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Why deployments of internet of things have been slower than expected in UAE?

Marwan Bin Dalmook, Senior Vice-President for ICT Commercial and Business Development and ICT Solutions and Smart City Operations at du
(Image credit: EITC)

The widespread adoption of Internet of Things (IoT) has been a lot slower than expected in the UAE but it will gain traction with the rollout of 5G cellular technology, an official at Dubai-based telecom operator du said.

Despite the availability of networks such as Sigfox, a proprietary system from the French network operator, and LoRa, an open network proposed by a consortium, years ago, Marwan Bin Dalmook, Senior Vice-President for ICT Commercial and Business Development and ICT Solutions and Smart City Operations at du, told TechRadar Middle East that the challenge of connectivity and availability that needs to be deployed for very low latency was not available.

“When 5G came on board, there was narrowband IoT (NB-IoT) as a standard. TRA is working on a regulatory framework for IoT. The 3GPP, GSMA, vendors and chip manufacturers are all working on NB-IoT as a global standard,” he said.

However, he said the challenge today is not just having an IoT device but how to make sure it is registered, where this device is connected and installed, etc.

“A lot of things are working in parallel as well. All the manufacturers can now create the right radio modules for the IoT to work. However, new obstacles people are talking is what can be done with the data collected, how can it be optimised and how to know when the device needs to be changed. All these questions need AI,” he said.

Research firm IHS Markit predicts more than 75b smart devices in use by 2025, representing a 400% increase over the roughly 15b devices in use today.

As the standard is here, Bin Dalmook said that adoption will gain traction.

“The focus for 5G was on the consumer segment, initially, but the enterprise segment is catching up. Once the platform is ready, all the partners will come up with the right use cases and can be integrated across the segment and provide it back to the customers. Some of the services depend on latencies, some on bandwidth and some on consumption.  With 5G, networks will be much more standard and partners can start developing applications and devices,” he said.

Silicon Park to go live within four months

Initially, he said that du was looking at it from a vertical perspective such as smart parking, smart metering, but now “we are looking at it from a holistic point of view.”

 “Telcos will play a key role in making sure that all of these use cases can be adopted faster and to be available in the market. Telecom operator has been at the middle of all the revolutions and for us, it is to have the right platform, right use cases, right user journeys and right services,” he said.

The telecom operator is making the platform ready and investing to enable its towers [base stations] communicate with IoT devices.

“We have to buy more licences and radiofrequency. We have to agree with the TRA that we are going to use this frequency for NB-IoT communications,” he said.

When asked about its first integrated smart city project - Silicon Park - taking shape at Dubai Silicon Oasis, Bin Dalmook said that it will go live in three to four months.

“The platform is ready but the construction works got delayed. Currently, we are working with Dubai Silicon Oasis for more than 28 user journeys at Silicon Park,” he said.

The telecom operator will deliver a complete range of smart city services for Silicon Park such as smart digital signage, smart metering, smart lights, smart parking and fully managed WiFi solutions, and he said that customers will not get lost when inside the smart district.

Silicon Park, with an investment of AED1.4b, comprises 71,000 square metres of office space, 25,000 square metres of commercial space, and 46,000 square metres of a residential area.

“We are playing in the platform layers such as AI platform, big data platform, data analytics platform and blockchain platform, and the customer journey will continue as new use cases will emerge. Large enterprises have the appetite to deploy IoT but their core networks are not yet updated or digitised.  Government entities are much more ahead in digital transformation than large enterprises in the UAE,” Bin Dalmook said.