Unprecedented. It’s a word we’ve been hearing more and more as 2020 progresses, not only in the UAE but all over the world.
As people have had to adjust their lifestyles to quarantine and self-isolate, businesses have had to make serious modifications to their processes and revenue models. Some, such as aviation, tourism and fine dining restaurants, have had to contend with existential threats, while others, like grocery delivery platforms, have been forced to rapidly scale up their infrastructure and staff to cope with sizeable increases in demand.
From real estate to healthcare, here’s how some businesses in the UAE have turned to technology to deal with an extraordinarily stressful economic era.
With the UAE government’s guidelines restricting offices to 30 per cent capacity leading to a huge bump in people working from home, internet of things (IoT) trackers have become increasingly crucial in a number of sectors. For pharmaceuticals, they help companies to remotely monitor the temperature and humidity levels of medicine storage areas. Food producers and service providers can track the health of crucial appliances such as fridges and freezers, getting a notification as soon as something goes wrong – and before the product spoils. In the healthcare sphere, wireless patches allow physicians to remotely monitor a patient’s vital signs remotely and in real time.
UAE-based IOT PLUS Middle East has the tech to help companies in all of these sectors, says co-founder and general manager Rida Abi Farraj. “It can all be tracked when you’re at home,” he says of the company’s 70 plus sensors.
With UAE businesses forced to implement measures such as salary cuts, unpaid leave and redundancies, a knock-on effect has seen the country’s property sector take a hit. However, some operators are riding the waves and managing to not only stay afloat but thrive. One of these is Medallion Associates, which launched its advisory arm in February in response to increasing demand for process enhancements, data analytics, financing and restructuring required by real estate providers in the UAE. “Since then, we had a tremendous demand for our financing structuring set of products, through which we offer complex out-of-the-box financing mechanisms,” says Masood Al Awar, CEO of Medallion Associates, which has a more than Dh5.5 billion complex capital raise currently in progress with international investment bankers. “We are in the final negotiation stage with other local medium-to-large businesses to support them through these challenging times.”
Not all businesses in the country have reduced their hours and on-site staff. Those classed as essential services – including food producers and healthcare providers – are carrying out a vital role in terms of ensuring the health and safety of UAE residents.
Aside from working with front-line workers battling the coronavirus at the Dubai World Trade Centre’s field hospital, Serco Middle East is also providing tech solutions to support returning businesses across the country. “For example, for an Abu Dhabi mall reopening, we successfully managed testing for more than 4,000 staff,” explains Phil Malem, CEO at Serco Middle East. “We provided crowd control and queue management systems for over 500 people, and we installed 25 thermal cameras as well as other temporary resources for the opening.”
Covid-19 has presented itself as an opportunity for blockchain, a decentralised peer-to-peer system of transactions. For Pekka Kelkka, CEO of YottaChainMENA, one of the promising use cases of blockchain in this pandemic is contact tracing apps, which can warn users if they have been in close proximity to a person who has the virus. “This is a great solution but there are some privacy and security issues that only the blockchain can solve with its decentralised unhackable data model.” Kelkka will expand upon this topic on a live webinar later today, titled, Can data storage survive the Covid-19 pandemic without privacy violations?
In a bid to prevent the spread of the virus, healthcare providers have had to substantially advance their telemedicine offerings over a short period of time. “We started providing telemedicine/teleconsultations as a service across our facilities in Ajman, Sharjah and Dubai to make sure that the patients don’t expose themselves unnecessarily to the risk of getting Covid-19,” says Dr Raja Shekar Gujju, CEO of Anglo Arabian Healthcare. One of the primary challenges was integrating medical records and the hospital information system into the telemedicine portal.
Whatever the sector, these unprecedented times aren't necessarily all doom and gloom. Some companies are seeking the silver lining of opportunity.