Macau teams up with Alibaba to turn smart city vision into reality
Macau is harnessing the cloud computing capabilities of Chinese technology giant Alibaba Group to help it transform into one of Asia Pacific’s leading smart cities.
The special administrative region’s government inked a strategic partnership deal with Alibaba on Friday.
By leveraging the technologies of Alibaba Cloud, the group’s cloud computing arm, the two parties will collaborate in upgrading the IT infrastructure in Macau to foster digital developments in tourism, transportation, health care, governance and talent development.
Residents and tourists visiting Macau are expected to benefit from the partnership, which will see Alibaba Cloud deploy all of the existing practices it uses in smart city projects across the mainland. These range from using artificial intelligence to optimise the management of road, air and water transportation to customising guided tours based on data-driven analysis.
Macau is the world’s richest gambling hub, with casino revenues reaching 23 billion patacas (US$2.86 billion) in July, according to official data released this week.
“Alibaba Cloud’s big data and deep learning technologies have been helping to build ‘city brains’ in China to help local governments effectively make management decisions,” said Simon Hu, senior vice president of Alibaba Group and president of Alibaba Cloud.
“We are confident about making Macau’s transformation into a smart city a demonstration project across Asia-Pacific region,” he said in an interview with the South China Morning Post, which is owned by Alibaba.
The partnership is for four years. In the first phase, from 2017 to 2019, it will focus on cloud computing, smart transportation, smart tourism, smart health care, and smart city governance, as well as talent development — Alibaba will carry out training programmes to help Macau build up a talented team of cloud computing and e-commerce professionals.
O Lam, head of Macau’s office of the chief executive, said in a statement that they had decided to collaborate with Alibaba to foster the development of cloud computing and big data technologies after studying and researching other cities’ experience of developing their own versions of smart cities.
“By leveraging the power of these technologies and connecting resources of different government departments, the project is expected to enhance the model of socio-economic operation in Macau, expediting the city’s transformation into a smart city,” O Lam said.
The partnership with Macau marks Alibaba’s first smart city foray in markets outside the mainland. The group has a proven track record in smart city development, including Hangzhou City Brain, an
artificial intelligence-enabled transportation management system, which has already increased traffic speed by 11 per cent in Hangzhou’s Xiaoshan district, where the project is being piloted.
Under former chief executive Leung Chun-ying, Hong Kong government announced in 2015 the initiative to develop Hong Kong into a smart city, with Kowloon East – groomed to be the second major business district after Central – earmarked as a pilot area. The idea has been taken further as a commissioned study on Hong Kong smart city development by PwC, which was submitted to the innovation and technology bureau in June.
Hu of Alibaba said the company would be more than happy to bring its smart city solutions to Hong Kong. The company hasn’t had any discussions with Hong Kong officials on smart city cooperation, but Hu said such dialogue will be carried out in the near future.