The Internet of Things (IoT) technology is revolutionizing the way we live, work and think. The hyper-connectivity of devices extending to everyday things has made possible many modern offerings such as connected cars, smart homes, intelligent healthcare and many others. IoT integration and internet penetration, especially with the deployment of 5G in the GCC region, have been successful in supporting new types of service delivery across sectors ranging from manufacturing, logistics and transportation to energy, etc. Moreover, this boom in IoT adoption in the region can find a logical explanation in some interesting stats. In the GCC, approximately 60% are young populations under 30 years among which 64% owning smartphones.
With such a majority of young, smartphone-yielding generation, there is a great demand for connected entertainment such as speakers, smart TVs, health wearables etc. Add to that the growth in smart homes with interconnected networks and robust construction activities across GCC countries, the presence of a thriving IoT market is hardly difficult to imagine. IoT represents a model of the future of the internet and is acknowledged as an ecosystem of connected devices, computing mechanisms and other items to exchange data/information to cooperate with greater ease and benefit from its monetization in the GCC.
Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia's IoT market has significantly grown since 2019 and is expected to continue the trend in the next five years driven by strong urbanisation and industrialisation push in the kingdom, according to recent market research. Massive national projects such as NEOM, benefit highly from the data collection, data automation, and data operations enabled by IoT. The Saudi government is investing heavily on digital ecosystems that will increase the demand of IoT devices and further substantiate market growth. Not to forget that technological advancements in the IoT sector will also support this growth. While addressing industry experts and stakeholders about the importance of an interconnected economy, Mohammed Al-Tamimi, governor of the Communications and Information Technology Commission (CITC) said that Saudi Arabia will see significant growth in all major areas of digital technology from Internet of Things (IoT) to cloud computing, taking the entire size of the ICT sector to $27 billion by 2025.
Kuwait: ICT spending in Kuwait is estimated to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.2% between 2019 and 2024, reaching US$10.1bn by 2024. Growth will be driven by the increasing adoption of advanced technologies including artificial intelligence (AI), big data, cloud computing and Internet of Things (IoT), according to GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company. The telecom regulatory authority CITRA seeks to develop the telecommunications sector in Kuwait to be at par with modern technological development of communications. Kuwait was one of the first countries in the world to accelerate the 5G technology by announcing the special frequency bandwidth of 3.5 GHz allowing mobile operators to test their networks to launch the 5G service in as early as 2019. In the same year, CITRA along with Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC) collaborated to promote the widespread adoption and deployment of IPv6 in Kuwait to engage all stakeholders in capacity building to facilitate digital transformation driven by new technologies such as the IoT.
United Arab Emirates: In 2019, almost two-thirds (75%) of companies in the UAE implemented IoT applications, benefiting on savings, new income streams and increased production efficiency.
The Dubai Internet of Things (IoT) Strategy covers six strategic domains, including governance, management, acceleration, deployment, monetisation and security to build the world’s most advanced Internet of Things (IoT) ecosystem. The strategy aims to protect Dubai’s digital wealth, encourage government departments to join the emirate’s smart transformation, and achieve the objectives of the Smart Dubai Plan 2021 to transition to a 100 per cent paperless government by unifying the data sources for the Dubai Pulse platform – Dubai’s digital backbone. It opens new prospects for growth, improving overall efficiency across all sectors and opening up unprecedented economic and social opportunities for people in Dubai. The IoT strategy has set a three-year deadline to be executed in 4 phases. The first phase will focus on the implementation of IoT policies across government departments. The second phase seeks to harmonise efforts towards implementing the IoT Strategy and the third phase will focus on optimization before moving to the final ‘blockchain journey’ stage where the full integration of IoT policies and the first RoI of the strategy will have been achieved.
Qatar: Qatar Internet of Things (IoT) market is expected to record a CAGR of 32.65% between 2021 – 2026 as per recent market research. The country has initiated considerable innovation in IoT, virtual reality, robotics, 5G and IPv6. With high internet and smartphone penetration levels, the country boasts advanced technology-readiness and is poised to host some of the world’s biggest mega events such as the Qatar World Cup 2022. Considering its adoption of new technologies, the World Economic Forum (WEF), in 2019, pegged ICT adoption score at 83.8% and ranked the country number 8 among 141 countries, accelerating IoT adoption in the country.
Bahrain and Oman: Bahrain was the first GCC country to issue standards for IoT connectivity. Bahrain encourages the utilization of the frequency band for IoT (NB-IoT) systems within the international mobile communication systems. Bahrain has contributed to the International Telecommunication Union to propose the utilization of the IMT spectrum for the narrowband IoT applications. Currently, there are many IoT initiatives adopted by different authorities, agencies and ministries in the kingdom. Meanwhile, Oman’s Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technology has signed a cooperation agreement with the National Energy Centre (NEC) to introduce the experience of smart cities and Internet of Things (IoT) in the Sultanate.
Despite the benefits, IoT will need adequate and affordable wireless connectivity, interoperability, and common standards to be successful. IoT ecosystems design will need to focus on security, reliability, scalability, latency and the level of individual control on connectivity parameters. Since IoT is the storehouse of sensitive personal information, privacy and security of confidential data will remain a key concern area. Another area of concern in the integration of IoT with existing technology. All devices will need to tweak their architecture to connect to cloud services and other gadgets, resulting in complexity to connect to everyday objects. Last but not the least, internet connectivity to access and use IoT applications is not every one’s privilege. Without collaborative concerted efforts to bring the unconnected to the fold, the implementation of IoT will remain an exclusive technology for the few.
Telecom operators must find ways to increase their role within the IoT ecosystem and capture a larger proportion of the revenue potential linked with IoT deployments beyond the connectivity and network management layers of an IoT value chain by offering solutions such as platforms as service (PaaS) for developers, as well as cloud and analytics solutions geared towards IoT projects. For instance, Ooredoo Qatar launched an IoT platform that enabled applications development and connected devices management for enterprises, along with real-time analytics and device security. Additionally, in the UAE, Etisalat and Orange have establish an IPX peering point at Etisalat’s SmartHub PoP to improve its international wholesale arm’s range across partners in the region and meeting capacity demand for 4G and 5G connectivity. The Etisalat SmartHub/IPX peering platform will address both roaming customers and the IoT roaming business that require low-latency.
Also read: IoT connectivity: Challenges and strategies