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Credit: Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

Credit: Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC)

Kuala Lumpur to adopt 'City Brain' for AI-supported traffic management

Earlier this week, the Malaysia Digital Economy Corporation (MDEC), the lead agency for driving the digital economy in Malaysia, together with Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL or Kuala Lumpur City Hall), and Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, announced a collaboration to develop Malaysia’s Artificial Intelligence (AI) ecosystem through the introduction of Malaysia City Brain.

This announcement is in line with Malaysia’s commitment to develop the National AI Framework, which was announced by Dato’ Sri Mohd Najib Tun Abdul Razak, the Prime Minister of Malaysia, in 2017. The National AI Framework is an expansion of the National Big Data Analytics (BDA) Framework.

The key players involved in Malaysia City Brain are Alibaba Cloud, MDEC and DBKL.

DBKL is providing access to camera live feeds, traffic light information as well as information on any events and road work, while MDEC is leading the data analytics and project management for the City Brain. MDEC has issued a Call-for-Collaboration for selecting private sector partners to operate the Malaysia City Brain post pilot stage, and it will continue to facilitate the funnelling of relevant data sets from both the public and private sector into the platform.

Alibaba Cloud is the platform provider and subject matter expert. Alibaba’s City Brain was deployed in Hangzhou, China in 2016, reducing traffic congestion and enabling faster response to illegal parking and traffic accidents, which are automatically detected. According to Reuters, the system produced reports of traffic violations with up to 92 percent accuracy, emergency vehicles reaching their destinations in half the time and overall increase in traffic speed by 15 percent.

Malaysia is the first country outside of China to adopt the City Brain. Malaysia City Brain offers a comprehensive suite of acquisition, integration, and analysis of big and heterogeneous data generated by a diversity of sources in urban spaces, through video and image recognition, data mining and machine learning technology. The City Brain is expected to enable city council and urban planners to make better decisions for the community.

During the first phase of the implementation, Malaysia City Brain will be used in traffic management to improve mobility in the city. A three-fold outcome is expected including analysis of traffic conditions, optimisation of traffic signals and detection of accidents or traffic incidents. Malaysia City Brain will begin with a base of 382 cameras feeds and input from 281 traffic light junctions, concentrated within central Kuala Lumpur.

Leveraging its massive cloud computing and data processing capabilities, the City Brain can optimise the flow of vehicles and traffic signals by calculating the time to reach intersections. It will also be able to generate structured summaries of data, such as traffic volume and speed according to lanes, which can be used to facilitate other tasks including incident detection.

Phase one will cover 66.4 Km with 281 Intersections including areas such as Jalan Tun Razak, Jalan Sultan Ismail and KL Business Centre. It will also include surface streets, interstate highways, public transportation, and emergency vehicle response. In the second phase, there are plans to expanded the coverage reach to include the rest of Kuala Lumpur- inbound and outbound highways.Other than traffic related solutions, the platform could also be expanded to other areas such as safety, security & surveillance, Environment monitoring, Healthcare, Energy, Waste & cleaning management and Public infrastructure.

Datuk Yasmin Mahmood, CEO of MDEC said, “As a digital economy nation, Malaysia should embrace AI revolution and make the most of the data economy. The collaboration with DBKL and Alibaba Cloud is another leap towards digitising Malaysia, where knowledge-sharing and the crossover of best practices transpire. As we set our sights on the future, we are excited about the prospects this partnership will bring to our community, benefiting millions of Malaysians,” said

She added that the introduction of Malaysia City Brain is just the beginning. MDEC will continue to work on selected high-profile AI initiatives and simultaneously develop the National AI Framework.

“At DBKL, our main priorities have always been to continuously provide improved services to our communities and businesses. Without a doubt, traffic congestion is one of the major challenges for a high-performing district like Kuala Lumpur. Through the advanced AI technology of the Malaysia City Brain, we will be able to offer real-life information and intelligent solutions to the people of Kuala Lumpur,” said Tan Sri Hj. Mhd. Amin Nordin Abd. Aziz, the Kuala Lumpur Mayor.

“Cloud computing, data technology and AI has become fundamental tools for all companies and organisations to operate effectively. Building on this partnership, we are happy to see Malaysia become the first country outside of China to adopt the City Brain. Through the program, we aim to empower all Malaysian stakeholders in both the public and private sectors, with the tools to enhance efficiency, advance in innovation and to succeed in the digital age. For Alibaba Cloud, this is the true meaning of inclusive technology,” said Simon Hu, President of Alibaba Cloud.

Developing an AI talent pool

The Malaysia City Brain initiative is also expected to attract and nurture world-class AI talent, and also pave the way for co-creation among other ASEAN nations. Malaysia City Brain is an open platform, which will give businesses, startups, entrepreneurs, educational and research institutions the opportunity to access and leverage on the AI tools, and ultimately drive innovations.

In August 2017, Malaysia embarked on a proof of concept for the Malaysia City Brain, in partnership with ASEAN Data Analytics Exchange (ADAX). As part of the partnership, four Malaysian students from ADAX’s Data Star program received the opportunity to experience the implementation of the Malaysia City Brain.

At the same event, Alibaba Cloud also announced the Malaysia Tianchi Big Data Program, a big data crowd intelligence platform, which brings together global data experts to collaborate and compete in developing solutions for real world problems. Supported by MDEC, the initiative aims to incubate 1,000 data scientists and 300 start-ups in Malaysia by facilitating the use of world class data intelligence technology through Alibaba Cloud’s cloud computing infrastructure and artificial intelligence capabilities.

The Malaysia Tianchi Big Data Programme will be integrated into Alibaba Cloud’s Tianchi global community, which has over 120,000 developers and 2,700 academic institutes and businesses from 77 countries and regions.

Alibaba has been working closely with the Malaysian Government. Last year, Malaysia’s Digital Free Trade Zone (DFTZ) became operational  with over 1,900 SMEs on board. It aims to facilitate seamless cross-border trade and enable local businesses to export their goods with a priority for eCommerce.

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