Boarding the AI Train from Shanghai to Hangzhou

AI train

It’s good to be back to Taipei in time for the Mid-Autumn Festival after an intense week in Shanghai and Hangzhou at the China International Industry Fair and Empower Digital China in Hangzhou.

Out of the two events, Empower Digital China certainly won in terms of glitz and glamour. It reminded me of the Intel Developer Forum at its height – but on an exponential scale. While technology was of course a key topic of the event, the more important message was that the Cloud, IoT, and AI are ready for the big time now. If you haven’t already got on the train you’d better board it now or you’ll be left standing alone at the station.

AI train: autonomous store

What impressed me most was the strong ecosystem that Alibaba has built up and the strong leadership the company is showing in making it easy for traditional businesses to adopt Cloud, IoT, and AI processes and applications for their operations. This has already led to tremendous growth in what Jack Ma calls New Retail. I’m sure the company will prove just as successful in its New Manufacturing initiative.

AI train

Initially the focus of Alibaba’s Cloud, IoT, and AI programs has been on China, but it won’t be long before they start being rolled out on a large scale overseas. Retailers in emerging markets will, for example, be able to leapfrog to automated stores without having to go through the messy and expensive process of integrating the new technologies and applications into complex existing legacy IT systems. They will also be able to leverage blockchain technologies to improve supply chain management and ensure products meet strict safety standards.

Intel provided strong intellectual leadership for the entire PC industry with the IDF. Alibaba is taking this to the next level with Empower Digital China – showing businesses of all sizes and types the new opportunities that Cloud, IoT, and AI are opening up for them.

AI train

The China International Industry Fair was, as I’ve mentioned before I left for this trip, much more CeBIT-like in atmosphere, bringing back long-repressed memories of grey gloomy skies over Hannover. Still, there was plenty of energy and enthusiasm among the exhibits of robotic arms and heavy industrial machinery and equipment. The Industry 4.0 train is also gearing up to depart the station, and China’s traditional industrial base is well and truly aboard it.

As the old song says, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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