Dalian Wanda or Wanda Group is not very widely known outside China, but it is the world’s largest private property developer and the world’s largest cinema chain operator (including ownership of the US AMC Theatres chain). It also runs facilities, and has developed its own building management system which handle Internet of things (IoT) data. . 

Over 30 years,Wanda has gone through various changes, but its current flagship development scheme is the Wanda Plaza, an independent commercial zone which combines offices, shops and accommodation. There are more than 90 of these sites in existence, and CEO Wang Jianlin has also vowed to take on Disney’s theme parks in the mainland of China. Two “Wanda City” theme parks are now open, and Wang has poached senior Disneyland staff, promising to make Disneyland Shanghai unprofitable for 20 years, partly by undercutting the ticket prices of the US intruder: “A tiger has no chance of beating a pack of wolves,” Wang said,according to the South China Morning Post.

All of this requires underlying technology, which Wanda’s CTO Feng Zhongqian (Jennifer Feng) described to the audience at the the DCD Hyperscale China Beijing event in December 2016. ”As a traditional industry, Wanda is surrounded by a sense of crisis, and had to rethink its value in the industry,” said Feng.

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Wanda Mall. Wanda City – Wanda

Smart buildings 

In 2012, Wanda launched Huiyun, a worldwide intelligent building management system (BMS), a giant Internet of things (IoT) application which uses the cloud and a Hadoop data store. This will be a key part of the Wanda Plaza package, Feng explained, as each Wanda Plaza must control a number of things including HVAC, water supply and drainage, power distribution monitoring, fire alarm, video surveillance, burglar alarm, access control, public lighting, passenger statistics, parking management, information dissemination. “Energy consumption must be centralized,”  she said. 

“From the beginning of the 2013 pilot, through the promotion in 2014, we launched the world’s largest intelligence building networking platform,” said Feng. The system currently manages 561,000 pieces of equipment, with 5.6 million data point devices and 50 billion items of data captured each year in Wanda plazas. The latest version, 3.0, has improved stability, and simplified managemet,and is a truly cloud-based product, with cloud deployment operation and maintenance, said. Feng.

“Wanda Huiyun IMS 3.0 has achieved significant financial returns, reduced a lot of administrative headcounts and achieved significant annual energy savings,” said Feng. In 2016, it won an award from IDG for digital transformation - the only product from Asia on the list.

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Wand ACTO Feng Zhongqian (Jennifer Feng) – Wanda

Digital transformation

“Before the implementation of Huiyun, each Wanda Plaza had 16 independent equipment monitoring systems for electrical and mechanical systems,” she said. “All16 systems operate independently, on separate hosts. This has meant that the systems cannot easily be linked, and Wanda cannot get the full value of each of the 16 systems. 

“Huiyun 3.0 will protect the normal operation of Wanda Plaza,” she said, “with a platform for centralized monitoring, control and management.” Each Wanda Plaza now has 3000 devices monitored through 10,000 sensors. 

“In the past decade, Facebook, Amazon, Apple have grown rapidly with high-tech platforms, strong capital and advanced modes of operation, along with cross-border access to traditional industries,” said Feng

“We think we should jump out of the device-centric strategy to design the user experience to meet different needs. We have to start to embrace the Internet of things, and re-establish a people- centered connection,” she said.”2017 will have a rapid trend from ’smart’ to ’useful’.” 

It needs to be clear that information is only a means, not an end 

Feng Zhongqian (Jennifer Feng). Wanda CTO



As organizations struggle to manage change, the answer is ”user-led innovation”, she said, but this hits different sized organizations differently:  “Typically, large enterprises know how to scale, but are less agile than start-ups, while start-ups are agile but rarely succeed in scale.”

The Huiyun system is currently only running in Wanda locations, and the company has no plans to take it externally, ”because each enterprise’s own environment and ecology is not the same.” The project is developed through continuous iterations from planning, through design, implementation and optimization. “The whole process is very complex.”

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Wanda City at night – Wanda

Information is a means not an end

To create the system, Wanda needed its own professional team expert in emerging areas including Internet of things (IoT), cloud computing, EDI (electronic data interchange), numerical control systems, virtual reality / augmented reality, digital mapping and automatic identification technology including RFID, bar code and machine vision. 

As well as serving as CTO, Ms Feng is also deputy general manager of Wanda’s Information Management Center, a full-time operation and maintenance team for the Huiyun project. This aims to create unified operation and maintenance standards, and set up training for Huiyun system operators. Components of Huiyun also need certification.

“But it needs to be clear that information is only a means, not an end,” she said. Businesses can apply technologies, but they should support the goal of greater efficiency and better understanding. For instance, data should enable companies to calculate “a clear total cost of ownership,” measuring the profitability of projectsand dtermining a reasonable level of investment.

She told us she sees three main needs:

  • to address complex information integration problems, such as linking IT systems, automation systems and the supply chain; to handle  data exchange;
  • to handle diverse sources of heterogeneous data, including large amounts of IoT information from devices, and human data from social networks,
  • ensuring the accuracy of the data,

Not content with building better buildings management systems, she doesn’t want to see systems based on inaccurate underlying data, fed into isolated “information islands”, or else to deliver systems which remain stuck on the shelves. 

This story has been translated and edited from our Chinese site by Peter Judge