to the future, Huawei will continue to invest in the urban rail industry, promote the application of more new technologies, and deliver optimal scenario-specific solutions. Guided by the 'platform + AI + ecosystem' strategy Huawei will work with software and hardware vendors, system integrators, big data integrators, and industry application developers alike, to jointly build world-leading, future-oriented smart urban rail systems.

Expert Views:

Huawei’s urban rail cloud solution serves as a platform that carries metro services, laying a solid foundation for our innovations, and secure and efficient operations. Unified equipment and O&M management not only improve resource usage by 40%, but also simplify our O&M. This allows us to invest more resources and energy in service innovation and high-quality development.

— Liu Zhanying, Chairman of Hohhot Metro

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