Prof Gui Guan: Messenger of AI with spirit of craftsmanship
2018-05-13 10:28:00

“In the eyes of many people, my story sounds like a poor student’s sweeping counterattack, but for me, I have always been like this, taking a broader view on the inside and improving myself little by little,” said Gui Guan, professor of telecommunications and information engineering at Nanjing University of Posts and Telecommunications (NUPT), and winner of Nanjing Youth May Fourth Medal 2018, an award to commemorate China’s anti-imperialist, cultural and nationalist May Fourth Movement in 1919.

Born to a family of farmers in Zongyang county, Anhui province in 1982, Gui Guan used to help his parents do farm work as a schoolboy. Taking the high school and college entrance exams for twice, and failing the college English qualification test several times, he was never regarded as a good student. His parents, not very supportive of his schooling, advised him to quit and find a job at his hometown.

“But I know the only way to make a change is to study,” said Gui Guan. With vision inside and perseverance in action, he was enrolled in the University of Electronic Science and Technology of China for a Master degree in 2006, and three years later, pursued his PhD at Tohoku University in Japan with the sponsorship of China Scholarship Council.

Under the guidance of Prof Fumiyuki Adachi, a world renowned expert in wireless communication technology and one of the major initiators of the third generation mobile telecommunication WCDMA, Gui Guan then took a strong interest in exploring the treasure trove of science and technology.

He always carried a laptop with him wherever he went, writing papers while waiting for someone else to eat. When going out to play with other people, he would quietly write a thesis in a cafe near the scenic area. In just one year, Gui Guan, the avid pursuer of science, published 10 papers, ushering in a liftoff of academic career. When he graduated from Tohoku University, the number of his published papers accounted for more than half of that in his supervisor’s laboratory.

Carving out a career as a professor at NUPT at the end of 2015, Gui Guan started his own laboratory FocusLab, an abbreviation of Frontier of Opening Computing and Ubiquitous Sensing Laboratory, which also means people with dreams gather together, delivering products that are forward focused and future proof.

“Our direction is to study in depth the artificial intelligence used in the physical layer of wireless communication. Focusing on the integration of production, learning and research, we use the cutting edge computing and ubiquitous perception service technology to reduce human costs and improve efficiency,” Prof Gui explained.

“With clear thinking and pragmatism in mind, I’m doing research not for writing papers, but for the practical uses and value for changing our lives.” That explains why the small things in life can always attract his attention.

There is a “mysterious” series of numbers on his WeChat account. It is the taxation number of NUPT. When he first came to the university, the complicated reimbursement procedure became a headache for Prof Gui. Developing a smart financial reimbursement system was then put on his schedule.

“We have collected a lot of invoice data and established a large database. The deep learning function of artificial intelligence allows it to identify invoices, and according to the test, the correct rate is as high as 99%, so that the intelligent robots will solve the problems of traditional reimbursement, which will greatly save on manpower costs.”

The product will be officially introduced to the market in this June. “When coming back from a business trip, we just need to hand over the invoices to the robot!” Prof Gui said proudly.

Gui Guan has experienced two major earthquakes. One is the magnitude 8 Wenchuan Earthquake in southwest China's Sichuan province, May 12, 2008, leaving more than 69,000 dead when he was studying in Chengdu, capital city of the province, the other one is the magnitude 9.0 undersea earthquake off Japan's northeastern coast on March 11, 2011, leaving nearly 18,500 people dead or missing. "The earthquake is really terrible. That would be something of value and significance if I can use science to predict natural disasters," said Prof Gui.

Water level real-time monitoring system based on video surveillance technology is one of the products developed by FocusLab. Big data analysis is performed by combining the city's stagnant water, rainfall, and other information. Once the water level is found to exceed the critical point, the video monitoring information of key rivers can be transmitted to the command center and mobile terminals through wireless transmission, which is conducive to the implementation of remote flood emergency command and dispatch.

When passing through the automatic ticket gate of Nanjing South Railway Station, Prof Gui noticed that the face recognition was slow and might be mistaken. "So we want to develop a new system to upgrade the accuracy and efficiency. The passengers can be identified the moment they walk in. Some people may think it's just a matter of adding a few cameras, but in fact, behind this is a series of algorithms. Such technology also has good prospects for the public security."

“Big opportunities lie in small issues. Focus on it. Do your best with the spirit of craftsmanship,” Prof Gui added.

Life is blissful for him when he does scientific research, even only instant noodle is available. “I like playing basketball, and doing scientific research as well. Maybe I can't play basketball at the age of 60, but I can still do my research. Relish it and cherish it.”

Prof Gui has got an English name - Gabriel, one of the archangels and the messenger of good news. “I hope my job, like the name, can bring good news to people through artificial intelligence.”

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