Adrian Bridgwater reports from the Huawei Connect 2017 conference at the International Expo Centre in Shanghai, on the Chinese telecommunications equipment giant’s IoT ambitions.
The tagline for the Huawei Connect 2017 event, ‘Grow with the cloud’, underscores the company’s experience of growing with cloud computing, rather than being born native on it.
Although it’s probably best known for its smartphones and its newer tablet devices, Huawei is very much a software company, a data networks company and a cloud company. It is this data-centricity that validates its stance on IoT. Where Huawei goes next in this arena will be influenced by its intention to inject its cloud services layer, its on-device architectures and what ultimately becomes its mobile and IoT layer deployments with a hefty dose of artificial intelligence (AI).
“We believe that AI can be applied to more areas of business – this is what Huawei calls its Enterprise Intelligence services,” said Huawei rotating CEO Guo Ping. “We then move to a point where AI becomes more ubiquitous inside organizations (and in zones of IoT) and then becomes used in scenario-specific business solutions.”
Read more: Telefonica & Huawei launch NB-IoT open lab
A tale of two smart cities
Huawei showcased two specific smart city solutions during the Shanghai Connect 2017 event. Weifang in central Shandong province has deployed a city-level IoT cloud platform using Huawei technologies, which runs a smart street lighting system and has achieved 6.8 million kilowatt hours of saved energy annually. City infrastructure areas including manhole covers have also been IoT-empowered, so that during a typhoon, if a manhole cover becomes loose, it sends alerts to environmental control authorities so that they can fix it.
Other smart city solutions with Huawei include Yanbu in Saudi Arabia where the company has created what is claimed to be 18,000 jobs related to new layers of IoT infrastructure. The city has flourished as a networked and connected place to live and work.
“As a new technical field, IoT is an important strategic direction for Huawei. Apart from continuously investing in technology, in all these years working with partners to serve enterprise customers, Huawei has a good understanding on the construction requirements that enterprise customers have on IoT,” said Jiang Wangcheng, president of Huawei IoT solutions.
“Based on our understanding of enterprise customers, our positioning on the IoT domain is the following: ‘[We are] a smart platform builder, innovator of various connection methods and promoter of the IoT ecosystem,’ and this is all embodied in our products.”
Given Huawei’s network engineering pedigree, it is perhaps no surprise to hear the company talk about how much happens out on the edge (as in edge computing) of its IoT deployments and installations. Wangcheng talks about edge computing IoT (and formally denotes this as EC-IoT), saying that the firm is working on enabling data to operate in this area from chip to platform.
Open architecture, many IoT layers
Huawei’s IoT strategy is to provide wired and wireless access methods for multiple scenarios, building smart public and private clouds and facilitating customers’ network and information management. The company’s IoT portfolio (at the smart city level, which typifies much of its work in this space) spans areas including: construction site production safety, intelligent firefighting, intelligent greenhouses, intelligent dustbins, connected parking systems, intelligent water management as well as vehicle and traffic management.
“The IoT means the interconnection of everything, making it more important to establish alliances, promote IoT standard formulation, and support large-scale commercial use. Therefore, our strategy specifies that we work with partners to build a healthy IoT ecosystem to promote application innovation and industry upgrading of various domains,” said Diana Yuan, president of marketing and solution sales department for Huawei Enterprise Business.
Huawei’s OceanConnect IoT platform is the brain of its IoT solution. The platform provides open APIs to integrate various industry applications and exclusive agents to access various sensors, devices, and gateways. In addition, the ‘device-platform-application’ architecture changes the traditional vertical ‘device-application’ design concept and decouples applications and devices – and this is meant to reduce enterprises’ dependence on suppliers.
OpenLabs for IoT innovation
At this conference, Huawei also presented its IoT cloud services. These support cloud terminal collaboration, helping to achieve the integration of a large number of terminal devices. It also helps device management, which is core to this area.
To promote the healthy development of the IoT ecosystem, Huawei has more than 500 partners in the IoT domain and has set up what it calls OpenLabs to help foster new development in this space. It currently runs 11 OpenLabs with carriers, 11 OpenLabs with enterprise customers and 4 OpenLabs independently across the world. These labs provide open lab services for IoT partners, such as joint solution innovation and integrated verification of solutions and devices.
Huawei is a huge company with a steamrolling attitude to its own advancement. Its ability to understand and manufacture components from chipsets upwards to devices and then onwards to device data transmission rates and wider network engineering is not necessarily unrivalled, but it validates the company’s swagger and prowess in IoT technologies.
This is a company busy making ‘things’, from shiny smartphones on the surface to the less visible elements of the deeper IoT fabric. Rotating Huawei CEO Ping claims that his company will be one of only five major cloud suppliers in the near future. The ambition here embodies the idea of a modern China that can work as a world powerhouse. An increasing element of that effort is now also focused on the IoT.
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Coming soon: Our IoT Build events, taking place in London in November 2017 and San Francisco in March 2018 are a great opportunity for attendees to explore the platforms, architectures, applications and connectivity that comprise the IoT ecosystem.