Malaysia’s capital will adopt ‘smart city’ platform from Alibaba

Alibaba’s cloud computing business is to deploy its big data services package for cities in Kuala Lumpur to help Malaysia’s government with the running of its capital city and potentially other parts of the country in the future.

“City Brain,” an Alibaba Cloud service that uses big data and artificial intelligence on its cloud computing infrastructure, will be put to use in the city after an agreement with local council Dewan Bandaraya Kuala Lumpur (DBKL) was announced today.

City Brain was first adopted by the government of Hangzhou, Alibaba’s home city, in 2016 to help run operations more efficiently. That’s quite a nebulous scope of work, but essentially the service pulls in all kinds of data — including video feeds, social media and traffic information — which is then processed to provide information that helps to manage daily activities. That could be responding to a traffic accident, or providing the data to redesign parts of the city to reduce vehicle congestion.

Last August, Alibaba Cloud signed an agreement to bring City Brain to Macau last year, but this Malaysia deployment will mark the first move outside of Greater China.

Initially, the system will be put to work on traffic, with the potential to help on town planning, incident response, and other emergency services such as calculating the optimal route to a scene. Alibaba said it plans to expand the scope of its influence to cover areas that will be of interest to enterprises, startups, entrepreneurs and academic and research institutions.

Alibaba has invested significantly in both its cloud business and developing artificial intelligence technologies. We wrote about the lofty ambitions of Alibaba Cloud last year, and, in October, the Alibaba Group itself pledged to spend $15 billion on a global innovation program focused on cutting-edge tech.

The DAMO Academy — which stands for “discovery, adventure, momentum and outlook” — will have seven offices worldwide which will develop areas such as data intelligence, the Internet of Things, financial tech, quantum computing and human-machine interaction. Alibaba plans to collaborate closely with the world of academia. The fruits of the program are likely to be seen in services like Cloud Brain.

Alibaba maintains strong links with authorities in Malaysia. It picked Kuala Lumpur as the site for a cross-border commerce initiative that it says will help develop e-commerce across Southeast Asia.