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Digitally connected: IoT in the Middle East

The Middle East is primed to become a global driver in Internet of Things (IoT) connected innovations, as the GCC’s
cloud market is set to grow from $118.5mn in 2014 to $668.5mn in 2020, according to latest market reports. Connected cloud technology such as mobile apps, e-government, drones, 3D-printing, and robotics will form the foundation of the region’s rapidly-growing smart cities.

In 2016, McKinsey Global Institute created an industry digitisation index to understand countries’ digital readiness and technological progress, including those in the Middle East. In its report, Digital Middle East: Transforming
the region into a leading digital economy, findings indicate that the Middle East’s progress on the digital front, in keeping with international benchmarks, is extremely high. Findings also reveal that citizens are leading the digitisation charge in terms of consumer adoption, smartphone penetration, and social media usage, being
higher than the United States. UAE, Bahrain, and Qatar are doing particularly well in adapting to the digital disruption.

Thierry Chamayou, vice president for Middle East, Africa, Central and East Europe- IT business, at Schneider Electric, said: “Enhancing the region’s digital readiness and its ability to leverage IoT-based solutions will require
participation from governments, who must design enabling technology regulations and data policies, as well as the private sector, who should invest in new technologies for long-term benefit and business value. It will also, to a certain degree, depend on consumers and their ability to change behaviour with trends. Digitisation is already a core priority for some of the GCC governments.”

Schneider Electric has adopted a strategy, which bridges the IT and OT (operational technology) seamlessly to connect, collect, analyse, and action data findings to best deliver business value, mitigate risks, and protect the environment. This will be fulfilled through its next generation, EcoStruxure architecture and platform, which delivers IoT-enabled solutions at scale for building, grid, industry, and data centre customers.

Chamayou further added: “In a nutshell, it offers innovation at every level to improve areas of industries, communities, and homes. This strategy will be the bedrock of Schneider Electric’s operations both globally and in the newly structured Middle East and Africa (MEA) zone. We will integrate this offering with our smart solutions portfolio, which we have deployed for over 200 projects across the globe. This approach prioritises energy management and progress through the 3Ds—digitisation, decarbonisation, and decentralisation.”

Digital ready
However, the McKinsey report reveals that more can be done in terms of integrating public services to digital platforms. Only around 6% of the Middle Eastern public lives under a digitised smart government – when considering Bahrain, Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. Middle East still falls short in business digitisation. The report states that by 2020, there will be around two zettabytes (ZB) of data in the Middle East, which is not advancing quickly enough to capture its potential. This will change in the coming years and the region is on the right track towards change.

Louay Dahmash, head of Middle East at Autodesk, said: “The Middle East has realised the exponential benefits that can be achieved with the IoT. In fact, according a recent study conducted by the International Data Corporation (IDC), IoT revenues in the region are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.3% to total more than $14.3bn in 2020.

“In terms of IoT investment, manufacturing and transportation are the vertical industries that are currently leading the way in the Middle East and Africa. Over the next few years, the manufacturing industry will use intelligent and interconnected input/output tools (sensors, actuators, drivers, and vision/video equipment) to enable different components in the manufacturing field (such as machine tools, robots, conveyor belts) to autonomously exchange information, execute actions, and control each other independently.”

Furthermore, Dahmash also stressed on the development of a highly-efficient freight monitoring system, which uses RFID, GPS, GPRS, and GIS, to create an intelligent, inter-connected transportation system. This system will carry out the intelligent recognition, tracking, location, and monitoring of freight cargo by co-ordinating information and real-time communications via wireless satellite or other channels. The biggest advantage of IoT is its ability to
enable companies to engage in predictive maintenance for both the final product or for any manufacturing or logistical component within the supply chain. It will soon give manufacturers the ability to monitor the performance of products after being purchased by consumers enabling them to proactively identify maintenance or replacement opportunities, thus reducing the potential for asset loss.

Furthermore, with information being processed and shared in real-time, other components in the logistics system – railway, cargo ships, and more — can adjust and optimise their schedule to account for delays, additional stock, and calculate the exact amount of time they would need to wait prior to proceeding to avoid additional losses. Dahmash said: “IoT will also have a significant impact on costs incurred during daily operations within the logistics industry. Soon, with various equipment and autonomous vehicles connected to each other, the system will be able to identify which machines require maintenance and deploy the necessary resources to reduce potential damage, downtime, and additional costs in order to ensure that operations run productively and efficiently.”

Middle East, in many ways, is a frontrunner for new technologies and in the IoT space. There are many examples available that are implemented already yet, for example, remote metering of user consumption of district cooling and remote plant control or the longest autonomous metro system or the parking guidance for empty spots. Gert Thoonen, business development network and security services – ME for Rockwell Automation, said: “Smart manufacturing is the gateway to digital transformation. Connected smart devices open new windows of visibility into processes. Data and analytics enable better and faster decision making. Seamless connectivity tivity spurs new collaboration. Gone are the days of manually collected data that only provides a snapshot in time and is prone to human error.

“Real-time analytics software takes the data that is automatically and continually collected from several sources and contextualises it into meaningful information for workers. These analytics create greater transparency of your operations and provides better visibility into complex production processes. Operators and technicians can use the analytics for critical, real-time decision making to help boost productivity. Decision makers across functions also can monitor nearly every aspect of their operations. This information allows them to resolve quality, safety, compliance, energy-usage, and downtime issues.”

The Middle East is on a quest to achieve maximum productivity, efficiency, and sustainability while minimising cost. Government leaders understand the significance of IoT and the exponential benefits it brings to building smart cities, smart countries, and a smart region of the future. Although the IoT is relatively young, given the pace of acceptance and the willingness to integrate the IoT, one thing is certain that the region will at least compete with their global counterparts if not surpass them.

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