While entrepreneurship can start off both small or, equally, with a much grander plan from the start, no matter how great a cause is, every entrepreneur starts with an initial dream, and then the story grows, step-by-step – much like the germination of an acorn on its journey to becoming an imposing oak tree. Of course, steady growth is not a guarantee; entrepreneurship also involves taking a risk. Maybe that is trying something new or challenging existing norms or offering something new or better, within an existing market segment. However, as every entrepreneur can tell you: when the ideal meets the reality, there will always be stories of unexpected encounters and having to adapt to circumstances or customers that lead you on a slightly different journey than anticipated, while seeking to achieve the initial idea.
Dreams, courage, trust and values, when these words come together, they become the pillars upon which both drive and test an entrepreneur’s resolve.
In an exclusive interview with Dr. Yang Yang, Chief Scientist of Terminus Group, we asked what the meaning of the word “entrepreneurship” means to him, and how that applies for both start-ups and replicating or even maintaining that spirit within larger, more established, organizations:
- Can you tell us about yourself and your background?
My name is Dr. Yang Yang and I am a researcher, specialized in the areas of IoT and mobile communication technology. I obtained my undergraduate and master’s degree from Southeast University, China, and my PhD from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. After graduation, I held faculty positions at: The Chinese University of Hong Kong; Brunel University, UK; University College London (UCL), UK; CAS-SIMIT; and ShanghaiTech University, China. From 2014 to 2016, I was the team leader for a national major science and technology project, in China, which dealt with the R&D of sensor network technology for the safety of South-to-North Water Diversion. Currently, I am also the Principal Investigator of a key national project for “5G-enabled IoT Infrastructure Development for the Smart Cities in Guangdong, Hong Kong, and the Macau Greater Bay Area”.
Having recently joined Terminus Group, I am excited to be joining such a group of young and talent colleagues, with the collective goal to explore the future of IoT and smart cities.
- What is your take on entrepreneurship? And why did you choose to join in Terminus Group?
The spirit of entrepreneurship has always been a driving force within me. You could even say that is the big dreamer in me, as I see myself as an education entrepreneur. Previously, in my academic career, I worked in what is a new type of science and technology university, in China, which always encouraged faculties and students to play an active part in the technology industry and make their own contributions to its transformation. Therefore, I have some fascinating experience and involvement in many innovation projects that came out of ShanghaiTech University. With that entrepreneurial spirit firmly established in me, from an early age, I am well aware of the challenges and joys that such pursuits can add to one’s life.
Before ShanghaiTech University, I was in the UK, conducting scientific research with such esteemed organizations as British Telecom, Airbus, Rolls Royce, Toshiba, and other companies investing heavily in the field of IoT technology and its applications. These experiences provided me with a deep understanding of various practical problems encountered by IoT and communication technology.
On the one hand, it effectively improved my practical ability and contributed to future achievements in this field and, on the other, it further emboldened my conviction that academic research can also change the world.
Integrating academic achievements with industry and the well-being of people is an effective way to change the world. Previous experience and work opportunities have enabled me to put my research results into practice and apply them more purposefully and I am confident that this can and will lead to greater social and economic benefits, in the long run.
During the global pandemic, I also cooperated with colleagues to complete two books on IoT technology and applications. I believe that the application of IoT in smart city services is the best way to accomplish the inevitable digital transformation of future cities. The greatest attraction and value of the future digital world is to provide people-centric, customized, personalized and intelligent services – for each user.
Before joining Terminus Group, this was just my personal understanding. After meeting Victor AI, the Founder and CEO of Terminus Group, I was delighted to find someone in the industry that shared the same views and ideas. The tacit understanding and identity of this concept made me feel like we were old friends from the first meeting and I only regret that our paths did not cross sooner. Therefore, Terminus Group has provided me with a great platform and opportunity to play a role in furthering my thinking and technical accumulation, in these areas.
- What is your perspective on Terminus Group’s business?
Terminus Group’s TacOS (Terminus AI CITY Operating System) is an intermediate bridge that promotes the integration of the virtual and physical world. For me, this may be one of the core factors convincing me to join the company.
In terms of the research I bring to Terminus Group; this can be broken down into two areas. Firstly, at the network communication level, protocols and algorithms – aimed at reducing transmission delay and energy consumption – can be combined with the various application scenarios of Terminus Group. Second, is the delivery of ubiquitous computing power; and, since 2016, I have been looking to dispatch and allocate computing resources to realize this.
Therefore, the two areas of my research are aligned and completely consistent with the scenario planning of Terminus Group, which makes for an exciting prospect for future development.
- It is inevitable that entrepreneurs will encounter various challenges on their journey to success. With values, entrepreneurial beliefs, business thinking and logic being essential elements for entrepreneurial success, what do you think of the founding team?
In December 2021, Victor AI, the Founder and CEO of Terminus Group, came to Shanghai to participate in an IoT event and it was here that we got chance to go together for tea and talked on the topic extensively for nearly two hours. It was during this discussion with Victor that I decided I wanted to join Terminus Group. As many others will confirm, Victor’s infectious enthusiasm as an entrepreneur and firm belief in scientific and technological innovation is clearly demonstrated from the first meeting, but I also came to admire his deep foresight and keen sense of mission for the future of humankind and the prospects of social development, which is completely different from many purely technology-driven entrepreneurs.
For example, when I was in UK, at the London Business School, I had exchanges with many young entrepreneurs from all over the world. I would say that you could divide this group into two sections: One is a “sense of mission” driven entrepreneur; the other is the more “technology driven” entrepreneur. What impressed me most, overall, was the first entrepreneurial group – those full of enthusiasm and expectations for the future, who take the mission as the core end. Their entrepreneurship is not just for a better life, it is driven by a sense of mission for the development of society and the world.
Victor is a veteran international entrepreneur and so brings deep and unique insights into the interaction and relationship between many complex elements, such as scientific and technological innovation, user needs, application scenarios, market prospects, capital operation and enterprise management. He also has a global vision and a comprehensive understanding of China’s market dynamics, so he can give full play to Terminus Group’s characteristics and advantages in all aspects, which leads to maximizing the overall efficiency and value of the company.
What further impressed me, on a deeper level, was Victor’s overall strategic insights and layout for the comprehensive capability of Terminus Group. Many entrepreneurs I have met focus on their own technology, make a popular product, and then hope to occupy all fields. For me, while this approach may have some success, it lacks a greater vision. Victor’s way of thinking is a comprehensive blueprint around all aspects of the smart city. From urban development to AIoT technology to capital and benefiting humanity. This approach solidly lays out the integrated solutions for the whole smart city. I have not seen this type or level of commitment in any other company I have encountered.
During the pandemic, Victor was also genuinely concerned about our colleagues and helped them solve many real problems. It is perhaps not often imagined that an entrepreneur thinks of anything other than the success of the business and so be caring about his colleagues, employees and even their families. This clearly reflects his personality and a loyalty, love and responsibility he holds for his friends, colleagues, family and society.
I think it is crucial for entrepreneurs engaged in the development of smart cities that they do not get lost in the art of the possible, purely from a technical perspective. It is just as important that a human touch if maintained throughout, because ultimately all technologies are there to serve the people.
- In your own words, can you briefly describe the meaning of the word “entrepreneurship”?
Entrepreneurship is to pursue your dreams with a group of like-minded partners. It is a bit like everyone dancing together; however, starting a business is like dancing solo. It is also often difficult to dance alone. In business, one needs favorable timing, geographical and human conditions and, of course, the chance of entrepreneurial success increases when people can work together to achieve a shared goal.
Moving the conversation beyond academic entrepreneurship, we also asked Dr. Yang Yang for his thoughts on the current and upcoming technical prospects, capacity and breakthrough trends affecting the development of smart cities:
- What is the next big breakthrough that will take the world onto for the next stage of smart city development?
To put it in context as to what the next steps are, it is worth taking a moment to note where we have come from. Back in 2008, IBM first proposed the smart earth concept, a model which is notably difficult to implement, because of the difficultly of where and from whom to source funding for a ‘smart earth’. In 2010, IBM subsequently proposed the concept of a smart city, to help urban clusters solve practical problems, which could be turned into more specific solutions and direct future growth.
Although the smart city was initially raised as a technology concept, the development of any technology needs to be in tandem with social and economic progress, which, in turn, is driven by productivity and innovation. Therefore, a key component of the smart city is whether it brings convenience and happiness to the city’s residents and people using the city’s services, rather than simply being a technological solution for improving the urban management efficiency.
To generate real value, smart cities need to break down barriers between industries and organizations and optimize procedures related to societal management, business operations, and other related functions. Here, we see a true reorganization of the productive forces, relations of production and factors of production. This is where we should and can see a breakthrough in thinking about the development of future smart cities.
- Are the challenges in promoting smart cities similar around the world?
I think we should look at this issue in two ways. Of course, similarity must and does exist and it is the common aspiration of most if not all countries, territories and regions to make people’s lives better and improve the social development dynamic. However, specific goals and development paths of smart cities are greatly influenced by the population quality, cultural traditions and the relative economic strength of different regions.
In China’s domestic market, we have strong competitive advantages in technology, R&D and innovation, and unique and customized solutions. For its part, Terminus Group has participated in and promoted the digital transformation of projects in many cities using advanced IoT products and solutions that are now playing a positive and reliable role in China’s new digital infrastructure.
In the international market, a key challenge is to understand the local people, city-level authorities, as well as the cultures and customs of the countries and regions in which we would operate. To do this, we need to have their trust and support, which is most effectively gained through open dialogue and transparent, verifiable and beneficial technical solutions.
The successful official premier partnership and contribution of Terminus Group to Expo2020Dubai has clearly provided the company with a new-found leverage, created by the good will, reputation and opportunity this event provided – as well as positioning Terminus Group to develop the brand and service offering in many new and exciting international markets. However, to achieve the goal of going global, it is also necessary to have a comprehensive understanding of the concerns, needs and expectations of various countries and regions; and, importantly, where they are currently situated on their journey towards the digitalization and transformation of their cities.
In general, the universality of application scenarios in Chinese smart cities is far greater than the differences; internationally, we find the differences outweigh are the common factors, particularly in the promotion and development.
Fortunately, TacOS – Terminus Group’s AI city-level operating system – has great flexibility and scalability to support exclusive solutions. Such solutions must, therefore, always focus on the core demands of localization: how to better serve people and how to better ensure the sustainable development of the city.
- How can AI and IoT integrate to promote the transformation of urban digitalization?
There are several different views on this issue; However, my understanding is that the combination of AI and IoT (AIoT) can be a definite catalyst for achieving human-centric, customized and personalized smart services, and from that we will see improved well-being and social and economic cohesion.
Previously, in industry parlance, we talked about “user-centered”, mainly providing standardized services for the same type of users. In the future, smart services in cities should focus on “every” user. This may seem like semantics, and a simple rewording, but the logic and connotations behind this shift represent something completely different. In the digital world, we are no longer satisfied with just making standardized and reliable products. Instead, we can now fully understand the complex needs and application scenarios of each user through AIoT technology and produce diversified and personalized products and services in a customized way, so as to achieve the most refined and ideal services.
For example, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) has set the theme of this year’s world telecommunication and information society day as “Digital Technologies for Older Persons and Healthy Ageing”. This is largely because the Internet, smartphones and many applications are not always as user-friendly to the elderly who did not grow up with such devices.
As a leading enterprise in AIoT technology and application, a few years ago Terminus Group deployed smart community services in the residential area of Tianlin street, Shanghai, to address some of these generational issues. Using a variety of sensors to provide a series of smart services for all residents, especially the older generations, Terminus Group installed home-based elderly care safety systems, outdoor accident tracking, and automatic waste classification. All of which have combined to effectively address a series of community and social challenges – primarily caused by the digital generational divide.
Going forward, Terminus Group will continue to study the service needs of all users in a smart city, monitor the dynamic application environment and the evolving AIoT technology, as well as focusing on each user, so as to actively integrate innovative technologies and methods across all related fields. In addition, we must also look to a more comprehensive exploration of the innovation and reconstruction of digital service processes and business models, and continuously provide the best personalized services for people in the smart city; and in doing so enhance the satisfaction and happiness of all humankind.
- What is meant by dispatching capability in the virtual and physical world and what impact will that have on the future of smart cities?
In order to deliver the digital transformation for the future and make the virtual and physical world more integrated, there must be an operating system with strong dispatching ability. What we mean here is the ability to implement flexible procedures across a variety of resources, which then allows for the effective management and deployment of various smart services and devices.
In order to easily connect a variety of foundation sensors, communication networks and upper applications, we must consider the overall and harmonious development of the smart city from the start of the design and deploy a city-level operating system around a strong evolving nervous system. Fully ensuring cross-border smart services and personalized end-to-end user experience will be key for any future smart city.
To achieve artificial intelligence, we cannot do without the dispatch and support of computing power and algorithm resources. In my opinion, ubiquitous computing resources are central and integral characteristics of a smart city of the future. When computing power is at the heart of driving power, we can start to understand how we can continuously provide users with good services and smart responses.
When I first learned about Terminus Group’s proprietary city level operating system (TacOS), I was particularly excited.
TacOS is like a strong urban nervous system. Essentially, it connects many heterogeneous sensors and urban space scenarios to complete efficient collection and transmission of IoT application environment and big data, while also supporting the ever-evolving nature of smart city services and applications. TacOS also implements customized and personalized services centered on each user through timely dispatching and management of the system resources and functions – at the edge of the cloud network.
Terminus Group’s biggest competitive advantage here is that we combine the TacOS city level operating system with more than 30 AI CITY smart application real world scenarios, which can help all partners improve their in-depth understanding of various smart city service scenarios and user needs on this platform. In turn, this accelerates their own technological innovation, application development, experimental verification and value creation.