Live: Gitex technology event begins in Dubai – Gulf Business

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All the news and views from the region’s biggest technology event
That’s all for another day at GITEX. Check the website tomorrow for more technology updates.

We also stopped for a chat with blockchain firm ConsenSys’ MENA head Lina Hediah.
She said after being selected to help the Dubai government form its blockchain strategy last year the firm was still engaging with a number of government entities on projects.
Read: Dubai selects IBM, Consensys for city-wide blockchain project
For blockchain rollouts that go beyond initial pilots though she suggested we will have to wait until 2019.
“For sure 2019 is hopefully the production year where we see some of those projects kicking in. We ourselves have a couple of projects in the region, or more, that are due to go live early 2019.”
ConsenSys announced a partnership with UAE telecoms operator Du at GITEX to offer a ‘blockchain as a service’ product to government entities and enterprises.
She said the distributed ledger technology won’t work for every business but there are definite use cases in areas like smart cities, payments, energy and telecoms.
The firm is currently expanding its Middle East presence, with Dubai now one of its largest global markets, including a potential office in Saudi where it has a “very strong market presence”.
Bahrain, Egypt and Jordan are other possibilities, Hediah revealed.
Here’s a bit more of what Dubai Police is showing off at the event.

Here is a patrol car that could soon be a common sight on Dubai’s roads.

And this of course is Dubai’s famous robot officer, which has been a common sight at GITEX in recent years.
Officials say robots could eventually make up 25 per cent of Dubai’s police force.
Read: Dubai Police Robocop to begin street patrols
Gulf Business caught up with Dubai Internet City executive director Ammar Al Malik following the earlier announcement that Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) had opened its new Middle East headquarters at the zone’s Innovation Hub.
The first phase of the project, which spans 10 buildings and 1.8 million square feet, is now complete, he said.

“The Innovation Hub is designed in a way to get people to mingle with each other every morning, collaborate and work together and create opportunities to interact.
“We have not decided yet but I can say confidently that we will start phase two shortly.”
The official said Dubai Internet City is now home to most of the Middle East and North Africa’s top technology firms and start-ups and he did not expect new legislation allowing 100 per cent foreign ownership outside free zones to impact its attractiveness.
Read: UAE law allowing 100% foreign ownership to apply selectively, won’t hurt locals
“The reason why people locate here is not only because of the free zone benefits,” he argued.
“It’s because you have this tech community. So regardless of the free zone benefits being there or not companies and entrepreneurs and tech experts want to be located [here].”
The DIC stand is among the most interactive this year with different areas dedicated to companies working in the zone.

The Dubai land Department’s Rental Disputes Centre (RDC) will launch the world’s first-of-a-kind self-litigation mechanism in 2019, which will use artificial intelligence to litigate cases between parties without the need for a judge.
Self-litigation begins when one of the parties enters the technical system, specifies the type of claim (whether tenant or leaser), and attaches the required documents. The judgement will then be issued and directly sent by e-mail or text message to all concerned parties, explained Judge Abdulqader Mousa, director of the RDC.
“The RDC’s various procedures positively and effectively contributed to facilitating decision-making and procedures, including the speed at which real estate disputes are resolved. Previously, the litigation period at the RDC took 45 days to complete, but customers can now obtain judgements and finalise all procedures within eight days. The RDC was also was able to reduce the length of sentencing in general, despite the fact that the law gives time to adjudicate in preliminary cases, contributing to building a basis for protecting the rights of all parties,” he said.
Mousa attributed this to the deployment of new technologies and automation systems, and to the employing of AI to expedite the procedures in resolving rental disputes by way of technical means.
This includes the world’s first-of-a-kind remote litigation mechanism, which aims to file and litigate law suits in an electronic and paperless manner.
US technology firm Avaya is demonstrating a social platform for chatbots at this year’s GITEX.
Vice president for Middle East, Africa and Turkey Fadi Hani says the idea is for bots to engage with each other to improve their effectiveness when it comes to dealing with real customers. The firm conducted a survey this year revealing 80 per cent of people expect an immediate response from their bank, hospital, hotel or even government.
He said the firm, which specialises in unified communications and other areas, had seen double-digit growth in the region over the last year and was expanding its team.
Over the last 12-18 months the firm has seen regional investment in IT services rise, particularly from service providers and government entities, while banking business has been held back a bit by recent merger announcements.
“The banking [sector] started the year on a good note but then as the year progressed there were more merger announcements that have resulted in a slowdown on decisions on technology for obvious reasons.”
Hani closed by saying he believed IT spending was no longer “about cost cutting”.
“We have seen that digital transformation is now more tilted towards innovation spending rather than cutting costs in order to maintain the setup. So that is good news for us and good news for the UAE in general.”
HTC Vive has been showing off its virtual reality tech at the Dubai Internet City stand.
The Vive Wireless Adapter expands the functionality of current Vive headsets and is designed to allow companies in the region to build VR content as the regional market expands. It will hit the stores here in December.
Examples of the technology on display include the Burj Khalifa Mission 828 experience where users get to ride the elevator up the iconic building and act as a secret agent inside before parachuting from the roof to the ground below.
“The growth of VR in the coming years will come from not only a mass-market proposition but also with the development of applications from a larger base of developers,” said HTV Vive VP and head of Middle East and Africa Ramit Harisinghani.
Amazon Web Services (AWS) has announced the launch of two Amazon CloudFront Edge locations in the UAE – located in Dubai and Fujairah. 
The new locations will give customers in the region an “improved experience for their end users”, including faster content delivery and added cybersecurity protection, a statement said.
“We are thrilled to continue expanding our presence in the Middle East and to be bringing even more advanced cloud technologies to customers in the UAE,” said Andy Isherwood, AWS vice president and MD EMEA.
“The Middle East is an important region for AWS and the UAE is a key hub for many of the Middle East’s most innovative start-ups and enterprises. We look forward to further supporting these organisations.”
TCL Communication, the company licencing the Blackberry smartphone brand, is at GITEX again this year to announce another new device. The Blackberry KEY2 LE follows on from the KEY2 earlier this year and is intended to fill a gap in the market around the Dhs1,800 bracket. It includes the usual Blackberry security functionality and dual apps, allowing the user to have different versions of Whatsapp for a personal SIM and a work SIM.
Francois Mahieu, the global general manager of Blackberry Mobile, said the company had expanded its regional distribution network beyond the UAE to include Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Bahrain, Lebanon and Egypt among other regional countries.
He said the “general picture” in the the market was “not as good as it was as a few years ago” for manufacturers
“In the Gulf region there are fewer shipments and its clear that the marketplace has been tough and the marketplace has been extremely competitive, there are a lot of new entrants that were not there two-to-three years ago,” he said.
Read: GCC mobile shipments decline in Q2 amid Dubai slump – IDC
“We are still expanding because we appreciate we have a small base and we’re not exactly aiming to be the number one in the coming months.”
But he believes there is still a “market” for Blackberry that is “a bit more protected” from the mainstream.
UAE VP and Prime Minister and Dubai Ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum was seen walking the halls earlier.

Dubai’s role as a regional tech hub continues.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE) has opened its new Middle East headquarters in Dubai Internet City (DIC)’s Innovation Hub, it was announced on Monday.
The Innovation Hub, spread across 1.8 million sqft, comprises commercial and collaborative spaces, premium retailers and hotels.
Ammar Al Malik, managing director of DIC, called the opening of HPE’s new regional headquarters “both fitting and timely”.
Fabio Fontana, VP and managing director for Middle East at HPE added: “The opening of the new office in Dubai is a tangible testament of HPE’s commitment to the Middle East and UAE.”
We also just stopped by the Smart Dubai stand where Younus Al Nasser, assistant director general of the Smart Dubai Office and CEO of the Dubai Data Establishment, was offering a tour.
Among the launches at the stand is the DubaiNow app, which is designed to act as an everyday assistant for life in Dubai by integrating a number of government -services.
Journalists were also shown a demonstration of the smart employee portal, which allows Dubai government employees to manage their work life in areas ranging from attendance, to health insurance claims for their dependents, emails and appointments.
While another display was the UAE Pass, which is intended to adopt much of the functionality of the current physical Emirates ID to authenticate government transactions.
Al Nasser said the government has set a firm goal of going paperless by December 12, 2021.
“Attractive cities are the cities which are talking to you as a human and providing you with a service, we all can talk about blockchain and artificial intelligence but we need to understand what does it mean for you as a human within Dubai and how it’s really transforming your life,” he added.
Accenture managing director and digital lead for Middle East, North Africa and Turkey Xavier Anglada says this year’s Gitex is a reflection of a noticeable shift in recent years towards a more startup-friendly trade show.
He suggests among the key focuses for companies at the moment are agility, meeting customer expectations, cyber security and ensuring the seamless integration of data for analytics.
From a business perspective the company sees the adoption of more “as a service” models in the region that can adapt to tougher market conditions but also believes businesses experiencing good profit margins and little disruption at this point cannot afford to ignore investment in IT going forward.
More broadly, governments and firms in the region are among the best in the world at presenting a clear digital transformation “vision” but “when it comes to realisation of this vision this is where we see a gap”.
“We see large corporates and so on having stuff set but not detailed plans that are holistic.”
The company is preparing to present a study that shows more than $440bn of value is at risk for UAE and Saudi companies if they do not embark into innovation practices.
Another government announcement at Gitex – Abu Dhabi Customs has launched Mamar – an online single-window platform to facilitate trade for the emirate of Abu Dhabi across all sea ports – at first – followed by land and air ports.
The new platform has been launched in collaboration with Maqta Gateway, an Abu Dhabi Ports subsidiary.
Mamar will create a “fully integrated system” following international messaging standards that allow handling of import, export, and transshipment transactions, as well as the payment of customs duties for all types of cargo, whether via land, air, or sea, a statement said.
The system is designed to increase transparency, reduce costs, and provide customers with efficient access to information regarding transactions, shipments, and logistics in real time.
The platform will also offer over 14 additional digital services including pre-clearance, exit and entry certificates for transit shipments, customs declarations for sea, air, land, post and free zones, along other financial services relating to “Maqasa” clearing services, customers’ accounts, and statistics.
The Mamar system, which will start officially by the end of 2018, will target a new customer profile consisting of customs brokers and clearing agents who will now be able to access trade, customs, and logistics services for sea, land and air.

This basketball-playing robot is among the most popular attractions at the show this year.
It’s certainly hard to compete.
We stopped at UAE telecom operator Du’s stand where the company is showcasing it’s smart building and health solutions among others including a smart health pod for diagnosis.

VP of commercial and business development for ICT Jihad Tayara said the company was rolling out a smart building service and had certified thousands of buildings in Dubai.
He said ICT was not the fastest growing area of the company’s business as opposed to traditional voice and other services.
On a potential lifting of the Skype ban in the UAE, he said it was a regulatory decision but alternatives were available.
On the potential impact he said:
“I think we need to assess this, and take into consideration the amount of international people who live in the UAE but as a rule of thumb we’re seeing all the data and voice services growing as well.”

Today we’re at Smart Dubai for a closer look at some of the government projects.

The crowds are starting to gather for what promises to be an exciting second day.
Welcome to day two of the region’s biggest tech event.
Here’s some positive news to start your day. UAE telecoms operator du announced that it is partnering with Amal Glasses to showcase smart solutions for the blind and visually impaired.
Launched in the UAE, Amal Glasses uses the aid of a virtual assistant to enable blind people to know more about their surrounding environment. The glasses rely on artificial intelligence (AI) technology to process the data and present it to the blind by voice.
Features include obstacle warnings, people recognition, weather updates, currency recognition, SOS functions, remote device control, colour recognition, Qiblah direction and daily prayer times.

And with that we come to the end of a busy day one at Gitex. Stay tuned for all the news, pictures and views from day two.
Tech giant SAP is working closely with the Saudi government to fulfil its digital transformation agenda, according to Ahmed AlFaifi, SVP and managing director for Middle East North.
The company has opened a digital hub in the kingdom which caters to creating strategies that are localised.
For instance SAP – along with the public sector – has created a smart solution to address the country’s unemployment problem, said AlFaifi.
Looking ahead technology adoption is going to be very rapid in the region – especially in Saudi Arabia.
“In the next five years, you can expect a lot of change,” he said.
Middle East businesses continue to face threats from cyber criminals, according to Russia’s Kaspersky Lab. The firm said one third of enterprises in the region had faced a targeted attack in the past year, with 75 per cent being attacked twice or more.
“If attacks on corporate businesses result mainly in financial losses, with an average breach cost going up to $1m, attacks on governments can have even more disastrous consequences,” the firm said.
“They can cause great damage to the country’s entire digital infrastructure and lead to disruption in government operations as well as to national financial crises and national defence difficulties.”

Little robots have been among the most common sights on day one.

This might be a record for non-human attendees.
A few more images from around the show.

This robot is positioned outside the metro side entrance of Dubai World Trade Centre.

Du has one of the more adventurous interactive experiences at its stand.
Chinese technology firm Huawei is focussing on its smart city solution at this year’s Gitex.

Managing director and vice president of enterprise business for the Middle East, Alaa ElShimy says the company has seen 200 percent growth annually over the last two years and is expecting similar growth in its business this year.
He argues the company’s 15-17 per cent revenue investment in research and development is helping it stand out from the market.

UAE telecoms firm Du is partnering with Amal Glasses to offer smart goggles for the blind and visually impaired.
The Amal Glasses technology allows blind people to know more about their surrounding environment with the aid of a virtual assistant in the headset.
“The glasses rely on artificial intelligence (AI) technology to process the data and present it to the blind by voice so that they can know everything they care about,” Du said.
Functionality includes obstacle warnings, people recognition, weather updates, currency recognition, SOS, remote device control, colour recognition, Qiblah direction and daily prayer times..

Here are a few pics of Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum inaugurating the show today.

He made sure to get up close and personal with a few of the exhibits.

Here is a closer look at the automated taxis mentioned earlier.

They are being used for a pilot in Dubai Silicon Oasis, described as a region first.

Read: Dubai begins trial of city’s first automated taxi service
Dubai Police is also showcasing the second version of a hover bike it unveiled last year with a new black design.
Read: Video: Dubai Police test hover bike

Elsewhere, Dubai Police is showcasing this mobile self service kiosk with its technology partners.

The kiosk is accessible via Emirates ID or facial recognition and is fitted with a wireless recharging system, CCTV cameras, air conditioning and an auto-drive system.

It features smoke, motion and temperature sensors, solar panels, high-quality speakers, touch screens and a direct link with Dubai Police Command.
DP World, which is partnering with Virgin Hyperloop One for a high-speed cargo venture is displaying a prototype of one of the pods the two could use.
Read: Pictures: Dubai’s DP World, Virgin Hyperloop One partner for cargo venture

An official said the pod was not built to scale but to the look the companies were aiming for.
An exact launch date is unclear. Research into the viability of the concept is still ongoing, they said.
As usual, among the biggest participants at this year’s show are the Dubai government entities. A total of 59 are participating this year with new technology offerings.
These include Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), which displaying its billing and consumption services. Dubai Financial Market (DFM) is exhibiting the DFM Smart Service App, a blockchain-powered eVoting service and a chatbot and the Dubai Government Department of Civil Defence is showcasing an AI-enabled Auto CallDesk, while Dubai Statistics Centre is displaying a drone-powered Aerial Statistician and Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority is demonstrating a range of smart services covering the smart economy.
These and various other apps and services hope to cement Dubai’s standing as among the smartest governments in the world.
Despite the current economic scenario, organisations in the GCC are looking to invest in digital transformation strategies, according to Sayed Hashish, the regional GM of Microsoft Gulf.
“That is creating an opportunity for companies to see what they can do with digital transformation to help them grow in a stressed market. What we are trying to do is increase competitiveness, and efficiencies, help them address their customers better and decrease churn and trying to see how they can streamline their operations. So what we are seeing in the past 12 months – it has been encouraging. Business has been on the increase month after month,” he told Gulf Business.
The company is also showcasing its cloud security and AI applications at its Gitex stall, and visitors can see a virtual tour of the company’s upcoming data centers in the UAE.
We also bumped into this cute little robot.

TCL Communication, the company with the licence for the Blackberry smartphone brand, has said its latest device will be coming to the UAE and Saudi Arabia on October 16.

The KEY2 LE is slimmer and lighter than the KEY2, which hit the market earlier this year, and includes many of the same security features.
Read: Smartphone review: Blackberry Key2
Pricing starts from Dhs1,799 for the 64GB variant.
Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum has arrived to open this year’s conference.

The royal was seen walking through some of the show’s more interesting exhibits including this one from Panasonic.

The queues are long this morning at Gitex and the exhibition area at the Dubai World Trade Centre looks quite busy as visitors arrive.

Exhibitors are also stationed throughout the outdoor spaces this year, signaling the strong interest in technology and innovation.

Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority has made one of the first big government announcements ahead of the show after saying it would begin the city’s first automated taxi trial.
Details of the pilot and other new launches including a loyalty system for the city’s public transport card (nol) can be found here.
Read: Dubai begins trial of city’s first automated taxi service
Dubai’s (and the region’s) biggest tech show Gitex begins today, with the event expected to display all the latest innovations in the industry ranging from iB Cricket – claimed to be the world’s first sport virtual reality game; Satsure, a satellite-led farming aid that will multiply crop output; and sit-in pods that provide a full health check-up in seven minutes; to the world’s smallest and most lightweight robotic lunar rovers and lunar landers.
The event, held under the theme of ‘Experience Urban Futurism’, will see more than 200 international government bodies take part and is expected to welcome more than 100,000 visitors.
Gitex, which will also see a new “unveil” by Sir Tim Berners-Lee – the founder of the World Wide Web, will have its regular Future Stars area for start-ups and entrepreneurs.
Stay tuned to this space as we speak to industry experts and walk through the show to bring you all the news and views from the three-day event.


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