Cloud adoption is accelerating worldwide: Forbes calculated the compound growth rate of cloud computing at a staggering 19 percent, meaning that its market value will rise from USD 67 billion in 2015 to USD 167 billion in 2020. The Middle East is at the forefront of this trend. Experts forecast that by 2020, there will be a 440 percent increase in datacenter traffic in the region. It is only a matter of time before the cloud supports the whole world.
By Charles Yang, president, Huawei Middle East
Widespread cloud adoption has important implications for the region's economies. For one, it will create jobs: by 2020, one third of IT jobs will be devoted to the care and maintenance of the cloud. It will also act as the major platform through which transactions are conducted. In the UAE alone, over 95 percent of all workloads will be completed via the cloud. This will have a seismic effect on the country's economy. According to a 2016 report by Accenture and SAP, the digital transformation could raise the UAE's GDP by as much as USD 14 billion by 2020.
More important than its economic impact, however, is the effect the intelligent cloud will have across vertical sectors. This is due to recent developments in cloud technology that are revolutionizing its applications.
Until recently, cloud acted exclusively as computing and storage spaces for data. Though these were useful because they allowed enterprises to compute and access data from anywhere, their power was not fully released. Now the cloud is growing intelligent. Strides in the development of artificial intelligence are enabling machines to develop groundbreaking capabilities. Three fields in particular are responsible for these advances: predictive analytics, machine learning and the rise of the internet of things.
In order to understand the impact of the intelligent cloud, we must first understand the challenge faced by organizations today. Companies are drowning in data - customer data, supply chain data, payments data, underwriting data, product data, services data - the list goes on. The rise of big data is due in part to the growth of the internet of things.
Because devices today are constantly connected to each other, they are able to transfer enormous quantities of information in real time. Sensors can record crowds, temperatures, heartrates, etc. All this data provides organizations with a treasure trove of information, yet it also poses a severe obstacle to traditional software which is unequipped to store, process and analyze such vast quantities of information. The growth of analytic capabilities in the cloud is enabling organizations to parse through this trove of data, identifying patterns that can streamline processes and increase efficiency.
Not only is the cloud capable of analyzing data, it is also evolving predictive skills. The intelligent cloud is capable of sorting through big data using data mining, statistics and modeling to forecast what the next likely outcome will be, and on that basis to make recommendations to organizations. By examining historical trends, the cloud is able to produce risk assessments and identify business opportunities. This is key to enabling organizations to harness the power of big data into actionable results.
Machine learning is a subset of predictive analytics and one which will have huge benefits for enterprises. Until recently, a successful computer program was one that did not deviate from its programing. This meant that it was not equipped to face new challenges and situations.
Yet recent developments in artificial intelligence are enabling machines to develop cognitive abilities. Like a young child learning to navigate the world, machines will learn from training, growing more adept as they grow mature. This gives them a degree of autonomy previously unheard of - machines are no longer limited to responding only to scenarios which they have programmed to manage.
Machine learning opens a world of possibilities which humans are only beginning to explore. Already it has enabled self-driving cars to take to the road and react independently to obstacles they face there. Computers can detect fraud in finance and enterprises, make movie suggestions for viewers based on what they have previously watched and analyze linguistics on social media to tell enterprises what their customers are saying about them. And they can do all of this without requiring the assistance of people, thus saving organizations having to expend a large chunk of their budget on manpower.
The convergence of IoT, machine learning and predictive analytics has taken cloud computing to the next stage; clouds have become efficiency-boosting machines that streamline processes and provide valuable services to enterprises. The intelligent cloud is making these services accessible to organizations everywhere, giving rise to the phenomenon known as XaaS, or "anything as a service."
XaaS will prove transformative to the Middle East. The intelligent cloud will drive the digitalization of the Middle East as its capabilities revolutionize a diverse range of industries ranging from public safety to government to oil and gas.
To give an illustration, the intelligent cloud has slashed inefficiency in the packing industry where it was used to analyze space in 3D and offer the best packing solutions depending on the characteristics of the goods. In Saudi Arabia, intelligent cloud solutions enabled Al Nasser Trading and Import Company to improve material planning by 40 percent. As more industries adopt the cloud, they too will experience rapid efficiency gains.
Another example of how the intelligent cloud will impact the Middle East is its applications in the public safety industry. In the United Arab Emirates, video surveillance play an integral role in helping police capture criminals. In a notable case in September this year, CCTV footage enabled Dubai Police to catch a thief who had stolen AED 11 million of precious stones.
Yet, solving a case using surveillance cameras was traditionally a tedious process. Footage had to be acquired and analyzed from multiple locations which required cooperation across security and police departments. Obtaining and analyzing surveillance feeds could take days, by which point suspects had had a head start to escape.
Directly uploading surveillance footage onto the cloud is an instant process that enables multiple police departments to cooperate in real time. Additionally, the facial recognition capabilities of AI are particularly useful in public safety. An intelligent cloud can scan for faces that reappear frequently or which have already been stored in a database of known criminals and alert the authorities.
This has additional usage in missing person cases, terrorism detection and other public services. The intelligent cloud can also be useful in keeping buildings safe. It is able to detect intruders or identify the presence of unusual objects appearing in a particular space, or conversely, to notice when an object has disappeared - the benefits of this technology for theft detection are clear.
The intelligent cloud is already having an impact on the transportation industry. It has been deployed by Dubai's Road and Transport Authority to rapidly catch traffic regulation violators. The cloud's video surveillance capabilities allow it to monitor license places and identify tailgaters, sending immediate reports for the police to take action. The intelligent cloud enables surveillance cameras to shift from passive observers to active participants in enhancing public safety.
This is why the governments of the Middle East have been embracing digitalization. In their national visions and agendas, the governments of Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and others have made it clear that their priority over the next few years is to diversify their economies away from dependency on oil and gas and towards a knowledge economy. The cloud is the foundation of a digital economy and success in this endeavor will depend on nurturing an environment where the cloud can grow.
The government must begin investing in creating a digitally-savvy population. One of the key drivers for early adoption of new technologies is emerging talent, with a keen eye for economic, environmental and social change. The impact they can have on the global economy is huge, but they require nurturing, educating and investing in.
For this reason Huawei has been implementing educational initiatives across the world, from our ICT Skill Competition to our Seeds for the Future educational program, to create a technologically-adept generation to drive digitalization. By supporting CSR initiatives likes Huawei's ICT Skill Competition and Seeds for the Future, governments can promote the growth of digital knowledge in their nations' youth. Additionally, Huawei has been recruiting, creating and activating an ecosystem of digitally competent partners and distributors through its OpenLabs and training certificates for partners, which empower Middle Eastern enterprises to take on the mantle of digitalization and grow their business with the cloud.
Standing at the forefront of cloud development, at Huawei Connect 2017, Huawei's rotating CEO Guo Ping forecasted that in the future, there will be five major clouds in the world. Huawei will collaborate with partners around the world to build one of those five clouds. We are planning to invest USD 500 million in in the development of cloud-based professional services, a cloud platform and cloud ecosystem. We are well-positioned to do so; Huawei is passionate about innovation and strive to create best intelligence in the cloud.
Huawei is not implementing these programs out of a desire for industry dominance. We believe that the cloud economy will create enough economic success to go around for everyone. Rather, we have believed for a long time that the intelligent world will transform government, enterprises and citizens of the Middle East for good. The technology is finally reaching a point where it can have an impact on the lives of everyone and we want to act as the final catalyst in the process.
By combining Huawei's global expertise with partners' local insight through the OpenLab platform, we can create an ecosystem of symbiotic relationships and foster an atmosphere of openness and collaboration in the Middle East. This brings us closer to achieving our goal of Building a Better Connected World. This world will be built on the cloud and Huawei is helping to lay the foundations.
Huawei Innovation Day 2017
Huawei hosted its annual ‘Innovation Day' at GITEX Technology Week 2017 where it outlined its strategic vision aimed at continuing the acceleration of digital transformation in the GCC region. Telecom Review was at the event which featured a number of high-profile and distinguished panelists from a host of leading ICT firms and regulatory bodies.
The Innovation Day event was themed ‘Exploration, Lights the Way Forward' and focused on the role that Huawei will play in both driving digital transformation and building sustainable knowledge-based economies in the Middle East.
Edward Zhou, vice president of Global Public Affairs at Huawei Technologies, stressed that we are living in a dynamic world in which technology changes every single day.
He highlighted how everything will be connected in the future.
Zhou said: "At Huawei, we believe that in the very short future everything will be connected. The connectivity will not be restricted to smartphones or smartwatches, but we will have sensors to monitor our environment and to crack data for us, among many other things. Everything will be connected, not just human beings."
He illustrated the Middle East region as having a rich and storied history in relation to innovation and highlighted the impact he believes technology will have not only on industry, but also on society.
Zhou added: "I think in the history of the Middle East there have been many examples of scientific exploration and innovation. Technology is always evolving and has the ability to transform our lives. We can see this with the emergence of 5G and cloud computing, internet of things and artificial intelligence. Thanks to cloud technologies everything will be intelligent. Products will be able to perform tasks autonomously and independently. This will change not only our lifestyle and industry, but also society as a whole."
Zhou pointed out that as a technology provider, Huawei firmly believes that to successfully implement these revolutionary next-gen technologies you need to build robust infrastructure and receive support from the government in relation to investment and regulatory policies. He also stressed the importance of having an open ecosystem in order for us to fully enjoy the benefits of these technologies.
Space Lee, vice president of Public Affairs and Communications Middle East, focused on the unique strengths the Middle East has in order to fuel digitalization. He pointed out the region's openness towards innovation as being a key factor in its success so far, and the reason many feel it will lead the way moving forward.
Lee said: "The Middle East has a pressing need to go digital and companies here really need to capitalize on digital opportunities that are presented to them. The GCC region has unique strengths that will fuel its digitalization: it has historically been open towards innovation and that willingness on a national level will help it accelerate the process."
Lee stressed how Huawei was committed to accelerating the digital transformation process, and disclosed that the Chinese telecommunications networking colossus plans to invest $1bn in digital transformation in the next three years.
Lee continued: "At Huawei, we believe that we're living during exciting times and that in the future everything will be connected and intelligent. It's becoming increasingly evident that our lives are going digital and at Huawei we're committed to digital transformation. We will invest $1bn in digital transformation over the next three years."
Lee added, "We're always exploring how technology can improve lives, and we believe that digitalization creates a new business model and offers new opportunities for enterprises. We're committed to working with our partners to help them achieve their business objectives through accelerating digital transformation."
Dr. Mohammed A. Al Amer, chairman of the Telecommunications Regulatory Authority of Bahrain, said that he was humbled to be playing a role in these important developments as chairman of the TRA in Bahrain. He compared the forthcoming era of digital transformation to that of the Industrial revolution and says it will have massive impact on how we live our lives.
Al Amer said: "Digital transformation will push progress beyond to what today seems impossible. Revolution is in its early stages and companies are increasingly moving operations online to harness the power of big data and artificial intelligence to cater to their clients. Our governments have stated that their top priority is to promote knowledge-based economies. We believe that ICT is crucial for achieving this goal, and for the future of the region."
Regional VP of Digital Industries at Huawei Technologies, Safder Nazir, was next to deliver his presentation. He defined digital transformation as a process where we actually start to redesign experiences and how we interact. He focused in particular on the impact digital transformation will have on the public sector. He also announced the findings of the Huawei and Deloitte white paper.
Nazir said: "There are a lot more dynamic interactions required. The government doesn't need to do it all, but it does need to work with the private sector and with civil society to put these services together. This is something that we need to see more of across the region and something we need to accommodate."
Nazir added, "So that was the driver behind launching this white paper initiative with Deloitte. The white paper found that while there is room for improvement in the GCC in terms of national ICT indices, the technology-focused government visions of each country are spearheading the region's digital journey."
Huawei's Middle East Innovation Day also featured a panel discussion on how ICT innovation is and will continue to drive the region's future. The panel included leaders and experts from key sectors including transportation, education, aviation and municipal government.
Their discussion focused on role of ICT innovations, openness and perseverance in driving digital transformation and building sustainable knowledge-based economies in the region. The panel also addressed some of the continued challenges and best practices from across the world and how to manage them.
The launch of the Huawei/Deloitte white paper was a highlight of the event. Entitled ‘National Transformation in the Middle East - A Digital Journey', it assesses the digital transformation initiatives being undertaken by government entities in the GCC region in the context of global trends.
The research deep dives into six key themes that are considered of high priority to local policymakers whilst providing global examples for successfully undertaking digital transformation across these themes.
It also provides a roadmap and recommendations for regional governments to effectively overcome the continued challenges faced in the pursuit of digital transformation.