Huawei today revealed a cloud artificial intelligence (AI) platform it calls Enterprise Intelligence, as it announced its intention to climb into the 'top five' bracket of cloud providers.
The new platform was revealed at the Chinese tech giant's annual conference in Shanghai, called Huawei Connect, by the current 'rotating CEO' Guo Ping (Huawei has a company practice of bringing in three deputy chairman to take turns as CEO every six months).
Ping stressed Huawei's plans to provide the technology infrastructure for its 30-plus partners, 14 of which signed up since last year's Connect and are working with Huawei for the first time.
Digital transformation is provoking a choice among business leaders, said Guo Ping, where they are faced with picking between proactive or reactive change. He likened this to the possibilities contained within an egg – broken from the inside out they bring life, but broken from the outside in, they're only good for frying.
"Embracing digital transformation is the only way forward," Ping said. "This is an era of greatness. Many great companies will emerge." Huawei's goal is to "capture the opportunity", he added, but the company will "refuse to be opportunistic".
He was followed to the stage by Mr Zheng Yelai, president for the IT product line, who pointed to some facts and figures that suggest Huawei has captured some of these opportunities: it has increased its share of the private cloud market to the number one spot in China, grown its user base by 278 percent since March this year, won itself an OpenStack Platinum rating, and contributed roughly 4,500 new features overall to its cloud suite.
It has also brought in some more big name businesses such as Volkswagen, using high performance computing for simulation design, and Philips' medical wing uses the Huawei cloud to manage 8.1 million medical devices.
Huawei didn't mention the 'top five' cloud providers by name, but it is safe to assume they are looking to compete with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, Google Cloud and IBM in the fast-growing global cloud market.
One of the big announcements for the day was Huawei Enterprise Intelligence (EI), which the company is billing as a cloud for hire with basic platform services such as deep learning, graph analysis, AI training, machine learning, reasoning, and indexing platforms.
The specific scenarios where Huawei touted EI as working well were in real-time video processing, plus 'dumb' device identification – like understanding that an egg is an egg, for example – and in document and image recognition. It also has general API services like natural language and voice recognition. Mr Zheng Yelai noted that at the moment, the optical character recognition is 97.37 percent accurate.
Mr Yang Xiaoling from Chinese financial services firm CPIC joined him on stage to talk the audience through its most recent announcement, a 'robo advisor' that asks the user six questions before figuring out a risk portfolio, all running on Huawei technology (and has been used 2.2 million times since its launch last Friday). The company will also be using optical character recognition to help it process and settle claims.
Enterprise Intelligence will also allow smart city initiatives to search through 100 billion images per second, for use cases such as traffic enforcement automation.
An example of this is 'Traffic Brain', a project launched by the megacity of Shenzhen – once a small fishing village, it is now home to as many as 22 million people, leading to seriously high vehicle density. The city now plans to use a Huawei-powered ultra high bandwidth dedicated network to capture urban traffic data of up to 700 million entries a month, and "EI-assisted" law enforcement, which will capture 10 million images a day.
"If a vehicle should not have been on the road, the technology will be able to spot it," said a spokesperson from the initiative.
This builds on Huawei's work with mass video networks, referenced by Mr Guo Ping earlier, where he gave the example of a missing girl in Qingdao, Shandong province. The smart city of 10 million people allowed police to first capture video of a woman's face, suspected to have taken the child.
They then ran this through an image database to identify the woman, which was used to locate the hotel she was staying at, and the child was found.
During a press conference, Yelai said that Huawei has plans to build a global cloud network based on the 'alliance' model you see with airlines across the world.
The partnership will include telcos Deutsche Telekom, BT, Orange and Telefonica.
"When we talk about the inspiration of cloud alliance we said it comes from the airline alliance concept," said Yelai. "And in this alliance model, they provide global services to their customers. Cloud alliance is just like that – different countries have varied requirements and in order to serve these customers well, we need these partners.
"[Some of] the operators have served their countries for over 100 years and have established trust and relationship with customers, particularly within governments and large enterprises, and they have chosen those partners because of the trust they have built."
For its part, Mr Yelai said Huawei is committed to building that trust, and said in his keynote that 95 percent of the Tech 1000 in China use Huawei cloud technology, along with 197 of the Fortune 500 companies. Huawei's security architecture, he said, starts with its own chipset, and he also stressed that Huawei takes data regulations and sovereignty seriously.