The internet of Things (IoT) has been labelled as “the next Industrial Revolution” because of how it will change the way people live, work, entertain, and travel, as well as how governments and businesses interact with the world.
IDC reports estimate a worldwide market of $1.7 trillion by 2020 and a Middle East and Africa spend of more than $6.6 billion, by the end of this year; generating the need for intelligence and machine learning.
As part of the UAE’s overall e-services programme, the government holds frequent open summits where the smart city concept is a hot topic. In addition, several UAE government agencies have completed their own smart projects where IoT methodologies have played central roles, along with cloud technology and data analytics.
A developed society is able to deliver four basic citizen rights — education, health care, freedom, social justice and equality. When it comes to economic development, successful nations are built upon four pillars: Advanced infrastructure, Investment climate, Execution capability and Innovation. Technology must underpin the delivery of all of these for national transformation to occur.
In the UAE education sector, schools are already using digital chalkboards, tablets and cloud services in an unprecedented digital transformation of the classroom. To make the lessons more exciting, teachers could use IoT to access live, real-world data for a more interactive and practical student experience. Special needs students also benefit from connected devices. For example, a hearing-impaired student can use a special card that, when registered by a computer, automatically reads out the text.
The UAE health care sector is expected to reach almost $20 billion in aggregate value by 2020, according to Alpen Capital. Dubai has become a top destination for medical tourism, having dedicated two industrial free zones to health care and medical research — Dubai Healthcare City and Dubai Biotechnology and Research Park.
The emirate also introduced mandatory health insurance in 2014. The ability for IoT and cloud technology to track patient information and organise data is revolutionising health care and can also be used to provide smart-card systems, and connect medical objects like heart-rate monitors.
One of the largest impacts of technology is the democratisation of data and information. This enables people to make more informed decisions, participate more regularly in providing feedback to government agencies, and engage in citizen services.
IoT is also about enabling productivity. If citizens get real-time alerts on their phones from a sensor that reports there is a traffic delay, or that their train is not running on time, they can prioritise their days accordingly, being more productive.
There can be no social justice without delivery of services. Provision of such services is no longer just the role of governments. Private companies like Dubai-based telecoms provider du, are also contributing through apps.
Cloud computing and IoT will enable governments to streamline data collection and analytics. This will allow national industries to compete at a global level, by making information available on current trends, future opportunities, and modern marketing tactics. All of these elements play pivotal roles in attracting foreign investment.
Sensors can help manage ageing infrastructure by detecting faults and weaknesses and flagging them for repair. Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) implemented such a system earlier this year, using Microsoft HoloLens.
Road networks stand to benefit the most from such sensor networks, as active sensors on highways and bridges can monitor traffic congestion. Machine-learning can deliver warnings about traffic jams or roadblocks, instantly sending them to a digital billboard.
IoT is also helping with execution of service deliveries. Governments across the region are delivering similar citizen-centric services, with innovative solutions powered by cloud computing.
Innovation is the culmination of all other pillars.
A digitally transforming nation with committed government leadership will naturally encourage a culture of innovation. Most of the scenarios described are happening right now in the UAE and nations that embrace cloud computing, powerful analytics and IoT, will define the future.
The writer is the Cloud and Enterprise Business Solutions Lead at Microsoft Gulf.