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Breakthroughs in deep learning and reinforcement learning are driving a new wave of AI advances. AI applications are now widely deployed across almost all industries, whether through auto-piloting technology, unmanned supermarkets, intelligent voice assistants and more. AI has become a new powerful engine that drives industry digital transformation.

AI is creating brand-new experiences for everyone and every organization, from computer-aided diagnosis techniques to voice-aided smartphones, handwriting recognition, financial transactions, smart logistics, spam filtering, and translation. Smart technology is bringing about major changes in the way businesses develop. It has also had a social impact, delivering public goods like precision medicine, environmental sustainability and education.

As the Middle East continues on its journey of digital transformation, AI has a vital role to play in powering industry growth. To develop the AI industry and unlock the potential of AI, Huawei has made major global and regional announcements in the field in the past month. We hope that through the launches outlined below, we will build an AI ecosystem in the Middle East and support regional governments' visions to become knowledge-based, diversified economies.

Huawei releases the AI Developer Enablement Program
Huawei has launched a series of all new AI offering with the capabilities to drive industry development and intelligence and accelerate digital transformation. Huawei also released its AI Developer Enablement Program, which will help build an affordable, effective, reliable and inclusive AI ecosystem.

These announcements took place at HUAWEI CONNECT 2018 in Shanghai. Under the theme 'Activate Intelligence', the conference focused heavily on the challenges, opportunities, innovations and practices of AI.

Huawei's recently-launched portfolio includes a new Ascend series of AI chips - the world's first AP IP and chip series designed for a full range of scenarios. Huawei predicts that by 2025, the world will see upwards of 40 billion personal smart devices, and 90% of device users will have a smart digital assistant. Data utilization will reach 86% and AI services will be readily available.

Huawei states that AI has recently become a new general purpose technology and will fundamentally change all industries and organizations on earth.

Unlocking cloud intelligence
During the event, Huawei also introduced the Huawei Cloud EI Intelligent Twins for cities, an upgrade of the Huawei Cloud Enterprise Intelligence services, which is powered by the latest Huawei AI chips.

Since its inception in 2017, the Huawei Cloud EI has explored more than 200 projects across eight industries, covering cities, manufacturing and logistics. During this time, Huawei found that AI dramatically helps IT support systems evolve to production systems.

"Combining AI with industry insight is difficult; and computing power is a major barrier to AI application," Jia Yongli, general manager of the EI Product Department of Huawei Cloud BU, noted.

Its cloud business unit also held a side-summit named The Innovative Path to Intelligent Cloud Data Centers, fronted by Hou Jinlong, president of Huawei's IT Product Line.

The summit saw the release of Huawei's full-stack private cloud solution FusionCloud 6.5, and introduction of its new generation, mission-critical cloud storage, FusionStorage. These solutions add new capabilities to Huawei's substantial array of cloud and storage support, laying the foundations for building an intelligent world.

Intelligent connected vehicles
Huawei has also introduced Audi and unveiled their future plans together in the field of intelligent connected vehicles (ICV), featuring a demonstration from the new Audi Q7.

As a leader in the field of vehicle technology, Audi is the ideal partner for Huawei, paving the way for the most intelligent and automated driving functions and experiences in the world.

William Xu, director of the board and chief strategy marketing officer of Huawei, commented, "As cars get smarter, we take advantage of our leading ICT technologies with Audi - one of the world's most successful premium car brands - to lead automatic driving into the fast lane. Very soon, consumers will enjoy more secure, comfortable, convenient and intelligent self-driving services."

Accelerating IoT with Bosch
Introducing more major global partnerships, Huawei invited leading technology supplier Bosch on stage at the event to outline their plans for accelerating the development of IoT in China.

"We are pleased to have the opportunity to collaborate with Huawei Cloud to offer cloud-based IoT services, providing various functions needed to connect devices and businesses," said Stefan Ferber, CEO of Bosch Software innovations.

Bosch's software platform being utilized in the agreement connects web-enabled objects to facilitate data sharing across a multitude of digital services and business models. For example, one of the first services being made commercially available to Chinese consumers through the Huawei Cloud will be the Bosch IoT Remote Manager, a service that manages gateways, sensors and devices.

Announcement of global industry cooperation plan
A Global Industry Organization (GIO) roundtable was also held where Huawei promoted the digital transformation of industries, and discussed collaboratively building an intelligent world for the future.

It also released a global industry cooperation plan to promote collaboration across industries and fields of technology, digital transformation and AI democratization.

As industry continues to integrate with information and communications technology (ICT), an intelligent society is on the horizon. Huawei is committed to bringing digital to every person, home and organization for a fully connected, intelligent world.

Updating intent-driven network
Huawei also announced the update of its industry-oriented intent-driven network solution. The solution helps to build a complete network system that enables digital transformation and maximum business value.

The architecture of the system has three major benefits: service-centricity, E2E SLA guarantees and open digital platforms. With the rise of AI and big data in enterprise networks forcing change across industries, this IDN will help enterprise customers build user experience-centric intelligent networks that bind the best of automation, big data and AI for the foreseeable future.

The AI enablement program
One of Huawei's final announcements was the release of its AI Developer Enablement Program. The program will help Huawei collaborate with developers, partners, universities and research institutions.

Huawei will use the program to build a better development ecosystem that can support AI resources, platforms, courses and joint solutions.

According to Zheng Yelai, vice president of Huawei and president of Huawei Cloud BU, Huawei's AI Developer Enablement Program offers a platform for technical communication, talent training, and innovation to developers, tutors and Huawei partners.

Huawei aims to build a sustainable ecosystem by focusing on a customer-centric strategy that yields mutually beneficial results for its members. By continuing to allocate resources and investments to the development of industry alliances, business alliances, open source communities and developer platforms, Huawei is looking to ramp up its efforts to facilitate the digital transformation of entire industries, while creating a symbiotic and vibrant community to support this shift.

  • Faster model training
  • Abundant and affordable computing power
  • AI deployment and user privacy
  • New algorithms
  • AI automation
  • Practical application
  • Real-time, closed-loop system
  • Multi-tech synergy
  • Platform support
  • Talent availability

These 10 changes are not only Huawei's hope for the AI industry; they are the inspiration behind its AI strategy.

Huawei's AI strategy has five areas of focus:

  1. Invest in AI research: Develop fundamental capabilities for machine learning in domains like computer vision, natural language processing and decision/inference, etc. Huawei places special emphasis on machine learning that is:
    • data and power-efficient (i.e., less data, computing and power needed)
    • secure and trusted
    • automated/autonomous
  2. Build a full-stack AI portfolio:
    • Deliver abundant and affordable computing power
    • Provide an efficient and easy-to-use AI platform with full-pipeline services
    • Make the portfolio adaptive to all scenarios, both standalone and cooperative scenarios between cloud, edge and device
  3. Develop an open ecosystem and talent: Collaborate widely with global academia, industries and partners
  4. Strengthen existing portfolio: Introduce an AI mindset and techniques into existing products and solutions to create greater value and enhance competitive strengths
  5. Drive operational efficiency at Huawei: Apply AI to massive volumes of routine business activities for better efficiency and quality

Alaa ElShimy, managing director and vice president at Huawei Enterprise Business Group, said, "AI is on the verge of transforming industries and organizations across the world, and we are committed to helping our customers and partners make the most of the technology's potential to unlock innovation and economic growth. Right now the priority is for industry and government leaders to discuss which challenges and opportunities AI can most immediately address, to convert this cutting-edge technology into profitability for organizations. This AI conference will help us and regional governments succeed in our mission to position the Middle East for success in the age of AI."

Huawei hosts the Middle East 5G Ecosystem Conference
Huawei hosted the 5G Ecosystem Conference on the sidelines of the 3rd annual Middle East Innovation Day. Under the theme "5G is Now, Sailing to New eMBB Horizons", the conference promoted a 5G ecosystem in the Middle East by bringing together operators, regulatory agencies, industry leaders and other stakeholders to discuss 5G from a business, policy and industry perspective.

Opening the conference, Mr. Bocar BA, CEO, SAMENA Telecommunications Council, said: "SAMENA Council is engaged and working closely with Huawei, telecom operators, governments' regulatory authorities and international organizations to create the enabling environment for the development of the 5G ecosystem. Today's conference by Huawei has been a successful effort toward this objective, and it will bear positive impact on our industry's pace of 5G development and launch. 5G is highly important for the region's digital economy and, being so, will carry tremendous ramifications for socioeconomic progress in the region, for fostering improved understanding and collaboration among the stakeholders, and for enabling the fulfillment of the global sustainable agenda."

Mr. Tariq Al Awadhi, executive director Spectrum Affairs, UAE TRA, said: "Our stakeholders have been the key success. They have brought the knowledge and the expertise together to help us succeed in our endeavors."

During the event, Huawei organized live trials of the most cutting-edge 5G uses cases. These included drone taxis, a virtual room (VR) showroom and tele-operated driving. Huawei also signed Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) with key partners to strengthen the 5G ecosystem, including with Media Pro, Orange Business Service and TPCast. Certificates were awarded IoT organizations who have demonstrated outstanding value in the field of IoT.

Mr. An Jian, president of Carrier Network Business Group, Huawei Middle East, said: "An open, collaborative and sustainable ecosystem will enable and accelerate digital transformation for all industries in ME region. We form and engage in open enablement platforms and business alliances that revolve around ME 5G needs. We work together with ecosystem partners on open innovation projects to speed up the development of customized solutions, helping the governments of ME regions to consolidate their strengths in digital transformation and succeed in their national targets pursuits. Huawei will stay committed to openness, collaboration and shared success."

"5G's impact will be far-reaching, profiting not only operators but also enterprises, consumers and society through digital transformation. Investing in 5G is thus an economic and social imperative. Today's 5G Ecosystem Conference is part of our effort to map out the industry blueprint for a fully connected, intelligent world driven by ICT. Our goal at Huawei is to provide strategic insight - and foresight - to our partners in both the public and private sectors, so that together we can navigate the digital transformation journey seamlessly, in an integrated and profitable manner. As a major telecommunication solutions supplier, Huawei has setup strategic partnership in 5G areas with carriers, and signed six 5G commercial contracts in the Middle East out of 18 globally. In 2018, Huawei has formed a series of strategic partnerships with telecommunication operators in Kuwait, and has accomplished some significant 5G progress in the country," Mr. An continued.

Huawei also unveiled a new research paper conducted in partnership with Analysys Mason, a global consulting and research firm specializing in telecoms, media and digital services. Titled "Unlocking Digital Opportunities with 5G", the White Paper reveals startling statistics about the impact 5G will have in the GCC, including the fact that 5G could generate almost USD270 billion for the regional ICT sector in the next decade.

The research takes a deep look at the impact 5G will have in the GCC, comparing the country readiness of five different markets with key international benchmarks, and makes recommendations on how operators and governments can capitalize on the technology.  The data leaves no doubt that investing in 5G is worthwhile: in the GCC alone, 5G will provide a cumulative new revenue opportunity over 10 years totaling USD269 billion, with about 50 percent of this addressable by operators and the rest by other ICT players.

To arrive at this sum, Analysis Mason and Huawei identified the top 50 use cases for 5G, splitting them into short-term and long-term. For the first phase, enhanced mobile broadband (eMBB), connected health, connected cars and smart city applications were the most common sectors to be at the center of the 5G business plan. After that, robotics and drones, VR and transportation move into the top priorities, along with continued enhancement of MBB. Overall, VR for on-demand video streaming and VR for 4K/8K live video streaming use cases have the most potential to profit operators in the region.

Given 5G's wide-ranging applicability, the White Paper makes the case that a digital, sliceable platform is critical to 5G success, as it offers agility and adaptability. Flexibility to address new use cases, even unforeseen ones, as they emerge, quickly and cost-effectively, is critical to commercial success in the 5G era. In line with this necessity, the paper advises regulators to promote policy neutrality and open spectrum to accelerate commercial deployment.

The research finds that the GCC is well poised to deploy 5G, with the UAE in particular being the most 5G-ready country in the region. In order to strengthen this position, the White Paper calls for collaboration between operators and vertical industries. Those operators which develop close relationships with the industry sectors, such as enterprise and healthcare to trial projects, will be first to unlock profit from 5G.

In addition, a panel discussion titled "Promoting the growth of 5G Industry and Ecosystem in ME" took place at the conference with panelists: Jonathan Schmitt - chief mobility strategist, Ford MENA; Neil Martin - chief commercial officer, OSN; Rossi Jaafar - Group COO, Aerodyne Group; Luc Serviant - senior vice president Middle East & Africa, Orange Business Services; Caroline Gabriel - senior contributor Analysys Mason; Du Yeqing - VP of 5G Product Line, Huawei and Safder Nazir, ME VP- Digital Industries Strategy, Huawei.

The panel discussed about the acceleration of the release of new spectrums for 5G deployment, the current regional 5G policies, the advantages of forming a 5G ecosystem, and the role of carriers in 5G enabling vertical industries.

Facts and numbers

  • The global digital economy is growing at a rate 2.5 times faster than the average world GDP. Every one-point increase in the Global Connectivity Index (GCI) score can increase productivity by 2.3% across an entire economy.
  • Industries are embedding AI in all five key enabling technologies, transforming traditional connectivity into intelligent connectivity to unleash innovation and economic opportunities on a scale previously unimagined. Entirely new business models, products, processes and services are emerging every day, accelerating growth towards a digital economy that will be worth upwards of US$23 trillion by 2025 and throwing open the gates to a new economic growth cycle.
  • In 2018, Huawei rose to 72nd place on the Fortune Global 500 list. Continuous investment in R&D is one of the key factors that have led to Huawei's stellar growth, from a small private firm into a Fortune Global 500 company, in just 30 years. Huawei invests about 15% of its annual revenue in R&D, with its R&D spending over the past decade totaling CNY400 billion. Nearly 80,000 members of Huawei's 180,000-strong workforce are assigned to R&D and in 2017, Huawei was ranked 6th on the EU Industrial R&D Investment Scoreboard. Huawei believes that the R&D process is not a sprint, but a marathon. As long as a runner is still on the track, they must keep running. In the coming years, Huawei will continue to increase its annual R&D budget to US$10 billion to US$20 billion.
  • Huawei is the world's first provider of end-to-end 5G pre-commercial systems. At the 2017 World Internet Conference, Huawei's 3GPP 5G pre-commercial system was awarded the World Leading Internet Scientific and Technological Achievement.
  • Huawei is one of the first - and largest - investors in 5G, with its 5G journey beginning in 2009. The company plans to earmark US$600 million for 5G development by 2018.
  • In 2013, Huawei recruited more than 300 top-notch wireless experts from across the globe and built its first 5G research center in Stockholm, a powerhouse of mobile communications technology. Currently, Huawei's 5G research network is made up of over 10 research centers in France, the US, Germany, Russia, and other countries and regions.
  • In 2016, Huawei set up a dedicated department for 5G product development. At present, the company assigns more than 5,000 developers for 5G products.
  • In 2017, Huawei spent CNY4 billion on 5G R&D, and by the end of 2018 expects to spend an additional CNY5 billion to speed up 5G commercialization.
  • We are in a great age, in which ICT and digital are rapidly changing every person, home and organization. These changes are redefining how we live, work, learn and stay healthy. In this great age, Huawei aspires to become a great company. We want to help mankind take its next steps forward.
  • Through relentless breakthroughs in digital technology, we will bring better products and services to our customers, and help integrate digital into daily life and work. Essentially, Huawei's focus on ICT infrastructure and smart devices is the foundation for a fertile business environment that will integrate information technology, automation and intelligence. This environment will help us enrich our partners' content, applications and clouds. Working with our partners, we can serve our customers better than ever before.

By Charles Yang, president, Huawei Middle East