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    Smart Cities at the Heart of a Digital Middle East

David Shi, President, Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Middle East explains how the shift to a more digital economy across the Middle East has taken root in smart city innovation, and illustrates the types of technology and skills that are helping governments create more intelligent communities.

If smart cities are partly defined by the digitalisation of processes, services and experiences, then there’s nowhere that has pushed the envelope more in that regard than the Middle East during the last decade.

The region has been home to some of the most forward-thinking smart city projects and programmes in that time, and continues to innovate at a rapid pace to re-define what is possible.

Plans for cities further afield across the Middle East, like Qatar’s Lusail have been underpinned by digital strategies rolled out at a national level to create the necessary conditions to support the growth of digital economies across the region. One example is Saudi Arabia’s National Transformation Program (NTP), which seeks to diversify the nation’s economic income and support a more digital economy.

Strategies like the NTP are helping to push cutting edge innovation into Middle Eastern cities. Madinah, in Saudi Arabia, has ventured forward with a smart city strategy that seeks to use technology to both modernise the city and its operations, as well as enrich citizen and visitors’ cultural experiences. For example, crowding in and around the city’s mosque creates operational challenges for the city with people flow, and detracts from the citizen experience; in response, the city has launched an innovation lab in partnership with universities, start-ups and global experts, and is beginning to experiment with digital twin technology to improve people flow, as part of a whole-city management platform.

New developments like Lusail are helping to define the future of urban space with smart and sustainable infrastructure development, including state-of-the-art citizen experiences and homes, along with digital systems to underpin them. The Lusail Command and Control Centre (LCCC) is the central hub for managing all smart services and operations within the city, and comprises an operation centre and data centre. The operation centre is a central monitoring and management hub for smart services, including monitoring the data centre, and the data centre facilitates the data processing, storage and networking that supports those services.

Middle Eastern innovation

Public service innovation in the Middle East stretches far beyond the operation centre, however, as technology pioneers across smart city verticals continue to push boundaries to make urban centres better connected and more intelligent in order to create better quality of life for citizens.

At the heart of this innovation is the digital enhancement of critical infrastructure and crucial urban assets, with the latest network and data storage and analysis technology supporting cities in receiving game-changing operational insight from across the urban environment. This is a journey that all city participants are part of, to provide public services, to citizens themselves as they become part of a more digital workforce.

For example, amongst those undertaking this journey of digitalisation in the Middle East is the city of Dubai, whose work with digital solutions experts like Huawei has created a new foundation upon which to build a refreshed urban digital economy.

Dubai Creek Harbour is a leading international smart community located at heart of a bold new vision for Dubai developed by Emaar Properties. The mega-development covers 6 square kilometre and is described as "the World of Tomorrow." Dubai Creek Harbor represents the frontier in contemporary life and work with spectacular cultural offerings, world class residences and offices. BMS service, video and Wi-Fi backhaul consumes huge bandwidth in the density scattered high-rises. Emaar aims to construct an all-optical 10GPON network with advantages such as large bandwidth, high security, reliability and flexibility – all of which can provide an OPEX savings and a future-oriented network.

Emaar Creek Harbour has been built with the Huawei 10GPON solution to support the Digital Media, Broadcast Music and Wi-Fi backhaul, BMS. Symmetrical 10G GPON are suitable for high-bandwidth service and with 40km long distance coverage which can meet the requirements for the large community.

Dubai Creek Harbour will be another milestone project of Emaar Properties’ journey towards becoming an international leading real-estate giant.

Elsewhere in the region, Saudi Arabia is also spearheading digital transformation initiatives as part of its Vision 2030 strategy.

Global Business Solutions (GBS) is an innovative digital transformation (DX) solution provider in Saudi Arabia. With a vision to be the best possible DX partner for clients who are looking to become natively digital, over the past 15 years, GBS has been a critical behind-the-scenes player, driving digital innovation forward for myriad businesses.

As mobile Internet, 5G, and cloud technologies rapidly develop, enterprises working in the finance, energy, and public sectors, as elsewhere, are facing many complex challenges, including an increasing number of financial transactions, inefficient data analytics in oil exploration, and complex management of various information technology (IT) systems. In short, enterprises across these different sectors have far higher data analytics, processing, and storage needs than ever before.

Reflecting on such issues, GBS identified the trend toward all-flash data centres. GBS worked with Huawei to fully assess its clients’ live networks and provide solutions where required. Benefiting from OceanStor Dorado’s all-flash performance, reliability, and O&M advantages, Huawei and GBS have worked with several major financial and public sector projects in Saudi Arabia to build faster, greener, more reliable all-flash data centres, helping to meet diverse business needs and accelerate digital transformation.

In addition, a new technology experience centre, Future Space, the largest exhibition centre outside of China covering an area of 1,500 square metres has been launched in Saudi Arabia. The exhibition centre, which is set to attract 200,000 visitors in the next five years, is being set up by Huawei in collaboration with the Saudi Space Commission.

A digital-led future will bring improved quality of life, sustainable and green production, more comfortable living spaces, reduced traffic congestion and pollution in cities, fully green energy, and a wide range of new digital services. Huawei will work with partners to help accelerate this transformation, aligned with its vision and mission of bringing digital to every person, home, and organisation for a fully-connected, intelligent world.

Creating a supporting ecosystem for a smarter Middle East

The examples above demonstrate the impact that improvements to digital infrastructure can have to deliver services, and how those benefits can be passed on through various parties to citizens to create better conditions and experiences in communities.

This is only one side of the smart communities coin, however, the other being the skills, talents and partners required to deliver such significant upgrades. This is another area in which Huawei has sought to deliver across the Middle East, firstly with its Middle East Partner Summit – an event dedicated to bringing together partners to discover key business insights from across the industry, as well as share customers’ experiences and key strategies to accelerate business through the latest innovative products and solutions.

The company is also committed to bringing through the next generation of innovation talent and works closely with tertiary educational institutes in organising its own Huawei ICT Academy. To date, the academy has worked with Ankabut, the UAE’s Advanced National Research and Education Network, to drive change throughout the UAE’s education system and improve the flexibility of educational institutes and networks by pivoting to cloud-based architecture.

Huawei ICT Academy has also worked with Al-Balqa’ Applied University (BAU) on a programme to enhance Jordan’s digital skills, following the national government’s decision to launch reforms to create a more digitally enabled economy by 2025. The university’s Salt City campus is now home to its own Huawei ICT Academy branch, with Huawei providing BAU with lab equipment for classes and teacher training, as well as working on course curriculums to ensure the latest industry knowledge is being taught and applied.

In the Middle East, Huawei has set up 167 Huawei ICT Academies, over 40,000 people have obtained Huawei certification. Huawei has also have trained over 120,000 ICT talents for the Middle East as part of these efforts.

Bringing together these two sides of a digital-first urban economy, it’s possible to see how far the Middle East as a region has come on its digital transformation journey, and how its cities are home to the kind of pioneering technology that will see national governments achieve their innovation objectives in the next few years.

(This article was originally published by Smart Cities World and has been edited.)