IBM signs deal to reduce deaths

IBM has won one of its biggest ever deals in the Middle East with a US$125million contract to provide tens of thousands of telematics devices to the UAE.

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By  Peter Branton Published  April 24, 2005

IBM has won one of its biggest ever deals in the Middle East with a US$125million contract to provide tens of thousands of telematics devices to the UAE. The four-year deal has been signed with CERT Telematics, part of the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training, located in Dubai. Telematics devices are similar to the ‘black boxes’ fitted in commercial aircraft. The devices act as a mobile information hub, which can be used for a wide range of functions. For example, it can collect data on vehicle speeds and send out warning messages if the car should break down or break certain traffic regulations. CERT Telematics expects the devices to be installed in vehicles of all types across the UAE, it claimed. “This nationwide project has few parallels anywhere in the world,” said Dr Tayed Kamali, CERT’s chief executive officer. “With this initiative, the UAE takes the lead in adopting cutting-edge telematics technologies,” he added, claiming that the project will help to define telematics standards for users all around the world. On average, the UAE has 38 accident-related deaths per year for every 100,000 residents, with one person dying approximately every 15 hours on UAE roads, according to UAE government traffic statistics. The telematics devices will receive and store data using different technologies, including global system for mobile communications (GSM) and general packet radio service (GPRS). The device can monitor a vehicle’s speed, compare it to the speed limit and send the driver a warning if he or she is going too fast. For IBM, the deal is about more than improving road safety of course: it is one of its largest ever wins in the region and the vendor said it believes it to be the biggest IT deal in automotive history. Farid Metwaly, vice president of IBM’s engineering and technology services division, Europe, Middle East & Africa, said the deal could be potentially worth a lot more than the stated US$125m, as IBM was also looking at providing additional services around the telematics platform. “The contract value now is only for the boxes,” he said. “Right now, the whole infrastructure is still being discussed,” he added. Metwaly, who was the regional manager for IBM Middle East between 2000 and 2002, said the deal would almost certainly be IBM’s largest ever contract win in the region. Exact details as to how the devices will be distributed and charged for seem still to be decided, with Colonel Ahmad Nasser Al Raisi, IT director at the Abu Dhabi Police Department, being reported as saying that no decisions had been taken as to how to implement the technology. “In other countries there have been a variety of solutions adopted,” said Metwaly. For instance, he said, some countries have opted for providing the boxes for free and then charging according to the distance travelled by the driver. For heavy vehicles, such as lorries, this represents a good way of assessing road usage, he said. IBM has been involved with a number of telematics deals globally, although this is the largest. “We see this as a major growth area,” said Metwaly. Prototype design and customisation of the device is currently underway and field testing is expected to take place early next year, with the devices being introduced in volume later in 2006.

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