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Alibaba's Smart City Solution - City Brain - Will Manage Traffic In Kuala Lumpur

China’s tech conglomerate Alibaba is rewiring Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia’s capital, with its City Brain. The company’s cloud division, Alicloud will deploy City Brain to manage traffic using artificial intelligence. The first part of the deployment will be completed by May this year. It consists of connecting 300 traffic lights and 500 traffic cameras in Kuala Lumpur’s Central Business District. Alibaba cloud already has a data center in Malaysia and is planning to build another one this year. It selected the country's capital as a site for City Brain because it is centrally located within Southeast Asia. 

City Brain performs a variety of management traffic management tasks, from making traffic predictions to optimizing traffic flows and automating emergency dispatches. As it gathers more data, City Brain can also be used as an input for city planning. For example, it can be used to determine bus routes or planning traffic management systems.

The AI solution has already been deployed in Guangzhou and Hangzhou. City officials in Guangzhou said they noted a 19% decline in traffic congestion after installation while Hangzhou reported a 92% accuracy for the system in detecting traffic violations. The city, which is also headquarters for Alibaba, also stated that traffic speeds increased by 15% after City Brain was installed.

Alibaba also signed an agreement with Chinese authorities to develop Xiongan New Area, an economic zone close to Beijing, as a smart city. As part of the transformation, Alibaba has promised to equip the city with AI smarts and install a variety of systems and devices, such as smart meters and traffic management systems, for better planning and development.   

Alibaba has ambitious plans for smart cities. In an interview last year, Wang Jian, chairman of Alibaba’s technology steering committee, said development in future cities would be determined by the amount of computing resources used in a city. Currently, electricity use is used as a measure of a city’s development. That said, Alibaba has also been criticized for its Big Brother vision. To be fair, that is a criticism lobbed at most smart city efforts as our lives become trackable and, to a certain extent, configurable within the Internet of Things ecosystem.

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