COMMENT: Get smart: IoT to transform

Laurent Marini, MD, Orange Business Services, talks about the future of IoT
Laurent Marini, MD, Orange Business Services.
Laurent Marini, MD, Orange Business Services.

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Gartner analysts predict 4.9 billion connected things will be in use worldwide by the end of the year, transforming the way we work and live. Machine-to-machine (M2M) technology or Internet of Things, is underpinning many technology developments that will improve everyday life in evolving urban environments, including those in the UAE and GCC.

Smart city planners need to approach their developments holistically to ensure inter-operability, and the Middle East has a great advantage with the ‘greenfield’ opportunities that are presented here. Networks and the ability to manage the data that delivers digital and mobile services lie at the heart of the digital transformation of cities. IoT or M2M solutions are instrumental in this transformation. Smart cities, smart cars, smart utilities, and even smart farms are examples of the businesses ready for transformation through IoT.

According to the World Bank, every 10% increase in broadband subscribers leads to a 1.4% increase in GDP growth and a 4.3% rise in exports. Every job created in building a network generates up to three more jobs in the rest of the economy. The smarter the city, the stronger the economy and the better the quality of life, so the ability to connect smart things from a single platform is important. For example in Saudi Arabia, according to DNV KEMA Energy and Sustainability, the number of internet connections has doubled since 2005 and the density of broadband has quadrupled; significantly, they estimate that the costs have reduced by over 20%. They also estimate that over the last 10 years, telecoms have contributed 8.8% to GDP (well beyond electricity’s contribution of almost 3.5%) in Saudi Arabia.

The Dubai Smart City (DSC) project is the stand-out flagship development in the region in terms of scale and ambition (and speed – just three years), with more than 100 initiatives and 1000 government services involved, according to reports; DSC will create a totally integrated smart environment managed by a super-smart control room and a single ICT platform, connecting devices, people and information/databases. It’s all about creating a sustainable quality of life built on the six pillars of smart Economy, smart Living, smart Mobility, smart Governance, smart Environment and smart People.

Regarding smart cars, the UAE automobile sector had record sales in 2013 and is expected to remain one of the fastest growing markets in the world for both retail and fleet sales, and commercial vehicles, driven by population growth, with over 350,000 new vehicles on the UAE roads every year.

Both the Dubai Smart City Strategy and UAE National Innovation Strategy include transport. Public transport is often the focus of city planners but cars are getting smarter all the time, creating new streams of data and information to help drivers and businesses – and the broader smart city.

The number of connected cars - vehicles augmented with Internet-connected intelligent systems and services - is increasing rapidly: Not only are self-driving cars set to become legal in the UK from 2015 (as they are already in parts of the US), but analysts expect the market to be worth €39 billion by 2018.

In smart Cities, digital technology is integrated into traditional city services (water, electricity, gas, public transport and amenities, buildings, etc.). The concept of smart cities involves the use of ICT to meet the many challenges created by urbanisation. These can be significant sources of income for carriers able to extend beyond their traditional role as a connectivity provider.

The challenge for carriers is to establish a global positioning in the smart city value chain, including connectivity, data aggregation and analysis, services delivered via dedicated platforms and client interfaces (such as transport, energy, health, smart buildings). They can partner with a system integrator or use their own internal resources to provide these end-to-end smart city solutions. However carriers approach it, there is no doubt that smart cities are a significant strategic opportunity.

But it’s not just cities that are getting smarter; smart agricultural solutions are helping arable farmers to optimise their yields. These smart solutions include things such as connected sensors for insect monitoring, for gauging weather and soil moisture and much more. Together these smart systems can give farmers powerful control over production throughout the season.

Laurent Marini, MD, Orange Business Services.

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