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By Charles Yang, president, Huawei Middle East

Today’s artificial intelligence (AI) advancements are an important part of the world’s wider digital transformation journey. Those of us in the ICT industry have been championing the benefits of AI for some time now, and many organizations in the Middle East now realize these benefits and are starting to embrace the AI movement as a real game changer.

That confidence comes as the world’s economy has started to benefit from this historical technology pivot. We can see this in Huawei’s latest Global Connectivity Index, an annual comprehensive study that measures how nations are progressing with digital transformation from both a national and industrial perspective. We have found that industries are embedding AI in key enabling technologies – broadband, datacenters, cloud, big data and IoT – to turn connectivity into intelligent connectivity, unleashing innovation to propel a new wave of economic growth. Perhaps unsurprisingly, AI is estimated by PwC to contribute up to $15.7 trillion to the global economy in 2030, with approximately $320 billion of that being accrued from the Middle East alone.

This economic value will be bolstered even further by the rollout of 5G broadband starting in the GCC. The road to 5G is in fact paved with AI. Enabling more people, things and devices to be connected than ever before, 5G will facilitate the kind of real-time data sharing and analysis at the heart of AI applications. It will generate unprecedented productivity in government, society, enterprises, and even on an individual level.

But there is still work to be done. Entering this new era, many organizations must now relook at their data’s value, the regulations around AI, and how they can bring AI into their business in a cohesive and efficient way.

Valuing data in an AI world

AI can help them to effectively analyse data, process those insights, and make decisions that improve the efficiency, effectiveness and the intelligence of their operations. This is a core task for businesses in today’s fourth industrial revolution, and AI is helping to lead the transformation of industries while also being a source of competitive advantage.

It’s worth noting that traditional data analytics platforms cannot be powered by AI. They also do not support real-time stream processing, so the value of data is not fully unleashed. In the intelligent era, more diversified data will be processed, including structured and unstructured data. Powered by cloud and distributed technology, the modern data processing platform that combines database, big data and AI is becoming mainstream.

The movement towards autonomous driving is a great example of this. There’s a massive amount of data in the autonomous driving industry. For example, in level-5 autonomous driving, each car will generate 64 TB of data every day. From development to mass production, over 10 billion kilometres of autonomous driving experiences need to be gained, and this will generate over 50 EB of data. Octopus, the autonomous driving cloud service facilitated by Huawei Cloud, supports simulation tests across 30,000 virtual scenarios, combining Data + Intelligence to significantly shorten the time for model development from months to weeks.

Creating open standards and regulations

In addition to data, organizations in the Middle East are also relooking at the regulations around AI. It is extremely important to have the right regulations to govern AI applications. Moreover, the regulations are going to be different if you are looking at banking verification or autonomous cars or smart utility metering.

One of our priorities, therefore, needs to be making AI more inclusive. To do that, businesses and governments must have access to open, flexible and secure digital platforms that host AI capabilities. It is essential for those in the Middle East to work together with government, industry partners and academia to synchronize on standards and policies wherever possible. By the end of 2018, Huawei alone had more than 1,000 solution partners, 3,600 service partners and 650 talent alliance partners working with us around the world to deliver solutions to enterprises, and AI was a strategic consideration in many of these relationships.

Tying together platforms, AI and ecosystems

Finally, once organizations have a grasp on their data and understand the regulations governing AI, organizations will be ready to welcome AI cohesively and efficiently across the business. Matching the latest advancements on new technologies such as AI, IoT, Cloud Computing and Big Data, we strongly believe in conducting AI implementation with a “Platform + AI + Ecosystem” approach.

This comprehensive view of AI recognizes that industries need a portfolio of full-stack, all-scenario AI solutions. In other words, they need a means of accessing the full computing power of AI through easy to use platforms that weave intelligence into the cloud, network edge or an individual device. The term “all scenarios” is particularly important as organizations in the Middle East prepare for different AI adoption scenarios across public clouds, private clouds, industrial IoT devices and consumer devices.

To facilitate that, we are continuously pushing our AI strategy forward by creating an industry ecosystem of openness, collaboration and shared success. This can be seen in the recent launch of our AI-native database, GaussDB, which embeds AI capabilities into the full lifecycle of distributed databases. The solution is already widely used in industries such as finance, telecoms, government, energy, healthcare and transportation, and this list is growing as we develop industry applications with our partners.

A great example of AI industry applications can be seen in the field of public safety. Consulting and technology companies, as well as public safety agencies, have begun to implement digital transformation to deal with operational challenges. To date, more than 230 cities in over 90 countries have deployed our own public safety solutions, and an increasing number of cities have introduced AI technology into these solutions. Our AI technologies have also helped local, regional and national agencies respond effectively to fast-moving public safety situations and, as a result, have improved overall citizen wellbeing.

At the same time, 5G is growing much faster than expected. The Middle East region’s rapid adoption of 5G again comes into play by improving the quality of communication in all industries - not only human to human, but also machine to machine communication. 5G development is on and regional telecom operators are quickly developing 5G commercial deployments. Large-scale rollouts have been started since 2018. We are happy to see GCC countries are in the first wave of 5G rollouts globally. The landscape is already set with 5G standards, 5G products, terminals, security and business models in place. Enabling these things to share intelligence through a full-stack, all-scenario AI system will help businesses to reap the full economic value offered by 5G. As we digitize and connect more things, AI is becoming a new general-purpose technology.  

In the end, we believe the intelligent connectivity of AI will trigger innovation on a scale previously unknown in the region. The resulting new business models will change the way entire industries are run, and how products and services are consumed. By sharing a renewed appreciation for data’s value, building stronger AI regulations and developing more inclusive AI deployment platforms - all supported by 5G - we will ultimately create a new “digital village” where everyone is included and closely connected.
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