by John Benny

These top Middle East IoT projects are paving the way to smart cities

Feb 13, 20217 mins
GovernmentInternet of ThingsMobile

Government-funded public administration initiatives are leading the way to adoption of internet of things (IoT) networks and related edge network, 5G and analytics applications in the Middle East.

IoT > Internet of Things > network of connected devices
Credit: Avgust01 / Getty Images

The internet of things (IoT) is disrupting industries, creating new ways of doing business but also posing technical challenges for IT executives. In the Middle East, a growing number of public administration and major smart city initiatives, particularly in the Gulf Cooperation Council region, has fueled adoption of IoT and related edge network, machine learning and 5G technology.

IoT networks combine IT and OT (operational technology) including edge-network sensors, control systems, back-end servers and a wide range of applications. 5G connectivity plays a big part in Middle Eastern IoT deployments, and the GSMA predicts that 5G adoption will reach 16% in the GCC by 2025.

Government-funded applications are putting some cities in the region on the cutting-edge of IoT deployment globally.  The region’s IoT industry is booming, with spending on related technology expected to hit nearly $18 billion by 2023, according to IDC.

Competition to serve the region is heating up with Silicon Valley giants such as Microsoft and Amazon entering the market. When tech vendors and IT leaders from private and public enterprises gathered in the swanky Armani Hotel located in Dubai’s famous Burj Khalifa skyscraper at the 5th IoT Middle East conference last year, much of the discussion revolved around the idea that IoT systems are expected to generate a trillion dollar market in the coming decade, with far-reaching impact on areas such as energy, consumer electronics, telecommunication and industrial manufacturing.  

“IoT devices collect data, they create a mesh network, (and) they send the data using cellular connectivity to the cloud and then from there on to the analytics and applications,” explained Janne Kilpelainen, the senior vice president of IoT engineering company Haltian at the Dubai summit.

Most of the IoT adoption in the Middle East is for the creation of public administration applications and major projects for smart cities, some of which are being built from the ground up. City planners use IoT networks to monitor and control infrastructure, devices and the flow of data, with the overall goal of optimising public services, enabling business opportunities and improving the standard of living for residents. For example, data can flow into machine-learning systens that can then do  predictive analysis for maintenence planning for essential public utilities.

MENA smart cities market alone is expected to hit $2.7 billion by 2022, according to a report released by KPMG at the sixth Annual Arab Future Cities Summit. 

CIO Middle East takes a look at some of the notable IoT-based projects, deals and infrastructure build-out in the region as it braces for a rapid shift in its technological landscape. The projects listed offer a look at how IoT will deployed to offer a wide range of new services.

UAE transport, identity management projects

  • The UAE’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) and Etisalat signed an initial deal that opens more prospects for using 5G  and IoT in a variety of applications related to RTA’s business. The agreement calls for “initiatives to improve mobility and transit safety in Dubai, and joint efforts to explore the use of 5G internet in transport and communication,” the RTA said in a press release.

  • UAE’s second-largest telecom operator, du, has partnered with India’s Wipro to offer a purpose-built IoT Identity and Access Management platform for the Arab country. “It will deliver secure outcomes for businesses needing trust and identity management at the centre of their operations,” Wipro said.

  • In 2018, the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) adopted General Electric’s IoT platform Predix to enable the regulator to collect and analyze data in real time in order to enhance the speed and efficiency of its operations.

  • The UAE continues to be an industry leader in IoT and smart city development. Recently, the RTA announced it would be host of the World Congress of Intelligent Transport Systems (ITS World Congress) in 2024. This will be the first time that the ITS World Congress will convene in the region since its inception in 1994.

Saudi Arabia focuses on 5G

  • Zain Saudi Arabia and Nokia signed two important memorandum of understanding agreements that will enable the Middle East telecom operator to launch IoT services and provide end-to-end solutions to enterprises in the Kingdom. Zain will leverage Nokia’s Worldwide IoT Network Grid (WING) to launch the services and the move is expected to “accelerate” Saudi Arabia’s smart cities initiatives, the companies said in a press release.

  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) signed an agreement with Zain Group to offer digital transformation services to customers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Under the initial deal, HPE will help Zain’s business customers tap 5G for IoT, big data and AI applicatiions.

  • Early this year, the kingdom revealed its plans for a new smart city project. Dubbed “The Line”, the 170-kilometer development aims to be powered entirely by renewable energies, and will be “hyper-connected through a digital framework incorporating artificial intelligence and robotics” according to the project’s public website. The Line will be the first development in Neom, a planned $500 billion city.

 Egypt builds New Administrative Capital

  • Honeywell and Etisalat Misr, a unit of Etisalat UAE, formed a partnership to deliver city management services for citizens at Egypt’s New Administrative Capital, expected to be one of the world’s largest smart city projects. The U.S.-based industrial conglomerate will deploy IoT software and hardware solutions for a City Operations Center (COC) platform.

IoT services come to Israel

  • UK’s Telit has announced a partnership with Israeli IoT security solutions firm Sternum to offer real-time embedded cyber visibility and security for IoT devices. Meanwhile, Microsoft plans to set up the company’s first cloud region in Israel, with data centres equipped to handle IoT applications. The Israel cloud region expands the tech giant’s global cloud infrastructure to 56 cloud regions in 21 countries, with the new Israel region expected to be available starting with cloud services platform Azure in 2021, followed by Office 365. Azure offers IoT in addition to computing, networking, databases, and analytics.

Gulf public cloud data centres offer IoT

  • Amazon Web Services (AWS) helped set the stage for IoT deployment in the Middle East in the summer of 2019 with the opening of a data center in Bahrain. AWS has experienced a strong regional demand for technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, data analytics, and IoT, said AWS CEO Andy Jassy in a press release.

  • Microsoft launched two cloud data centers in the UAE last year and sealed a deal with energy service provider Petrofac, which picked Azure IoT for its Connected Construction platform. “Our goal is clear: deploy digital technologies to minimize asset downtime, reduce idle labor time, and avoid delivery delays,” Petrofac said in a press release.