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As cities in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) become smarter and more connected, the internet of things (IoT) is poised to enhance living standards by improving services for citizens.
Middle East and Africa (MEA) investment in IoT technologies is estimated to hit $7.8bn this year, according to a report by analyst MarketsandMarkets.
But Mahmud Awad, chief business officer at Vodafone Qatar, said the IoT market in the region was still at a relatively early stage in its development and, given the complexity of the technologies involved, developing the necessary infrastructure, ecosystem and applications would take time.
He said urban challenges were being addressed through IoT, and this was particularly true in rapidly developing economies and markets such as Qatar.
“We are seeing growing demand from existing and potential customers for IoT solutions,” he said. “Connecting everyday devices together via the internet and allowing them to transmit and receive data has created a whole range of possible applications.”
Vodafone Qatar is currently seeing strong and growing interest from a broad range of organisations, including government, regulators, suppliers and operators. Commercial enterprises will be next, he added.
“We expect to see increasing numbers of businesses in the region focus on the potential that IoT offers,” said Awad.
Gathering IoT expertise
He said getting the business model right around IoT was complex and presented a challenge for many players in this market, and to implement a comprehensive IoT model requires an enormous range of capabilities that no single company alone can deliver.
Forming a consortium and creating an ecosystem through partnerships is an essential part of Vodafone Qatar’s approach. “This underpins our success in delivering IoT solutions in countries around the world, including Spain and Turkey,” Awad added.
“We have years of IoT experience, delivering successful solutions, whether in London during the Olympics or in Spain during La Liga football matches. In the Besiktas’s Vodafone Arena in Istanbul, we have the most advanced smart stadium in Turkey.
“IoT technology providers need to be able to draw on the necessary level of expertise and insight from their IoT partners.”
Mahmud Awad, Vodafone Qatar
Through collaboration, Awad said the company has access to more than 1,400 IoT experts. “We also have a broad portfolio of IoT terminals, application and service enablement, development and testing, and deployment.”
The increasing use of smart devices such as phones, watches, tablets and other wearables has resulted in more people staying connected for longer. Awad said that there is no doubt the IoT is transforming the business landscape and that the market for connected devices has truly come of age.
“What matters now is not whether a business should adopt IoT, but how,” he said.
Cutting costs through M2M technology
In Vodafone research based on 1,100 interviews with executives across a wide range of sectors, it was highlighted that cost savings is one of a number of the key benefits of machine-to-machine (M2M) technology. In total, 44% of those that had adopted the technology said cost was an area in which they had benefited.
In fleet management solutions, for instance, Awad said that by tracking driving styles and behaviours, drivers themselves could monitor their driving behaviour and improve their driving style, while managers could spot driving behaviour that, among other things, unnecessarily wastes fuel. The ability to identify and rectify these anomalies could lead to significant savings on fleet running costs, he said.
“Energy and utilities companies are also very interested in the cost of connectivity when rolling out millions of smart meters to function for 10 years or more,” he added.
Securing data and infrastructure
Awad said because the IoT is complex, with lots of different suppliers providing various components of any solution, projects are difficult to manage. Vodafone Qatar has attempted to make it simpler by bringing together exactly the right mix of partner.
He said the company recent recently brought the power of its international network and expertise to Qatar by designing and offering IoT solutions for customers that subscribe to Vodafone’s Red package.
“For example, our innovative MyCar service allows users to track exactly when their car is being driven, at what speeds and which locations,” he said. “The device is installed under the car hood, and is tracked via an easy-to-use mobile application. We believe this service is especially useful to track the trips of children to and from school, and to locate the whereabouts of drivers.”
But Awad warned that organisations should be cautious about how the IoT would affect the integrity of their infrastructure and the privacy of the data they hold. “It’s true that securing critical infrastructure and private data takes work, but we see positive signs that enterprises are actively engaged in addressing security in a variety of ways, from choosing to work with security specialists and establishing policies, to recruiting and training new staff,” he said.
Awad emphasised that a robust security practice needed effective governance, including clear division of responsibilities, consistent policy enforcement and regular monitoring. “More enterprises need to start to take active ownership of their own security and privacy governance, at board level,” he said.
Read more about IoT
- As smart city initiatives spring up in the Middle East, telecoms operators contend with the strain of the internet of things (IoT) on networks.
- At the latest annual internet of things event in the Netherlands, the IoT moves from the geek’s shed to the industrial plant, with some fantasy thrown in.
- In the beginning, we had M2M. Then came IoT. With the industrial IoT and challenges around IT/OT integration, we see terms like cloud, edge and fog computing.