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AI helping Beijing become 'smarter'

Du Juan
Updated: Aug 28,2020 08:16 AM    China Daily

As China's science and technology innovation center, Beijing is becoming a "smarter" city as the municipal authority increasingly uses artificial intelligence, big data and cloud computing to provide a well-organized and supported living space for the public.

People sometimes describe the smooth order of a well-running city like a human with a brain. Few know that Beijing has an actual "city brain" located in an office building in Haidian district, the center of the capital's high-tech growth.

In the display area of the "brain", there are many screens, big and small, showing information about transportation, waste treatment, the environment, health and community management.

"The information and real-time conditions of every construction site can be shown," said Cao Lijie, head of a management center of the construction committee of Haidian. "The information for qualifications, construction permits, the number of staff on site and all the machines being used for the projects can all be shown on the screen."

The goal of this system is to make construction projects "smarter" by monitoring safety applications, machine management and pollution conditions of the sites in order to make better decisions. Another screen nearby can display real-time transportation data in the city.

According to the government plan, the screens will cover 48 topics, including the aforementioned categories as well as public safety, city management and sharing technologies.

Of those covered topics, 15 have already been established, nine are being developed in the "brain" and 24 are in the planning stages.

Yuan Shichao, a student who has come back to Beijing to continue his fall semester in college, said he was worried and curious about how the city and campus looked while he was in his hometown because he has been away since January.

"However, it was surprisingly in order, whether in the train station, subways or campus. All the epidemic prevention measures have been conducted smoothly," he said. "It seems like people's lives are not impacted much."

At present, around 100,000 college students have come back to Beijing, and the number has been growing at a pace of about 10,000 a day.

The "city brain" has also contributed to this process to make everyone feel like Yuan.

The number of returning students is vividly shown in real-time on a screen with information like health conditions, while a second later the screen displays epidemic information for communities in the city.

According to the authority, the "brain" can focus on key public safety issues by inputting huge amounts of data, which gives authorities a strong base to make accurate decisions to control infections and resume work in a smooth manner.

The project, which was launched last year, is led by the government with participating companies.

Liu Song, vice-president of Alibaba, a major participant, said on Aug 19 that Alibaba Cloud will provide full services for the "brain".

Hua Xiansheng, head of the "city brain" lab at Alibaba, said in a previous interview that the core idea is to use AI and big data to mine the information that is accumulating every day in the city.

"Before we had cloud computing technology and AI technology, it was hard to process the huge amount of data to find the value in that information," Hua said. "Today we have cloud computing and much more computing power, and AI technology has made big progress in deep learning. It gives us a tool to analyze that data."

Lin Jianhua, deputy head of Haidian district, said by accelerating the world-class high-tech industry, Haidian will make its own contribution to the country's economic growth and prosperity in people's lives.

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