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Etisalat unveiled its new ultramodern'Open Innovation Center' in Dubai on December 20, featuring digital showcases dedicated to areas of Etisalat Digital's portfolio. Etisalat Digital SVP, Francisco Salcedo, led a press tour through the innovation center, which he said is devoted to showing Etisalat customers all of the digital solutions it can offer.

The innovation center is a first of its kind in the region showcasing digital innovation, its capabilities and how digitalization can come to life for Etisalat customers and partners. These businesses will have the opportunity to experience Etisalat solutions applied to real-world scenarios and get a comprehensive view of technologies that deliver concrete business outcomes.

This initiative is in line with the UAE Vision 2021, where the national innovation strategy has identified digital technology as one of the top seven primary national sectors. Etisalat's corporate strategy is "focused on'Driving the digital future to empower the society' across our customers and enabling them with solutions on this digital journey," said Etisalat Group CEO, Saleh Al Abdooli.

He said the opening of the innovation center "will set a benchmark in the industry by focusing on delivering solutions that create growth opportunities for governments and businesses by incorporating digital technologies to serve their customers in this digital era."

"This is a center devoted to showing our customers all of the digital solutions of Etisalat. It's an environment in which you will see content related to our services and solutions," said Francisco speaking to press ahead of the tour. "You will see use cases, you will see live demos, and you will also see a real Internet of Things command center."

Francisco added, "The purpose of this place is to show how Etisalat works with customers in their digital transformation journey. This is a selling tool – a place to gather our customers and work with them on their roadmap towards digital transformation. It's also a place where we can hold events at the new auditorium, so not only can we work with specific customers, but we can also organize industry events."

The press tour began at the entrance of the Innovation Center where Francisco stood before a large screen where Etisalat welcomes customers. The large screen can be customized to show the logo of the customer visiting the center. "The journey starts from here and the customers feel at home because their visit is fully customized," he said. The screen is also used to project an introductory video.

Customers are then shown a video on smaller screens near the entrance of the Innovation Center that feature a brief history of Etisalat. Then customers move on to another area where they are shown the value proposition of Etisalat Digital and an overview of its portfolio. Etisalat Digital is a business unit of Etisalat driving digital transformation by enabling enterprises and governments to become smarter through the use of the latest technologies.

Francisco then introduced "EDA" (Etisalat Digital Assistant), a digital assistant that, in the near future, will be cognitive, whereby it will be equipped with artificial intelligence (AI) and will have all of the information needed to be able to conduct conversations with customers about Etisalat Digital's portfolio. The assistant was launched to "show the power of the cloud and the power of artificial intelligence."

He then introduced a small robot that is trained to escort visitors to meeting rooms throughout the innovation center. It's another use case to show how to utilize an office space, he said. The tour then went on to an area where customers are shown how the company can better manage a customer's mobile line which can be fully customized based on the size of their employees and so on.

Another area of the showcase is called'Go Agile' which is related to the IT transformation of customers and the way they can transform their IT systems to cloud. The showcase lists Etisalat's portfolio of data center and hosting services, as well as its cloud portfolio. In each of the stations in the Innovation Center, EDA gives a short introduction to explain what the customer is looking at.

EDA takes customers through different options depending on what the customer is interested in focusing on. For example, if the customer is interested in cloud, EDA will ask the customer if they are interested in hybrid cloud or disaster recovery services or a cloud platform. When the customer makes his choice, a demo will follow.

The Innovation Center also features showcases dedicated to Etisalat Digital's security portfolio, as well as digital marketing which features demos on intelligent Wi-Fi, digital signage, apps, augmented reality, and more. Another step in the digital transformation of the customer is going cashless, which involves moving to the digital payment world and the innovation center features showcases on this as well.

Francisco then introduced a showcase where Etisalat can monitor buildings, vehicles and passengers. He explained how cameras are installed that are "enabled with intelligence and connected to the cloud" and are capable of facial recognition, and more. The solution is being deployed in petrol stations, Francisco said. He also introduced Etisalat's Lidar surveillance technology that monitors a particular area and projects the findings on a massive screen.

Lidar uses laser technology to identify what is happening in a surrounding environment. The technology is being touted for connected vehicles. Adding the technology with video surveillance provides accurate information about what is happening in a particular area. The technology could also be useful for the retail industry to gather insights about how many and what kinds of people visit a store, in addition to security purposes.

The innovation center highlights all the key digital technologies that will give businesses the capability to drive the digital future. Customers visiting the center will have access to digital experts, digital assets and platforms with digital value propositions focusing on mobility, cloud, data centers, digital security, digital marketing, digital payments, M2M and IoT.