ChinAI #70: CASICloud and the Industrial Internet

Plus, how does 5G fit into all of this?

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Feature Translation: CASICloud and China’s Industrial Internet

I like to choose topics where the information arbitrage ratio (relative importance divided by number of people paying attention) is very high. China’s efforts to build an industrial Internet has a very very high information arbitrage ratio. On this topic, we’ve previously translated a case study of CASICloud in an AI Open Source Software White Paper and also covered the unsexy details of how computer vision affects quality inspections on production lines for making cutting tools.

THE CONTEXT: A snapshot of China’s industrial Internet landscape by way of a Leiphone interview with Xu Shan, deputy GM of CASICloud, one of the key players and a subsidiary of China Aerospace Science & Industry Corporation which is a large [Fortune 500] state-owned enterprise develops missiles, aerospace products, etc.


  • Taking the buzz out of the industrial Internet buzzword: a term by General Electric in late 2012, the Industrial Internet of Things refers to a system of industrial devices connected with communications technologies that enables advanced analytics, machine-to-machine coordination, etc. Two of the big players are GE’s Predix and Siemen’s MindSphere.

  • Need to knows about CASICloud: established in June 2015, started working on a cloud platform for the industrial internet in 2015 and released the INDICS platform in 2017, has support of CASIC — one of the top performing high-tech SOEs and key behind-the-scenes player behind a lot of the weapons/equipment showcased during the National Day military parade.

  • Disaggregating the notion of a single industrial Internet: CASICloud works with 28 SOEs including State Grid/China Unicom to build a national integrated industrial Internet, but it also has deployed regional industrial Internet service platforms including for Guizhou and Changzhou as well as regional platforms for single industries (e.g. a Sichuang Heavy Equipment cloud platform)

  • A government-guided but many obstacles: CASICloud’s main way to land these industrial Internets is to form a joint venture company with the local government, and very interestingly, CASICloud claims to handle data processing through the National Engineering Lab for Industrial Big-data Application Technology. There are still many issues with data islands and companies that want to hold on to their legacy information systems.

  • An indicator of how important this stuff is: In 2017, Gao Hongwei, Chairman of CASIC, and Joe Kaeser, CEO of Siemens, signed an agreement to allow both CASICloud and Siemens to build applications on the other platform. The signing ceremony was attended by Xi Jinping and Angela Merkel.

DISCUSSED IN THE FULL TRANSLATION (in the style of Believer magazine): how 5G and TSN are crucial to closing the loop on the industrial Internet system, the differences among IaaS, PaaS, SaaS layers and all the acronyms in the world, and just a lot of really dense and technical but interesting things about the industrial Internet.

FULL TRANSLATION: How many steps does it take to transfer the digitized capabilities of national-level aerospace equipment to the manufacturing industry?

ChinAI Links (Four to Forward)

Should-read: The Turnaround by Jayadevan, a journalist who has covered technology for Indian publications for 10 years

One recent podcast episode of The Turnaround covered the Indian gaming sector, which is growing rapidly and catching the attention of the Chinese VC/start-up world. In a follow-up issue, Jayadevan reflects on a previous ChinAI issue on the diverging trajectories of China and India in the information revolution and the link to online games.

Should-read: Expanded U.S. Trade Blacklist Hits Beijing’s Artificial-Intelligence Ambitions

The WSJ’s Dan Strumpf and Yoko Kubota analyze the effects of the U.S. decision to add 8 Chinese companies to the entity list, with good details on the percentages of companies’ revenues from Xinjiang, revenues likely to be affected by the blacklisting, and possible indirect effects.

Should-read: Global Defence-Industry League: Where is China?

The International Institute for Strategic Studies’s Meia Nouwens and Lucie Béraud-Sudreau calculated how much defense-related revenue that eight of ten Chinese SOEs involved in defense production generated in 2016; their calculations placed CASIC 11th in worlds top defense companies by total arms sales.

I really wanted to find a profile that comprehensively unpacked all of CASIC’s subsidiaries and research institutes but was unable to — if anyone has recommendations, please send them my way.

Should-read: The Next Word

John Seabrook’s piece for The New Yorker on predictive fed text from the end of each section of the section of the article into the New Yorker’s AI — a full-strength version of GPT-2 fine-tuned on all nonfiction work published in the New Yorker since 2007 along with some digitized classics dating back to the 1960s — and then generated the predicted text that follows each section in the article.

Thank you for reading and engaging.

These are Jeff Ding's (sometimes) weekly translations of Chinese-language musings on AI and related topics. Jeff is a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford, PhD candidate in International Relations, Researcher at GovAI/Future of Humanity Institute, and Research Fellow at the Center for Security and Emerging Technology.

Check out the archive of all past issues here & please subscribe here to support ChinAI under a Guardian/Wikipedia-style tipping model (everyone gets the same content but those who can pay for a subscription will support access for all).

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