What you must know about Alibaba Cloud’s upgraded machine learning platform

Goldman Sachs predicts that Alibaba Cloud will be the second largest player after AWS.

Alibaba Cloud, the cloud computing arm of Alibaba Group, announced last week at the Shenzhen Computing Conference that it has upgraded its machine learning platform PAI, driving innovations in healthcare and manufacturing. What does this mean to Alibaba and the AI industry? Here are four facts you need to know about Alibaba Cloud.

PAI 2.0

In August 2015, Alibaba Cloud launched PAI, or Platform of Artificial Intelligence, to help developers create AI projects with its data processing and algorithm capacity.

The upgraded version of PAI consists of features like diversified algorithms and deep-learning architecture, as well as large-scale storage and distributed computing.

“In the past year, Alibaba Cloud has implemented a number of real-life AI applications for customers across industries,” said Dr. Jingren Zhou, Alibaba Cloud’s Chief Scientist, at last week’s conference. “As China’s first machine learning platform, PAI is born to make our AI program an effective tool for helping people and businesses to resolve practical issues. We are also seeing our data intelligence capability being leveraged to assist customers in creating better healthcare services and endorsing smart manufacturing in China.”

ET Medical and Industrial Brain

In addition to the PAI 2.0, Alibaba Cloud launched its ET Medical Brain and ET Industrial Brain, signaling Alibaba’s entry into the AI healthcare and manufacturing sectors.

Simon Hu, President of Alibaba Cloud, demonstrated how the ET Medical Brain diagnoses diseases based on ultrasound pictures and said that scientists provided the Brain with more than 2,000 historical ultrasound pictures to study these diseases.

Simon Hu, President of Alibaba Cloud, at Shenzhen Computing Conference. Photo provided by Alibaba Cloud

The ET Medical Brain, like its competitors’ AI healthcare products, uses deep learning technology and train the brains with large scales of data.

After about a year of development, ET Medical Brain functions in areas including patients’ virtual assistants, medical imaging, drug development, hospital management and wearable healthcare devices.

Additionally, ET Industrial Brain aims to help companies centralize data management of manufacturing processes with Alibaba Cloud’s expertise in computing and data analytics. The Industrial Brain functions in areas like malfunction prediction, real-time monitoring, energy saving, and craftsmanship suggestion.

Alibaba Cloud’s ET has done a lot of dispatching work in city transportation, food delivery, and plane management at airports.

The Brain of Hangzhou city transportation developed by Alibaba Cloud. Photo from Aliyun.com

Alibaba Cloud AI’s rise

Alibaba’s cloud computing arm started as a business to support the company’s e-commerce platform Taobao and Tmall. In July 2011, the tech giant launched its cloud computing product for sale and named it Aliyun at that time.

Alibaba Cloud turned out to be a lucrative business for the tech giant. According to Alibaba’s latest fiscal report from 2016, the revenue of Alibaba’s cloud computing business grew 115% year-over-year.

Alibaba Cloud’s PAI, the first AI product that it ever released, enables developers to analyze and mine a sea of data by simply dragging the data into the system.

Overseas expansion

In preparation for overseas expansion, Alibaba announced in March 2014 that it launched its first overseas data center in Silicon Valley. After that, it established data centers in the eastern part of the United States, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

In November last year, Alibaba Cloud announced during a product launch in Dubai that its data centers in Europe, Middle East, Japan, and Australia will successively begin to operate.

Internationally, Alibaba Cloud competes with Amazon Web Services (AWS), Microsoft Azure, and Google Cloud Platform.

Alibaba Cloud’s revenue is estimated to reach USD 5 billion by 2019, according to a report published last August by Goldman Sachs. Although it would still be far behind AWS’s USD 178 billion enterprise value, that will help it ascend to the second largest cloud computing provider in the world.

Will Alibaba Cloud really pose threat to AWS? AI may be one of the key deciding factors.

(Top photo from Pixabay.com)

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