In recent years, falling global oil prices have created challenging opportunity for Saudi Arabia to move towards renewable energy and opening new investments 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 caused 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 USD $66 million; the average incident response time will be less than 7 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,“ added by Dr. Nassif.
The Smart Yanbu Industrial City plan has three phases:
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 infrastructures such as roads, buildings, power grids, and water services, city optical networks, while the telecom operator Mobily delivered telecom infrastructures and Huawei provided 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, industrial, 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 IT solutions (including wireless access points, routers, switches, servers, storage, and 2G/3G/4G base stations), devices such as surveillance cameras, the eSight + Network Management System (NMS) platform which 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.
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, IoT 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 citizens to enjoy better public services and make Yanbu more attractive.
Thanks to bold exploration and practices, Dr. Alaa Nassif said happily, “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% in commercial establishments in operation, retail shops occupy 12.42%, and business offices take up 14.9%; 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 USD $100 million in the next year.”
“With deeper development of the Smart City project,” he added, “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. The cooperation and achievements of the RCY and Huawei for Smart Yanbu Industrial City also establishes a good model for other cities. Huawei leads a robust ecosystem. Through flexible application of new ICT innovations, we can now sense, analyze, and integrate more city operations, enrich key information required by the management system, and make smarter, faster responses to various requirements, such as city governance, public services, and business activities. I believe that such a data-driven city development path can inject new energy towards improving people’s lives, optimizing city operations and management, and enhancing business with other cities around the world. It will definitely create a better city life for human beings."