We are deep in the throes of the fourth industrial revolution (otherwise known as I4.0), where the physical, biological, and digital world are converging at breakneck speed fueled by technology. 

HUAWEI CONNECT 2020

As someone working in the digital marketing and communications sphere, knee-deep into digital transformation in a world disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, I checked out the HUAWEI CONNECT 2020 to feel the pulse of what’s happening in China, widely acknowledged as the leader in AI globally. With 5G adoption worldwide as the backdrop, the focus of this year’s event is about creating new value with synergy across the five tech domains of connectivity, cloud, AI, computing, and industry applications.

I attended two events – Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping’s keynote speech on “Creating New Value with Synergy Across Five Tech Domains” and a media roundtable on the launch of the white paper on the digital transformation of the power industry. As an industry outsider, some of the technical jargons of the latter session escaped me, but overall, I did pick up some food for thought.

Geopolitical Context

 “…as u know, Huawei is in a difficult situation these days, non-stop aggression has put us under significant pressure. We are still assessing the specific impact. Right now, survival is the goal.”

Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping

In his keynote speech, Huawei Rotating Chairman Guo Ping candidly referenced the increasing tense China-US technological war. As a small state, Singapore definitely can’t afford to choose any one side and face the wrath of the other. So it seems reassuring that so far, we seem to have avoided serious injuries in the on-going battle. In fact, we have still managed to attract top technology R&D from both countries- for example, the Huawei AI lab and Salesforce AI research centre both chose to set up in Singapore.

Thanks must be due to our political leaders and civil service machinery for creating the conditions necessary for this balance.

While some issues from the China- US tech war, such as the race over 5G, may feel abstract to many, US’s move to cut Huawei off from Google definitely affects the regular consumer. It is disconcerting that in a world where we need to be more unified than ever to tackle complex problems, the tech divide may be deepened further in light of tightening US restrictions on Huawei, and in response, Huawei’s rapid progress in developing its own HMS ecosystem and Harmony OS which it is also opening to rival manufactures.  

For a Greener world: Digital transformation of the Power industry

“It is no longer about global warming anymore, but global heating up”

Lu Yongping, Vice President of the Global Energy Business Dept of Huawei Enterprise Business Group

The drive towards a green and sustainable world underpins Huawei’s plans for the digital transformation of the Power Industry, as set out in their white paper jointly released with consultancy IDC.

As shared during the white paper launch, the energy sector needs to reduce carbon emission by 80 percent to keep to the Paris climate accord of limiting global warming to below 2°C. The fundamental way to achieve this is to shift away from fossil fuels and to boost the adoption of clean and green energy. However, this shift is something that the existing energy sector architecture cannot adequately support. An overhaul of the energy sector into a new grid system that is decarbonised, decentralised and distributed, digitalized, data-driven, and highly automated is needed. Elaboration of the white paper below:

  • Power enterprises are now facing external changes that include accelerating energy demand, major shifts in the energy mix, competitive market change and for competitive operators – the sharp impact of changing customer expectations. The White Paper has unveiled a new operating structure and business model.
  • IDC proposed a methodology for the transformation of electric power enterprises, which aligns with Huawei’s digital transformation methodology. IDC and Huawei follow a similar approach with framework and blueprints for digital transformation and agenda-setting. The White Paper has also introduced the methodology – there are five stages of digital transformation of electric power enterprises – ad-hoc, opportunistic, repeatable, manager, optimized.
  • As 2020 progresses COVID-19 has introduced another dimension of the change and disruption power industry business leaders must tackle. The methodology increases renewables, emerging power consumption devices; the application of AI also enhances the decision-making capability and full-process automation.
  • The drive for digital transformation of the power enterprise is brought on by the requirement to change, and the benefits of improved efficiency, safety, customer satisfaction and profitability on offer. To deliver these benefits a new environment will be required. Critical will be a modernized and digitized grid, this will provide the foundational physical platform for the business. The future power enterprise will require connected and intelligent infrastructure and a cloud-based platform enabling integration and agility across the suite of applications. Automation, AI and analytics will be required that in combination with the DX platform will enable innovation and agility within the enterprise and across the ecosystem of suppliers, partners and industry participants delivering unexpected value as well.
  • Grid environments of today and the future are, and will be, far more complex. The growth of distributed and renewable energy has created grid environments already managing multi-directional power flow generated by huge numbers of distributed assets. Grid environments that are being developed into the future will include small- and large-scale renewable energy generation and distributed capabilities (e.g. large generators, co-gen, microgrids etc) with a range of power sources that can be turned on and off as needed, and that can be managed as a system on an intelligent basis. This will mean new customer engagements, new business models, new competitors, more stakeholders and increased risks.
  • Current power systems, applications and architectures are not adequate to manage the grid and generation systems of the future. Power enterprises are not equipped with the intelligence embedded in their systems or processes to manage this environment effectively and efficiently, let alone safely and with agility. Critical operational capabilities – work management, asset management, outage management for example require insight, visibility, remote management, automation and dynamic systems-based coordination. Most power enterprises today run very manual processes, with large safety margins that impact the price and availability of the power delivered.  To manage this new environment, critical capabilities such as analytics, artificial intelligence and automation will be required.

Change Management and the Human Factor 

While sharing on Huawei’s digital transformation strategy framework, Dr Hao (Anthony) Hu, Chief Digital Transformation Officer of Electric Power Industry at Huawei, pointed out a key crux underpinning the success or failure of any digital transformation – Change Management, that is, the human factor.

As someone involved in the digital pivot of an otherwise traditionally brick and mortar industry, this struck a chord with me. Sometimes it is not a science problem, but a people problem. For example, the innovations and technological solutions might be there, but the challenge lies in bringing them to a commercial scale which could face political, people, and behavioral issues- all of which must all be factored into any digital transformation blueprint.            

In this sea of change, we can either swim or sink. Embrace digitalisation and the dividends will be multifold.

Find out more

HUAWEI CONNECT is an annual flagship event hosted by Huawei for the global ICT industry, and is being held in Shanghai from 23- 26 September 2020 and online from 23 September- 31 October 2020. This year’s event explores trends and opportunities in industry digitization; showcase advanced ICT technologies, and share best practices in digital transformation. For more information, visit their website.

Image credits: Huawei