Alibaba Cloud, StepStone and German Aerospace Center Launch Tianchi Competition to Address Urbanization Challenges

Sep 11, 2018

Global AI contest aims to attract leading data experts to create innovative and applicable solutions to manage urban growth

Munich, Germany, 11 September 2018 – Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, today announced that it will co-organize a global AI contest with StepStone, a leading online job platform, and the Remote Sensing Technology Institute (IMF) of the German Aerospace Center (DLR), Germany’s national center for aerospace research. Data experts from around the world will be invited to use Tianchi, Alibaba Cloud’s global big data crowd intelligence platform, to develop a classification solution that improves urban data consolidation and evaluation. The entries must have practical real-life and global applications.

According to the United Nations, 68% of the world’s population is expected to live in urban areas by 2050. As cities around the world try to accommodate this enormous influx, urban planners and logisticians are faced with monumental challenges to ensure the benefits of urbanization are realized by all. With the boundaries of big data technology being expanded, the successful management of urban growth can now be assisted by the consolidation of large volumes of sensor data collected by Earth observation satellites.

In the latest Tianchi competition, contestants will try to address the urbanization challenges by using datasets of several million matched image patches from European Earth observation satellites Sentinel-1 and Sentinel-2. The datasets will include radar and multispectral sensor data, covering 42 cities. The goal of the competition is to classify the data into 17 so called local climate zones, which will help to identify solutions for urban planners. For example, the data could potentially be used for quantifying urban heat island magnitude or mapping urban terrain.

"We are excited to partner with StepStone and DLR for our upcoming Tianchi competition. Not only it brings together leading data scientists from around the world to help solve the challenges presented by urbanization, but also an opportunity to nurture the industry’s future talent,” said Tony Cheng, General Manager of Alibaba Cloud Germany. “Alibaba Cloud’s Tianchi competition focuses supporting leading industry talent with our AI, cloud and data technologies to help address real-world challenges. Our aim is to create a collaborative environment for solution development and sharing, so together we can provide practical answers to the problems that comes with urbanization.

"At StepStone, we help people to find a job they love. And therefore, we are constantly looking at ways to connect talented people, so they can collaborate with other leading industry peers around the world. By co-organizing this competition, we will provide an exciting opportunity for talented AI and data experts to gain international exposure, to foster their development and to help support urbanization initiatives." said Dr. Sebastian Dettmers, Managing Director at StepStone.

Prof. Xiaoxiang Zhu of DLR-IMF said, “With our advanced processing technologies we have been able to generate large amounts of co-registered observation data from the Sentinel radar and optical satellite fleet that can be used to address the challenges arising from urbanization; not just in Germany, but across the globe. We are proud to be co-organizing this Tianchi competition, where the world’s leading data scientists will be using our data to create practical solutions for the future, while encouraging innovation in the German Earth observation community at the same time.”

This will be the first Tianchi competition hosted in Germany. Within the current Tianchi community, there are more than 200,000 developers from 91 countries and regions. Through hosting big data competitions, Tianchi pools the wisdom of data experts from around the world and leverages the expertise of the Alibaba Cloud data scientists to develop professional solutions to help entities in different sectors address real-world challenges. An example of this is the successful KDD Cup 2017 competition, deemed the "Data Mining Olympics", in which 3,582 teams participated to develop solutions to predict the traffic flow of highway tollgates.

The contest is open for registration. For more information, please visit the Tianchi website.

About Alibaba Cloud

Established in 2009, Alibaba Cloud (, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, is among the world’s top 3 IaaS providers according to Gartner , and the largest provider of public cloud services in China, according to IDC. Alibaba Cloud provides a comprehensive suite of cloud computing services to businesses worldwide, including merchants doing business on Alibaba Group marketplaces, start-ups, corporations and government organisations. Alibaba Cloud is the official Cloud Services Partner of the International Olympic Committee.

About StepStone

People find their dream job with StepStone. More than 60,000 companies use the StepStone job boards successfully for the recruitment of qualified specialists and executive staff. StepStone is one of the most successful online job board businesses today. But StepStone is more than just a machine or a website. More than 3,000 enthusiastic people work very hard to deliver the best possible results for customers and jobseekers alike. The company was founded in 1996 and is an Axel Springer SE subsidiary.

About German Aerospace Center

The German Aerospace Center (DLR) is the national aeronautics and space research centre of the Federal Republic of Germany. Its extensive research and development work in aeronautics, space, energy, transport, security and digitalisation is integrated into national and international cooperative ventures. In addition to its own research, as Germany’s space agency, DLR has been given responsibility by the federal government for the planning and implementation of the German space programme. DLR is also the umbrella organisation for one of Germany's largest project management agencies. DLR has approximately 8000 employees at 20 locations in Germany.

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