Huawei steers towards intelligent vehicles in major corporate pivot

Leading global communications technology provider undergoes major strategic corporate shift to maximise its software capabilities and provide components for intelligent vehicles

After a year in which it has been buffeted by technology bans and caught in the political crossfire between China and the US, Huawei has announced a strategic corporate realignment that the company has said will not only strengthen its business strategy but also boost resilience.

Announced during the firm’s 18th Global Analyst Summit, the news of the restructuring comes just after the firm confirmed annual results, showing that even with the utmost pressure applied upon it by a number of bans on the use of its technology in national communications infrastructures, growth has slowed but business performance was largely in line with the forecast, with annual rises in profits and revenues.

In its 2020 annual report, the company revealed sales revenue for the year rounded off at US$136.7bn, up 3.8% year-on-year, and net profit reached US$9.9bn, up 3.2% year-on-year. The report also showed that its carrier business continued to ensure the stable operations of more than 1,500 networks across some 170 countries and regions – networks that, Huawei noted, had helped support remote working, online learning and online shopping throughout Covid-19 lockdowns.

And now, as it goes forward with traditional revenue streams turned off, the company will optimise its portfolio in software capabilities and components for intelligent vehicles, while focusing on innovations to address current challenges such as energy consumption and supply chain challenges. 

Speaking at the Analyst Summit, Eric Xu, Huawei's rotating chairman, revealed that the move would be based around five strategic initiatives. According to him, Huawei will optimise its portfolio to boost business resilience, strengthen its software capabilities and invest more in businesses that are less reliant on advanced process techniques, as well as in components for intelligent vehicles.

It will maximise 5G value and define with industry the concept of 5.5G – which it already believes will be the bedrock of advanced networks – to drive the evolution of mobile telecommunications. It assured that it would work to deliver a seamless, user-centric, and intelligent experience across all user scenarios and “innovate” to reduce energy consumption for a low-carbon world and address supply continuity challenges.

“Rebuilding trust and restoring collaboration across the global semiconductor supply chain is crucial to bringing the industry back on track,” said Eric Xu. “Moving forward, we will continue to find ourselves in a complex and volatile global environment. Resurgence of Covid-19 and geopolitical uncertainty will present ongoing challenges for every organisation, business, and country. We believe deeply in the power of digital technology to provide fresh solutions to the problems we all face. So we will keep innovating and driving digital transformation forward with our customers and partners to bring digital to every person, home and organisation for a fully connected, intelligent world.”

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Also at the Analyst Summit, William Xu, director of the board and president of Huawei's Institute of Strategic Research, outlined challenges that will affect social well-being over the next decade, including ageing populations and increasingly high-energy consumption. He noted nine technological challenges and proposed directions for research efforts.

These were defining 5.5G to support hundreds of billions of different kinds of connections; developing nanoscale optics for an exponential increase in fibre capacity; optimising network protocols to connect all things; providing advanced computing power strong enough to support the intelligent world; extracting knowledge from massive amounts of data to drive breakthroughs in industrial AI; going beyond von Neumann architecture for 100x denser storage systems; combining computing and sensing for a hyper-reality, multi-modal experience; enabling people to more proactively manage their health through continuous self-monitoring of personal vital signs; building an intelligent Internet of Energy for the generation, storage, and consumption of greener electricity.

“In the decade to come, we can expect to see many great improvements in society. To promote these efforts, we hope to join forces with different industries, academia, research institutes, and application developers to address the universal challenges facing humanity,” said William Xu.

“With a shared vision, we all have a role to play as we explore how to make connections stronger, computing faster, and energy greener. Together, let’s march ahead towards an Intelligent World in 2030.”

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