A more digital Middle East is in the making [Opinion]

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Pundits predict that the Internet of Things, or IoT, is going to change the nature of interaction between governments and businesses all over the world. IoT has already made major inroads in the MENA region, where the United Arab Emirates is taking the lead in adapting to the inter-networking phenomenon.  

A report released by the International Data Corporation (IDC) estimates that the worldwide IoT market will be valued at $1.71 trillion by the end of 2020, of which $6.6 billion is expected to come from the Middle East and Africa.

In the UAE, the government is one of the main backers of IoT, and many state-sponsored agencies have adopted IoT methodologies along with cloud and data analytics.  

According to Assem Khalaili, Siemens executive vice president of industry services in the Middle East, the focus these days among sundry manufacturers, including government-backed ones, is on digitization. Moreover, “most of the countries that haven’t been identified as a strong manufacturing base are looking at [rectifying] this,” he said.

In 2016, the McKinsey Global Institute created an Industry Digitization Index that helps one understand technological progress in digitization across the globe. It turns out that the Middle East figures are prominently in the digitization surge. Following widespread smartphone penetration and increased usage of social media, the economies of Bahrain, Qatar, and the UAE are becoming digitization-friendly.

The head of the Middle East section of Autodesk, the multinational software corporation, has seen this firsthand. Louay Dahmash told Wamda: “The Middle East has realized the exponential benefits that can be achieved with IoT. In fact, according to a recent study conducted by the International Data Corporation, IoT revenues in the region are expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of 21 percent, to total more than $14.3 billion in 2020.”

He added: “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 to ensure that operations run productively and efficiently.”

In the Middle East, numerous examples of digitization are on display in everyday life. Consider, for instance, parking guidance for empty spaces, or Dubai’s autonomous metro system. Ultimately, smart devices open the gates to digital transformation, better data analytics, and seamless connectivity.

IoT in schools

Digitization is well underway in the UAE’s education sector. Most schools are already acquainted with digital smart chalkboards, tablets, and cloud services. Teachers are tapping into the IoT to create a more interactive and practical study experience. This has proven of particular benefit to students with special needs. For example, a student with hearing impairment can now rely on a card that reads the text out loud, with the audio easily adjustable.

IoT in hospitals

The UAE healthcare sector is making extensive use of IoT. As a result, it has become a preferred destination for internationals seeking medical treatment. In recent years, both Abu Dhabi and Dubai have made it mandatory for employers to provide employees with health insurance, which has enabled the country to track patient information and maintain medical records using IoT and cloud technology. This has given medical centers and patients both the benefit of data analysis and access whenever required.

Supporting statistics

According to the IDC, the Middle East and Africa’s share of the global IoT market is supposed to register a growth of almost 20 percent in 2017, which – as mentioned above – would total $6.6 billion. The IDC has predicted that expenditure on IoT could reach $1.3 billion by manufacturing businesses, which would account for more than 51 percent of the total investment made in the IoT. It is also expected that the transport industry will spend about $1.3 billion on IoT as well as cloud computing, which helps in the increased performance of location, tracking, and monitoring of freight and cargo by sharing information through a cloud. These statistics bear out the claim that IoT is the future of digitization.

Arguably, the biggest achievement of IoT technology is making data and information available through an easily accessible podium such as a cloud.  For instance, if a person gets a phone alert via a sensor that informs him/her about a traffic jam or a delay in the train schedule, plans can be altered accordingly. Life is made easier and more hassle-free for everyone hooked into the relevant technology. Ultimately, IoT is rapidly changing the face of trade, transactions, and numerous other activities in the Middle East.

Feature image via Stockvault.

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