Community Blog How ET City Brain Is Transforming the Way We Live – One City at a Time

How ET City Brain Is Transforming the Way We Live – One City at a Time

ET City Brain provides a smart platform for cities to improve their public services and transportation.

Urbanization - A Global Challenge

Global cities are growing at an alarming rate. According to a UN estimate, urban areas would concentrate around 3/4th of the global human population by 2050. Further, Asia and Africa would be driving most of this urbanization in the coming decades. Most of these emerging economies are already struggling to meet the demands of its urban population.

Traffic congestion is one of the most common issues affecting daily lives of people in these cities. According to TomTom Index, six of the top ten global cities facing high levels of traffic congestion are from Asia. Monsoon rains further deteriorate this congestion with flooding, causing havoc in cities like Mumbai and Jakarta.

Moreover, several of these cities are running massive development projects. The construction activity for the development of roads and mass transport systems further complicates the daily commute for office goers.

Amidst this congestion, reducing road accidents has become a complex challenge for city planners and managers. Routine maintenance of the mass infrastructure involving buses, trains, traffic lights, road signages, etc. is a perennial exercise. Managing the staff for handling varied public services, emergency response, and law enforcement is another major issue.

While technology led advances have improved the quality of life in cities, it has created a new set of challenges for urban dwellers. Today, urbanites spend a major part of their daily lives in traveling. This creates work-life balance issues. Moreover, pollution and smog have also started affecting the public health in cities.

At the same time, some cities are facing unique challenges regarding the management of natural resources. For instance, Cape Town recently made headlines for becoming the world’s first city to face a major water crisis.

Luddites blame technology for driving an economy that fuels the unsustainable population growth in cities. However, there’s a silver lining. It is only technology that can offer a way forward for resolving the common challenges with urbanization for cities across the globe.

Laying the Foundation with Technology

The problem with most global cities is that they have grown haphazardly. Architects, town planners, and civil engineers have found solutions to the growing population in the past. However, in the future, technology will play a crucial role in the development of sustainable smart cities. Some of these changes are already taking shape with Mobile and Augmented Reality technologies. In the future, ubiquitous connectivity will further IoT, Big Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Blockchain applications for better management of the cities. Let’s explore some of the possibilities:

Smart Lighting Solutions
IoT based intelligent street lights would respond to changes in weather and traffic conditions to conserve energy and reduce light pollution.

Autonomous Vehicles
Most public transport and even civilian vehicles would offer a self-driving mode. This means office goers would get additional time to check their emails and attend any calls while commuting.

Smart Parking Solutions
Autonomous vehicles could communicate automatically with a smart parking solution and even park itself to the nearest available spot. They might choose parking areas which offer charging-facility to recharge its batteries.

Traffic Management Solutions
City administrators could use Big Data and AI-based solutions to monitor and control traffic signals and street cameras. This will help in optimization of driving and walking routes.

Smart Roadways
Sensors and cameras would monitor the condition of roads and trigger alerts for any immediate maintenance work. Digital signages and AR-based messaging systems would replace conventional road signages.

Structural Integrity Monitoring
IoT based devices would raise alerts for maintenance required in any building, bridge, or historical monument by continuously monitoring vibrations and material conditions.

Power Management
Smart grids would help in reduction of losses in power distribution and IoT enabled equipment maintenance would improve operational efficiency.

Pollution Management
A city-wide network of sensors would create a map showing levels of sound, water, ground, air, and light pollution to help administrators in taking remedial steps.

While most of the above solutions are feasible technologically, very often several constraints come between their implementation. However, some governments are already taking steps towards the transformation of their cities. China has implemented traffic congestion management solutions by leveraging Alibaba Cloud’s ET City Brain.

ET City Brain

ET City Brain is an intelligent system that uses big data computing and deep neural networks to process massive logs, videos, and data streams from systems and sensors across an urban center

Alibaba Cloud’s ET City Brain solution helped city administrators in Downtown Hangzhou in analyzing the live streams from its traffic cameras. With this implementation, Downtown Hangzhou’s incident identification accuracy rate improved to above 92%. The system dramatically increased the accident reporting rates and reduced response times for emergency response teams.

In Xiaoshan District, Hangzhou, ET City Brain enabled smart automation of the traffic signals. This implementation shortened daily commutes by three minutes and increased travel speeds by 15%. Further, the city administrators used this system to prioritize the passage of emergency response vehicles. This has reduced the arrival time of ambulances by half and rescue teams can now reach their destination 7 minutes earlier.

Inefficiency is not uncommon for urban transport systems. There are always certain routes which operate at full capacity, while on certain routes buses and trains are often vacant. ET City Brain helped Suzhou city in efficiently managing its bus networks and increase passenger volumes by 17% on pilot bus routes.

As described in the examples above, traffic congestion management with real-time analysis and intelligent deployment is a successful application of ET City Brain.

Application Scenarios

Management of Mass Transit Systems
ET City Brain can help in efficient utilization of bus/cab fleets by matching supply with demand. To achieve this, a smart system monitors traffic from video feeds across the city. It also draws data from AutoNavi (mapping app), telecom carriers, and Wi-Fi probes to assess passenger density in different areas.

The system eventually allows fleet owners to estimate vehicle demand and capacity needs, on a live basis. They can make smart adjustments to meet any peak demands during festivals or sports events. Further, they can use shortest and fastest routes for efficient transportation during peak hours, and also throughout the day.

Accident and Disaster Management
When dealing with emergencies like fire and road-accidents, early response is most crucial. ET City Brain can analyze video footage to identify accidents and traffic congestion. The system works in real-time, integrating this video-footage data with alarm data to resolve traffic incidents throughout the city in swiftest possible manner. It alerts and coordinates with various emergency response teams (Police, Fire Protection, Medical Practitioners, and Rescue). Further, it expedites the service response, creating a free passage for their movement by controlling the traffic signals.

Traffic Congestion and Signal Control
Most urban cities still depend on traffic police for the handling of traffic jams. There is a scope for smart-automation of traffic lights. ET City Brain draws data from video cameras installed on city streets and integrates it with mapping data from AutoNavi, and traffic police Weibo accounts. This enables the system to analyze and estimate traffic movement in real-time. Using this comprehensive data, city administrators can identify the routine causes for traffic congestion and take remedial actions, (such as accurately timing the traffic lights) for its resolution.

Smart Healthcare
ET Brain can streamline management of urban healthcare operations by improving the quality of medical/patient records. It can help medical practitioners in avoiding manual errors and improve their services with valuable data insights. For instance, Alibaba Cloud's intelligent algorithm analyzed 700 core indicators of medical institutions and government regulators to find anomalies. ET Brain used this analysis to provide recommendations for improvement of healthcare operations.

Medical institutions in a city can also incorporate Alibaba Cloud’s Intelligent Scheduling Solution to improve their response times. The solution helps in breaking down huge data sets and predicts medical requirements accurately. It can also optimize medical resources so that medical services are available to patients when they need it the most. Further, with a proprietary AI platform of Alibaba Cloud, ET Brain can provide clinical diagnosis support to medical practitioners.

Urban Natural Resources Management
Most urban cities are rapidly becoming a jungle of concrete. This naturally affects the air quality. Smog levels have risen to alarming levels in the recent times. To ensure cities remain habitable, conservation of natural resources such as parks, forests, and water-bodies is essential. ET Brain can help in urban agriculture, and stormwater management. Sensors can measure water and nutrient content in soil, and relay it to ET Brain. Administrators can then integrate this data with weather data, to assess irrigation requirement. Further, they can utilize a network of thermal cameras and fire alert systems to prevent fires in forests around a city.

Management of Hydro-Power Resources
According to World Economic Forum, China is world’s biggest producer of hydroelectric power. Hydro-power can significantly reduce dependence on fossil fuels and helps in cutting down emissions. As most global cities have developed around major rivers, there is a huge potential to maximize the hydro-power capacity for supporting energy demands of these cities. Utilization of this clean energy resource is crucial for supporting sustainable cities of tomorrow.

However, efficient production and distribution of hydro-power is a challenging task. To improve production efficiency, engineers can connect power generation equipment to the internet for monitoring, fault detection, and timely maintenance. This can increase the life of equipment and reduce operational losses. To reduce distribution losses, several cities are already replacing traditional power grids with smart grids. Smart grids utilize power consumption data from smart meters, actuators, and sensors, and integrates it with power generation, transmission, and distribution data to minimize energy wastage.

Artificial Intelligence Capabilities of ET City Brain

It is important to recognize that at its core, ET City Brain is an extremely fast processing system for analysis of big data and implementation of smart algorithms. Let’s understand some of the common AI capabilities which make ET City Brain easily adaptable for different of kinds of applications:

Speech Recognition: Developers can leverage ET City Brain’s intelligent speech recognition and synthesis to create smart chatbots. Such applications can resolve several routine travel related queries with human-like interaction, and expedite ticketing and customer services.

Image Identification: Humans are adept at recognizing information hidden in images. ET City Brain’s universal image character recognition can provide similar intelligence to applications. Developers can create driving assistance apps that can identify sign boards, diversions, or other traffic signages to alert bus drivers on the road.

Text Recognition: Developers can leverage ET City Brain to create apps that can scan and read printed text. Such applications can help public service departments in digitization of physical bills, payment receipts, and other printed text from varied administrative sources.

Natural Language Processing (NLP): Applications built on NLP can help in language translation and sentiment analysis. This can assist tourists in communicating with locals. Further, leveraging NLP, city administrators can easily render customer support with smart chatbots that are not restricted by language barriers.

Major Advantages of ET City Brain

As an Alibaba Cloud Solution, ET City Brain offers better performance, reliability, and availability. Government organizations can depend on ET City Brain for advantages such as:

Cost Efficient, and High-Performance Big Data Computing
ET City Brain can process massive amounts of data leveraging MaxCompute - which is a proven Big Data platform from Alibaba Cloud. In 2015, MaxCompute had set a world record by sorting 100TB of data in 377 seconds at the World Sort Benchmark.

Real-Time Analysis, and Large-Scale, Multi-Source Data Processing
Real-time data access delays in ET City Brain fall in the order of milliseconds. To calculate requests and second-level responses, ET City Brain provides Exabyte Cloud storage and PB-level computing.

Real-Time Video Analysis
ET City Brain provides automated video detection in real-time with vehicle image search. It is an intelligent system that is capable of analyzing low-resolution video feeds with ~90% accuracy rate for vehicle detection.

Physical Architecture Based on Deep Neural Network
ET City Brain can implement numerous algorithms to detect weak correlations in complex situations, and process exabyte-level data on billion-node networks. Several of these algorithms are responsible for running systems that control road traffic, manufacturing and industrial processes, and operations in various other fields.

The challenges that most cities face today can be broadly covered under various levels of mismanagement, lack of proper planning, and inability to leverage technology to its fullest. It is seen that despite having numerous cameras for traffic monitoring; cities are unable to utilize the infrastructure due to lack of a technology strategy. Technology implementation projects often perform well in pilot stages. But city administrators are unable to scale up this implementation due to lack of financial or technical support. Alibaba Cloud ET City Brain recognizes these challenges and provides a smart, scalable, and efficient way to make cities future-ready, today.

To learn more about ET City Brain Capabilities, please visit www.alibabacloud.com/et/city


  1. UN estimate
  2. TomTom Index
  3. Hydroelectric Producer by Country
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Raja_KT February 17, 2019 at 10:25 am

I think the real use-cases can be seen in many big cities like in India too. I proposed this solution to one state govt .