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GITEX 2015: ‘The Internet Future of Everything’

Region’s largest technology trade show celebrates 35th year

From left to right: Dima Kandalaft, smarter cities leader, Gulf and Levant, IBM; Hannes Liebe, chief operating officer, SAP Middle East and North Africa; Dr Aisha bin Bishr, assistant director-general for the Executive Office and Smart Dubai taskforce leader; Ahmed Alkhaja, senior vice president, Venues, Dubai World Trade Centre; Mohammed Aseeri, official speaker, National Information Centre, Ministry of the Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Omar Boulous, regional managing director, Middle East and North Africa, Accenture; Trixie LohMirmand, senior vice president, Exhibitions and Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre.
From left to right: Dima Kandalaft, smarter cities leader, Gulf and Levant, IBM; Hannes Liebe, chief operating officer, SAP Middle East and North Africa; Dr Aisha bin Bishr, assistant director-general for the Executive Office and Smart Dubai taskforce leader; Ahmed Alkhaja, senior vice president, Venues, Dubai World Trade Centre; Mohammed Aseeri, official speaker, National Information Centre, Ministry of the Interior, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia; Omar Boulous, regional managing director, Middle East and North Africa, Accenture; Trixie LohMirmand, senior vice president, Exhibitions and Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre.

More than 3,600 technology companies will come together for the 35th GITEX TECHNOLOGY WEEK this year, running from 18 to 22 October at the Dubai Convention Centre.

In its official opening of the event, GITEX organiser, Dubai World Trade Centre, said it would run the show under the banner, "The Internet Future of Everything", in a nod to the growing significance of IoT and smart cities in the region's technology story.

"This year we'll be talking about the pillars of innovation, from cloud computing to big data, mobility and security," said Trixie LohMirmand, senior vice president, Exhibitions and Events Management, Dubai World Trade Centre.

"And, of course, smart cities will be one of the biggest themes. The global smart cities market is going to reach $3.3trn in 2025 and half of the 26 smartest cities in the world are going to come from the Middle East. So this is definitely the right place to be."

Exhibitors and their partners will be spread across 1m square feet of exhibition space and the biggest names in technology will be on site to give insight into the latest developments.

"GITEX is not just a commercial event; we strive to become a knowledge platform for everyone," said LohMirmand. "So for this show we have created over 100 sessions of conferences, seminars and workshops, and we are offering many of these for free. We are bringing 150 speakers from around the world and we are expecting over 1,000 delegates to attend these conferences."

LohMirmand also mentioned the Drones and Robotics exhibit, new to GITEX for 2015, in partnership with the Executive Office's Drones for Good initiative.

"Robotics is always mind-boggling and always interesting," she said. "It takes you to a new world altogether. And we have companies from around the world featuring the latest in this sector."

As part of the smart cities focus, GITEX will play host to a number of government departments from within the UAE and beyond. Dr Aisha bin Bishr is assistant director-general for the Executive Office and Smart Dubai taskforce leader. Her team is in charge of implementing the country's smart-infrastructure programmes.

"In 2013 [during GITEX], His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid [Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and] Ruler of Dubai, tweeted about his vision for a smart Dubai," said Bishr.

"He said Dubai was already smart, but he wanted it to be smarter, [with] the main [goal being] to make people happier. It was a very simple mission for us as a small team and we have come a long way in two years, with that vision."

The implementation roadmap for the smart government vision, Bishr said, was based on several pillars, the main ones being "efficiency, safety, seamlessness and experience".

"Here in Dubai, we have certain dimensions we want to focus on, which are smart economy, smart living, smart mobility, smart environment, smart government and smart people," she said.

IBM has been focusing on smart cities for over seven years and has been over the past year to further develop its IoT portfolio. In August, the US company announced its intention to invest $3bn and hire 2,000 staff to establish its own IoT-dedicated business unit, signalling the importance IBM places in the emerging changes across technology segments.

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"We've been helping [organisations] around the world to become more digital, through our cloud, mobile and social offerings," said Dima Kandalaft, smarter cities leader, Gulf and Levant, at IBM, which is participating at this year's GITEX as Smart City Partner. "But we believe becoming digital is not the end state; you need to push the limits and take [your business] to the cognitive level."

According to IBM, cognitive business is about leveraging data to better serve and interact with customers, citizens or service providers. The practice involves big data, analytics and other business software working together to give a real-time view of an organisation's operations.

SAP is no stranger to GITEX. This year, the company will be hosting former footballer Oliver Bierhoff, who works currently in a public relations role for the German national football team. SAP's real-time data platform HANA is credited with playing a key role in the German team's victory in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

"Across the Middle East, we have witnessed over the past years, how technology has been moving from a business enabler to a business differentiator," said Hannes Liebe, chief operating officer, SAP Middle East and North Africa.

"But I believe this year is a milestone. It is milestone because technology is becoming a game-changer. The digital transformation, and the abilities technology allows right now, means it is not just an add-on. It will change the way we do business and it will change the way we live. By 2020 we will have 50bn connected sensors; that's 50bn devices that produce data. If you look at the Middle East, $2bn has already been enabled by the Internet of Things."

GITEX 2015's Digital Transformation Partner is Dublin, Ireland-based ICT consultancy firm Accenture. The company's regional managing director for the Middle East and North Africa, Omar Boulous, said, "For me, GITEX is about collaboration [and] innovation. It is bringing together government, semi-government, businesses, leading technology providers and even consumers, so that all of us can innovate and think about what's next. There's no doubt that digital is transforming the world around us. Digital disruption is everywhere.

"Organisations today need to change how they interact with their ecosystem - whether it's their citizens, if they're a government, or their consumers, partners or vendors - in order to provide a seamless experience that everyone is looking for."

GITEX 2015's Official Country Sponsor will be Saudi Arabia and co-located at this year's event will be GSMA Mobile 360 Middle East 2015 and InfoComm 2015.