Saudi’s Largest IoT Forum Redefines Technology

ROBOT customer services, smart car rental applications, and next-generation software testing services were among the technology highlights at the

second edition of Saudi Arabia’s Internet of Things (IoT) conference and exhibition that kicked off at the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center (RICEC) this month.

Saudi IoT is an important gathering of international, regional and local players in advanced technologies, connectivity, broadband, and digital transformation. The exhibition shared the convention center with the Cyber Defense Summit, which resulted in bringing together a powerful mix of millennials and Saudi’s youngest and brightest technocrats.

Saudi IoT stems from the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, which points to Internet technology as integral to the country’s development and calls for smarter, more efficient ways of doing business. To that end, there were some 300 participants in the exhibition, with more than 50 speakers addressing conference attendees, some of whom showcased their prominent achievements in technology and communications.

Recent economic reports have revealed that the expected volume of Internet investments in the Kingdom will be USD 5 billion by 2020, while the amount of artificial intelligence-related smart devices around the world will number 200 billion.

The Kingdom will also witness access to smarter and more sophisticated devices in the years to come, requiring relentless efforts to protect the vast amount of data transmitted through the network.  Examples on display at the exhibition included Saudi-based solutions such as IDRIVE, the first smart car rental provider in Saudi Arabia. It is the first car-sharing operator offering smart mobility solutions for both the private and public sectors to increase operational efficiency. Another local provider on-hand was The Test CREW, which provides comprehensive software testing services for enterprises worldwide. Meanwhile, a regional startup sparked interest with its robotic chatbot, which was able to answer questions on the spot. The chatbot is the brainchild of Jordan-based Labiba AI, which has also opened an office in Saudi Arabia. The company believes that its AI virtual agents will disrupt the customer service sector in the Kingdom as its prototype can provide customer service solutions 24/7 instantly, in contrast to the traditional waiting period of 48-72 hrs.

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In 2018, the number of Internet users in the Kingdom exceeded 30 million, most of whom log onto the Internet via smartphones or tablets. The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology has started working to accommodate this important technological shift by directing telecom companies to establish an infrastructure for the fifth generation networks, which will speed up Internet service and greatly assist access to and development of Internet technologies in the Kingdom.

Addressing the impressive gathering of technology experts and researchers, Deputy Minister of Communications and Information Technology, Haitham Al-Ohali, said, “The Ministry of Communications and Information Technology is making large leaps forward with its partners. Saudi Arabia’s technological and digital role has grown, and the country has become one of the fastest-rising countries in the United Nations’ rankings for the communication and information technology sectors.”

In addition to the presentations of new and, in some cases, revolutionary developments, Engineer Fahad Al-Garni, General Manager of the New Horizons Convention and Exhibition Center, explained that the conference will also explore important aspects of the developing IoT through presentations and discussions led by university researchers and other experts that deal with the marketplace, employment opportunities and the current global situation vis a vis the IoT. Within these general areas of discussion will be presentations on artificial intelligence, access to IoT-based devices and applications, and the very important issue of protecting information at all stages of transmission and in all devices and applications.

“IoT is the natural evolution of the internet, where all tools needed by an individual are connected to the internet and the system has become more general and comprehensive ranging from household appliances, cars, buildings, and aircraft up to modern apps, covering all fields,” Al-Garni said.

The growth and investment in the Kingdom’s smart cities is regarded as a sign of the tremendous potential for adopting and embracing IoT in Saudi Arabia.  Dr. Hmood Aldossary, associate professor in computer science and information in King Saud University, affirmed that the main and essential driver in the IoT is economy and in a lecture during the conference said, ‘’ There is a growing competition among communities in the development of all provided technological services.’’

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During the conference there were a series of tech-competitions and one that shined through the ‘’Catch the Flag’’ cyber security competition, aims to discover potential Arab talent in the information security field, with the ultimate goal for the Kingdom’s ascension to the top of the global rankings on achieving modern technological knowledge.

IOT kicked off on February 13th and ran for a week at the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center (RICEC), under the auspices and supervision of the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT).

More information on the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) Vision:

A digital Saudi Arabia cannot be generated by government alone. It has to be done through the collaboration of the private sector, young people and new entrepreneurs. The MCIT will lay the foundation for digital transformation and create the conditions to make it possible. We will also call upon the collective effort, creativity and entrepreneurial spirit of the Saudi people to make it happen. That is why the approach is underpinned by one, clear principle: putting citizens, innovators and job creators first.

The Ministry will continue to work with its partners in the private sector in to spread bandwidth services across the country and to increase the frequency in order to activate 5G services and increase the speed of the internet. These efforts have already resulted in the first trial of 5G services in the entire MENA region. The IoT relies on the growth in modern networks, and this growth will continue to increase to 80 percent by 2025.

‘’A vibrant society means a digital society. This means expanding e-government to deliver public services more effectively, giving citizens the opportunity to engage government constructively, crowdsourcing ideas and generating feedback that will help shape the future of the kingdom. In the end, a culture of digital volunteerism will be created, allowing people to give back by leveraging new technology and platforms.’’ (MCIT)

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