Listening to the impressive speakers, many of them from the research community, at Huawei’s latest Academia Salon, The Digital Transformation of Europe, I confess to being quite dumbstruck by the overwhelming array of technological possibilities that will surely make our digital future a very exciting one. Yet for all the possibilities - and they still are only possibilities - there is much work to be done at several levels.
First, it will be wonderful to have 5G mobile networks, machine-to-machine communications vastly outnumbering people-to-people connections as the basis for the Internet of Things (IoT), and faster hardware and software to facilitate the “deep learning” and big data processing on which Artificial Intelligence (AI) will thrive, not only in mainframe computers but in our smartphones.
But let’s be clear about this: we won’t be going very far without the connectivity necessary to power the widespread adoption of such technology. We will need mobile broadband everywhere, now, as we prepare to roll out 5G in Europe from 2020 onwards (2018 onwards in some more localised cases).
As has been said elsewhere, this will mean innovative policymaking at the EU level to provide incentives for Europe’s telecommunications operators and their partners to invest in the new networks of the future. Partnership is a key word.
Another is democratisation, as Mark Bishop of London Goldsmith’s pointed out as he explained what AI means for Europe’s companies and citizens: “As hardware and software improve, experimentation with DL will be democratised, enabling more people to carry out interesting research.”
At Huawei, we try to anticipate future needs. This spirit of democratisation led us to form, in 2016, our Developer Enablement Plan, by which we will welcome up to 100,000 European developers into our network of Open Labs, while providing them with Huawei’s software development tools and marketing expertise. I imagine that AI will form a big part of the work of these developers over the next decade, adapting to 5G and the IoT.
In fact, scientists are already indicating that AI has some limitations that need to be overcome, meaning the ICT sector will have to build bridges with very different scientific disciplines such as biology.
Another of our tried and trusted initiatives, the Huawei Innovation Research Program (HIRP), has been supporting university research in Europe since 1999 (when it was known as the Huawei College Fund).
Recently, we have invested over €75m through the HIRP in over 120 universities and research institutes in Germany, the UK, France, Finland, Switzerland, Sweden, Spain, Italy and the Netherlands. As we say in Huawei: “Exploration begins with sharing wisdom”.
It is not the technologically feasible that will work in the future digital world, but a constant exchange of ideas between researchers and their industrial partners.