Taking the lead with IoT
The GCC has some fundamental advantages that could make it a leader in IoT deployment
There is a lot of focus on the Internet of Things in the region at present, and the potential of what this new technology can offer. There is a great deal of discussion around IoT, although not all of the predictions of how IoT can be harnessed are clear and the numbers that being quoted are often staggering - 9.7 billion connected things in smart cities by 2020, according to Gartner.
It is a familiar story in ICT, the big promises made by visionaries for a new technology, that inevitably lead to disappointment and frustration as initial projects don't deliver as expected - it is so familiar a situation that Gartner even developed the concept of the ‘hype cycle' to describe this recurring situation. We are definitely riding high on the hype cycle around IoT, but the question is whether governments in the region can skip the usual downturn in expectations of a new technology - the ‘trough of disillusionment' - and go straight to extracting value from this new connected world?
In this issue, Cisco's Ala'A Al-Bawab says that the public sector in the region is well positioned to be a first mover in developing IoT systems and solutions for the benefit of all, and there are definitely some positive advances being made to make this a reality. Last month saw two local announcements that could be important stepping stones to leveraging the benefits of IoT sooner rather than later.
The first was UAE telecom operator du announcing it has successfully trialled the LoRa WAN (Low Power Wide Area Network) technology, one of the infrastructure technologies that can be used to connect the thousands of sensors required by IoT. The standards to govern IoT networks are a major sticking point for IoT. There are several competing standards, with the major players lining up behind different consortia and alliances that are promoting different standards, with no clear ‘leader' at present. The IoT needs reliable, low power, always-on connectivity. If you are going to connect billions of things, they all need to be speaking the same language, and while testing each standard won't define a winner, but at least gives operators a better idea of the capabilities and limitations of each one, to help them understand what technology will meet their future requirements.
The second announcement was from Intel and Dubai Silicon Oasis, who have established an Intel Ignition Lab that will focus on IoT. The lab will be located at DSOA's Dubai Technology Entrepreneurship Centre (DTEC), to enable collaboration with local companies to develop ideas around IoT. This is an important step because while you can deploy networks to support IoT, it's what you connect to it that counts - you need a wider ecosystem of devices and applications to create value. Encouraging Middle East start-ups and other players to develop real world, commercial uses of IoT is another important element in enabling the GCC to be a first mover in IoT.
There are other parts of the puzzle that will be required to make IoT a reality, not least the skills and analytics capabilities to make use of all the data that will be harvested by this digitised world, but the elements put in place so far suggest that the proactive countries of the GCC could be well positioned to take the lead on IoT.