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  • Yanbu Industrial City: A Smart City Emerges in the Oil Kingdom

    Yanbu Industrial City: A Smart City Emerges in the Oil Kingdom

In recent years, falling global oil prices have created challenging opportunities for Saudi Arabia to move toward renewable energy and open new investment projects that will support the economy, since oil generates about 70 percent of the country’s revenue. As such, Saudi Arabia announced its new transformation program called ‘Vision 2030’ in April 2016. This ambitious yet achievable blueprint has clarified the goals of developing cities, achieving environmental sustainability, improving digital infrastructures, and expanding the variety of digital services. In particular, this new initiative recognizes the significance of expanding industrial clusters and attracting more high value-added investments — as feasible ways to build up national competitiveness. In line with Saudi Arabia’s vision, the Smart Yanbu Industrial City project has started to build upon the hopes of Saudi Arabian citizens for transformation.

Smart Yanbu Industrial City, a Transformative Engine for the Oil Kingdom

In 1975, Yanbu Industrial City was set up according to a royal decree and managed by a Royal Commission. After more than 40 years of fast growth, Yanbu industrial city has become the third largest oil refinery center in the world. It can produce more than 1.1 million barrels of oil every day, and its yearly industrial production capacity reaches 131 million tons. Yanbu has also set up the largest petroleum transportation port near the Red Sea and established key petroleum liquefying and processing locations.

Yanbu industrial city has become the beneficiary of high-speed industrialization. The efficient city layout, wide roads, sufficient public spaces, and green parks all indicate the vitality of this fast-growing city. However, Yanbu is also facing ever-increasing pressure. For example, limited network bandwidth cannot meet the requirements of governments, enterprises, and residents, affecting office efficiency and online entertainment experiences. The daily operations of large refining factories, ports, and warehouses, as well as large-scale city construction require a large number of heavy vehicles. Overloading and speeding by these heavy vehicles have resulted in costly maintenance for the roads. Public parking spaces are difficult to manage because there are too many private cars. Road lighting costs are high. Building rubble and waste are sometimes not handled in a timely manner. Security risks exist in densely populated areas. A large number of underground industrial facilities need security due to lack of monitoring.

In line with ‘Vision 2030,’ the Royal Commission for Yanbu (RCY) decided to take the lead in addressing the Yanbu industrial city challenges by constructing the Smart Yanbu Industrial City.

Dr. Alaa Nassif, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of RCY, said, “Today’s global competition is fierce. We hope to maintain the competitiveness of the city through our Smart City initiative. We have focused on industrial growth over the past 40 years. Now, we will gradually shift to more diversified sectors including entertainment, tourism, and science and technology. In doing so, we desire to create industrial clusters, enhance collaboration between industries, expand business diversification, improve investment environments, and enhance competitiveness.

“The vision of building a Smart Yanbu Industrial City is aligned with the ‘Vision 2030’ goal. It aims to improve the quality of life through a Smart City. We have set a series of specific goals. For example, all national transformation projects that have been planned will be on the right track; the annual Smart City revenue will exceed US$66 million; average incident response time will be less than seven minutes; the annual traffic accidents will be fewer than 1,200; the optical fiber coverage rate will be greater than 59 percent; the free Wi-Fi coverage rate in public places will be higher than 70 percent; the public lighting costs will be reduced by 30 percent; the waste clearing efficiency will grow by 30 percent; and the road maintenance costs will be reduced by 20 percent.”

The Smart Yanbu Industrial City plan has three phases:

• Phase 1 (Smart City 1.0): Focuses on the construction of city infrastructure, such as city broadband and cloud computing, to build a connected city

• Phase 2 (Smart City 2.0): Revolves around city applications, including security, intelligent public services, and environmental protection, to build a sensor-enabled city

• Phase 3 (Smart City 3.0): Centers on the city platform, covering the city management platform and smart community portal, to ultimately build a fully intelligent city

The Smart City Initiative Pays Off After Two Rounds of Construction

It is impossible to conceive of Smart Cities without strong information infrastructures. For Phase 1 of the project, city broadband was the core, and RCY implemented Public-Private Partnerships (PPP). Specifically, RCY provided public infrastructure such as roads, buildings, power grids, water services, and city optical networks, while the telecom operator Mobily delivered telecom infrastructure and Huawei provided Information and Communications Technology (ICT) solutions, including Smart City data centers, GSM/3G/LTE, as well as related service and operations support systems.

This PPP mode gave full play to complementary advantages and ensured mutual benefits. As a result, the wired and wireless broadband networks across the entire city were quickly constructed, providing high-speed network access services, and delivering improved network experiences for governments, industry, and residential areas. In addition, open access networks were deployed to connect the transportation signal facilities to prepare for the construction of the next phase of the Smart City.

In 2016, for Phase 2 of the project, smart applications were launched. Aiming to enhance municipal administration, RCY focused on eight smart applications, including Heavy Vehicle Management, Smart Waste Management, Smart Streetlight, Smart Parking, Smart Energy Efficiency Monitoring, Crowd Density Analysis, Smart Manhole Cover, and Comprehensive Performance Assessment. These applications improve municipal administration efficiency, enhance public safety, and create a better living environment. Huawei provided a comprehensive portfolio of network and Information Technology (IT) solutions (including wireless access points, routers, switches, servers, storage, and 2G/3G/4G base stations), devices such as security cameras, the eSight + Network Management System (NMS) platform that uniformly manages network-wide devices, and software products provided by Huawei partners. All these help ensure that the data collected by front-end devices can be transmitted to the back-end system in a secure, stable, and real-time manner for management and analysis.

• Heavy Vehicle Management: Almost all industrial cities have these major problems: Overloading and speeding of vehicles, which make the road susceptible to damage and expensive to maintain. To prevent this, Yanbu has buried pressure and length sensors in important entrances and exits of industrial areas. These sensors work with HD License Plate Recognition (LPR) cameras that are set up at the roadside to accurately record information about all vehicles passing by, such as the registration information, speed, and weight. Through the networks, routers, and switches, such information will be uploaded to the automatic management system that can assess penalties to vehicles for overloading and speeding. High efficiency of road transportation is crucial to a country that is undergoing transformation. The new dynamic weighing system does not require vehicle docking or manual guidance; therefore, traffic is not affected. The dynamic weighing system also does not require fixed weighing sites or employees for on-site work, reducing construction and operations costs by 80 percent.

• Smart Waste Management: In Saudi Arabia, the hot weather accelerates garbage deterioration. However, almost all garbage bins are uncovered, have an unpleasant smell, and attract stray cats, dogs, and mice, which increases the risk of infection and disease. The Smart Waste Management Solution provides capacity sensors powered by solar energy. With such capacity sensors installed, the fill-level of a garbage bin is reported in real time, so that the administrator can optimize the driving routes of garbage vehicles to improve garbage collection efficiency. In addition, the oil consumption of garbage vehicles is monitored. The administrator is notified of all exceptional changes in the oil volume to prevent oil theft.

• Smart Streetlight: The old streetlight system had limited management and control over streetlights. The system could simply turn on and off streetlights, and only notify the related management department of streetlight faults. Now, the energy-consuming and high-voltage sodium lamps that could not be remotely controlled have been replaced with new LED lighting modules, which feature low energy consumption, can be automatically turned on/off, and can have brightness adjusted according to the environmental conditions. The use of such modules reduces the lighting energy consumption by 70 percent. With the Smart Streetlight system, the lighting policy can be flexibly configured and modified on a per-streetlight basis, instead of the traditional power-on and power-off based on the power phase line. The management platform provides information about the working status and service life of every streetlight, which reduces the workload of traditional road device inspection. In addition, by integrating terminals such as digital signage, environment monitoring sensors, emergency alarming devices, speakers, and security cameras, the streetlights can provide diverse information (such as emergency notifications and weather updates) and provide convenient services (such as emergency calls and video security), building a better interactive platform for bridging the government and citizens.

• Smart Parking: The parking lots in Yanbu have long been free of charge for citizens, which objectively leads to unfair allocation of parking resources in popular places. While keeping most parking lots free of charge, the smart parking management system charges the residents who use the parking lots in popular places. This effective combination of technologies and economics ensures that resources are provided based on citizens’ needs. The usage of a parking space is reported in real time by the geomagnetic and infrared sensor installed on the parking space. The number of available parking spaces and the occupancy duration of each parking space are automatically and quickly determined. Citizens can pay parking fees in various ways, such as using smartphones and parking fee machines.

• Smart Energy Efficiency Monitoring: The high incomes in Saudi Arabia allow residents to enjoy cheap electricity services, which inevitably increases resource consumption and creates a burden to the vulnerable ecosystem. RCY has decided to reduce power consumption in office areas and set a good example to encourage residents to enhance their awareness of power conservation. The energy consumption sensors in office buildings can collect power consumption data on each area in real time. Then, diverse management approaches based on power consumption data comparisons can be taken to improve government staff’s awareness of energy savings and promote reasonable power consumption. The sensors can also remotely control the power supply. During non-working hours, the sensors can be remotely controlled to shut down air conditioners and lighting devices for more energy savings.

• Crowd Density Analysis: With the popularity of smartphones, Wi-Fi is now everywhere. Consequently, monitoring Wi-Fi signals can accurately learn the distribution and flows of people, allowing city authorities to closely follow situations and take necessary measures in a timely manner in the case of any emergencies.

• Smart Manhole Cover: As an industrial city experiencing rapid growth, Yanbu has a large number of pipes, valves, and connectors installed underground. The manhole covers for accessing these facilities have become a focus for security measures to protect the underground facilities from becoming targets for attacks. The Smart Manhole Cover Solution provides remote control over manhole covers. The covers can be opened only when maintenance is required, preventing unauthorized access. Different types of sensors such as hazardous gas detection and water permeation detection sensors can be installed on the covers for different types of manholes, monitoring overflow accidents in real time and ensuring the safety of personnel inside.

• Comprehensive Performance Assessment: With this comprehensive assessment system, the key tasks of all related city departments can be planned and assigned in a unified manner, and the progress of each department’s work indicators is monitored. This helps identify problems ahead of time and find the root causes. The unified performance indicators help promote collaboration between departments and hence improve government work efficiency.

Livable and Business-Friendly City with Higher Attractiveness

After two phases of Smart City construction, Yanbu Industrial City is starting to enjoy many benefits. The road maintenance cost has been reduced by 20 percent; the garbage clearing efficiency has been improved by 50 percent; the overall cost of the public lighting system has been reduced by 30 percent; and the utilization of public parking spaces increased by 30 percent. In the third phase of Smart City construction, a Big Data analytics platform, Internet of Things data platform, and communications integration platform will be built to support municipal services, investment trend analysis, smart public facilities, emergency response and smart police services, and build an integrated command center. RCY will continue to deepen its collaboration with Huawei and leverage new technologies to enable residents to enjoy better public services and make Yanbu more attractive.

Dr. Nassif said, “The Smart City project has proven that our Royal Commission is visionary. We are on the right track and all will benefit from the Smart City project, including the government, enterprises, and individuals. Smart City construction not only greatly improves Yanbu’s public service level, but also enhances its capability of attracting high value-added investments. Since the construction of Smart Yanbu Industrial City in 2014, the growth rate of external investments has reached 16 percent, much higher than the previous 2.5 percent; by June 30, 2017, RCY has 81 companies of Light/Support industry in operation, 36 under construction, and 33 in design; restaurants account for 16.7 percent of commercial establishments in operation, retail shops occupy 12.42 percent, and business offices take up 14.9 percent; the satisfaction rate of residents has reached 90 percent; and the revenue from the Smart City construction is continuously increasing and is expected to reach US$100 million in the next year.

“With deeper development of the Smart City project, more and more young people choose to work and start a new life in Yanbu. Both the employment rate and the population are increasing in a healthy and orderly manner.”