i3 | January 31, 2017

Huawei's Richard Yu

Cindy Loffler Stevens

Building a better connected world is the vision of Huawei, the leading Chinese mobile phone manufacturer. Richard Yu, CEO, Huawei Consumer Business Group, is leading the company into a new mobile, collaborative environment.

With ubiquitous networks with the ability to connect people together, unlimited possibilities become real and the company is positioned to move its vision forward. It released its new Mate 9 series in mid-November.

Yu began his career at Huawei more than two decades ago in 1993. He has since held several titles with Huawei, including CTO of Wireless R&D, and director of the GSM/UMTS technical sales department. In 2006, he was appointed president of Huawei’s Wireless Network product line, and was nominated as president of the European region in 2008.

Huawei launched its Consumer Business Group in 2003. Since then, it has emerged as one of the top three smartphone brands, and has pushed the industry forward with innovative consumer technology. Today, Huawei serves more than 170 countries and more than one third of the world’s population.

Yu also delivered a keynote address at CES® 2017 and shared Huawei’s pioneering global model for information and communications technology and his ideas for the future of mobile. Huawei has a distinct vision for a more global model of innovation, which taps into the strengths of each country and region and encourages collaboration with the adoption of the latest technologies and techniques.

Yu is leading Huawei’s mobile plan that integrates the latest in artificial intelligence, virtual reality and connected technologies and pairs them with elite global partnerships and sustainable product development. He talked with i3 about the possibilities in this new connected frontier.

With the growing number of technology companies from China, especially in the smartphone category (such as Xiaomi and OPPO), how is Huawei differentiating itself from the others?

Huawei has truly established itself as a global brand, recently surpassing Samsung in terms of global smartphone profi ts in Q3 2016. Huawei has been able to establish itself as a leader in premium and mid-range devices alike, pioneering new features like the dual-camera system co-engineered with Leica that make our devices stand out on the global stage.

How do international events such as CES and CES Asia fit into Huawei’s global marketing strategy?

These events provide the ideal platform for Huawei to showcase new products and technologies, and also be a voice on the issues that matter to the tech industry today. CES is one of the rare times when all of the leading consumer tech companies come together for a dynamic conversation on big issues such as connectivity, the smart home and the Internet of Things. For Huawei, and for me, events like CES offer an opportunity to get a holistic view of product trends, consumer opinions and new marketing techniques.

What is your vision for a mobile connected world?

Our culture is increasingly demanding two things – rich information and convenient access. The age of mobile connectivity has led to so much information being available digitally, creating an unparalleled expectation for access. Similarly, the kind of information available changes – no longer is information static, it’s dynamic and far richer than its analogue counterpart.

At a recent conference, you talked about artificial intelligence. How will AI be incorporated into Huawei’s future business model?

At Huawei, we envision AI as a core feature of what we call the “Superphone.” This new category of device goes far beyond simply making calls or browsing the internet, instead, it leverages AI to become not only a personal assistant, but an extension of yourself that anticipates your needs and takes action on your behalf.

What is your personal opinion on the future and usage of AI?

One of the things we see becoming more and more of a concern is the problem of information overload. It’s simply not possible for many people to make full use of the massive amounts of diverse, personalized information available to them at any given time. We see curation by means of artificial intelligence as a viable solution to this concern.

With AI, we’re able to make access to information more effi cient by proactively retrieving information based on the prediction of user behaviors. At the same time, AI offers a more natural way for users to interface with devices, lowering the barrier to accessing information.

What is your definition of the AI Superphone you described?

The Superphone will be defined by a new type of information-management architecture that changes the way users interact with the digital world. We see the superphone becoming an extension of each user – an indispensable part of their lives that directly delivers information and adapts to their needs in real time. This means that we no longer build a passive type of device but one that proactively interacts with both the real and digital worlds.

Already, Huawei is preparing for this new paradigm by investing in four core areas – devices, connectivity, the cloud and the chipset.

For the device, we’re focusing on powerful sensors, more robust AI, VR/AR technologies, and computer vision solutions that give the device new ways to sense the real world in the same ways a human might.

For connectivity, we’re working on unifying the digital ecosystem, removing barriers between the car, the office, and the home and establishing a seamless experience throughout a user’s daily life.

For the cloud, we’re focusing on how to better leverage deep machine learning and process massive amounts of data for better decision-making.

And on the chipset level we’re continuing to refi ne our Kirin chip technology, our communications hardware and our manufacturing techniques so that our phones can take advantage of deep learning and heterogeneous computing while also providing the very best in data security.

What makes Huawei innovative?

We believe that our focus on product quality and our commitment to R&D are the cornerstones of our leading position in the international market. Each year, Huawei spends at least ten percent of our total sales revenue on R&D. In the last 10 years, we’ve invested more than $37 billion in R&D – a figure that few other companies can match.

Huawei’s roots are in the telecommunications field where we’ve long been leaders in R&D capacity and investment. With our consumer business group, we’ve taken this commitment and continued it on a truly global scale.

How do you focus on R&D?

We are proud to operate 16 R&D centers and 28 joint innovation centers across the globe. This means there are 170,000 employees – 40,000 of whom reside outside of China – 45 percent are engaged in our R&D work. Because of this, it’s no surprise that Huawei has been named by Fast Company to their list of the “50 Most Innovative Companies” three times.

What is the company’s biggest challenge in the year ahead? Opportunities?

As we continue our journey to become the world’s leading smartphone brand, we think that the biggest challenge is finding ways to drive consumers to expect more from their smartphones. At the premium device level, most smartphones are “good enough” but we want to help consumers learn that they can and should expect greatness and continued meaningful innovation from these devices. And this is an opportunity as well, because as we continue to innovate, we have a tremendous chance to showcase just what a smartphone – or a Superphone – can be and how it can truly be a life-changing device for so many.

Five years from now, how would you like Huawei to be viewed in the industry?

We believe that Huawei can and will be the leading global smartphone brand that consumers love. We plan on achieving this by continuing to introduce devices that redefi ne what a smartphone can do and by raising the expectations of consumers who truly want and deserve a premium device experience. Our commitment to R&D and collaboration with some of the most innovative minds within the technology industry – as well as from industries like fashion and design – will help us achieve these great heights.

January/February 2017 i3 Cover Issue

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