The Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, hosted at the Dubai World Trade Center, gets bigger and better every year. This year's 36th GITEX Technology Week hosted the Global Startup Movement, in response to the need for an industry hub for investors, incubators and accelerators to identify the world's next great startups and support youth empowerment. Dubai's Crown Prince and Chairman of Dubai Executive Council, His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, opened GITEX 2016, which ran for five days from 16 to 20 October. Sheikh Hamdan stopped at the stand of UAE telecoms heavyweight Etisalat, as well as other leading tech companies from the region and around the world, to kick-start the most highly anticipated technology event in the Middle East.
Huawei Middle East Innovation Day
Setting off GITEX 2016 on a high note, Huawei held its inaugural Middle East Innovation Day on Sunday, October 16. It was a conference organized on the sidelines of GITEX, which saw participation of key decision makers from the local, regional and international ICT and enterprise organizations who came together to discuss how ICT is shaping the future of the region. Under the theme 'Leading New ICT - Shape the Future', industry leaders discussed the role of ICT innovation in driving the digital transformation agenda, supporting the development of key sectors and contributing to the achievement of national initiatives and visions across the region.
The event began with a welcome address by David Harmon, vice president of Global Public Affairs at Huawei, in which he praised GCC governments for setting a clear priority to encourage an entrepreneurial society that helps drive GDP growth, job prosperity and innovative services that solve everyday problems for their citizens. Huawei ME Innovation Day also saw the launch of Huawei's Smart City Index, which was developed in collaboration with Navigant Research and provided an assessment on the state of smart readiness across Gulf States. The study looked at ICT infrastructure in major cities and evaluated their readiness for the next level of smart city adoption.
""Innovation has played a key role in Huawei's success and expansion over the last 30 years. The company has invested around $30 billion just in the last ten years on research and development, and has launched 16 R&D centers worldwide along with 36 joint innovation centers,"" said Charles Yang, president of Huawei Middle East.
Showcasing Dubai's smart city leadership
GITEX is an excellent exhibition for international tech brands to showcase their developments. But being based in Dubai, GITEX is well positioned to highlight Dubai's progress as a smart city, working toward its goal of being the smartest city in the world. Telecom Review caught up with Yousif Al Ali, Nedaa's director of IT & Technical Affairs, during the event, who highlighted Nedaa's various showcases at GITEX this year and focused on its LTE network in collaboration with Esharah Etisalat Security Solutions and Nokia.
""We started back in 2008. We began with voice communications related to public safety mission critical networks,"" Al Ali told Telecom Review. ""We provide communications for day to day operations. At this stage, we have started our 4G network, which we transfer data over a mission critical network."" This was the core of Nedaa's showcase at GITEX - the development of its long term evolution (LTE) network provided by Nokia to deliver smart city services and apply internet of things (IoT) technologies for various areas and support mixed data, voice, video and messaging traffic.
Nedaa's LTE network wasn't the only highlight of its showcase at GITEX this year. Attendees witnessed a demonstration of how LTE connectivity will help to make Dubai safe, and how it is vital to moving voice services from the past to the present and supporting the highest levels of public safety. Among the highlights are Push-to-Talk two-way communications over LTE, advanced Push-to-Video which enhances existing voice services with video applications, remote applications management, geographic information system integration, and how to turn ordinary mobile devices into dispatch-controlled CCTV endpoints, among others.
""We came to GITEX this year to show our clients that within one year we will cover all Dubai with our 4G network for indoor and outdoor - including important locations such as airports,"" said Al Ali. ""By next May or June, we will establish a live LTE network. We have faced challenges implementing out LTE network, such as building new towers, transmission, etc. It requires huge bandwidth to carry this capacity, but with the help of other government departments, slowly we can work through these issues.""
Smart Dubai highlighted its smart city progress at GITEX, where it showcased more than 300 smart city innovations, across 11 experiences and six smart city dimensions, in line with the Happiness Agenda. ""Smart Dubai participation at GITEX Technology Week this year sets a new standard in showcasing our efforts to transform Dubai to a smart city to a large audience of decision makers, businesses and government representatives from all over the world,"" said Her Excellency Dr. Aisha Butti bin Bishr, director general of Smart Dubai.
Visitors experienced Smart Dubai's innovations across land, sea andair outlets, public services, smart homes, smart shopping, health, education, business and judicial services - from connected cars to augmented reality homes. For example, Saeed, a ground-breaking artificial intelligence service for the commercial sector, launched in collaboration with Smart Dubai, the Dubai Smart Government, the Dubai Department of Economic Development and IBM. The Dubai Health Department launched a new smart ambulance system, while Dubai Police launched 15 new smart services including an interactive fingerprint.
Breakthroughs in IoT, 5G & VR
One of the most exciting developments at GITEX 2016 was when Dubai World Trade Center successfully achieved a Guinness World Record for most participants riding in a virtual reality roller coaster in one hour, putting Dubai on the map as a global hub for VR innovation and earning a place in the history books. VR was a hot topic at this year's event. Powered by Samsung, 461 GITEX participants strapped on Samsung's Gear virtual reality headsets powered by Oculus, while being thrilled by a visual roller coaster presented in a 4DX theatre. Organizers had expected 250 people, and smashed through the record overwhelmingly with nearly double the number.
""Virtual reality has rapidly advanced to enter the mainstream in transforming experiences in entertainment, education and healthcare. Attempting this virtual reality world record underlines Dubai's commitment to innovation and GITEX Technology Week as one of the world's leading events for immersive technologies,"" said C. Purushothaman, head of marketing (Smartphones & Tablets), IT & Mobile Division at Samsung Gulf Electronics.
Carrying on the virtual reality movement at GITEX, Nokia and UAE-based telecommunications service provider, du, demonstrated the Middle East's first 4K 3D 360 virtual reality video streaming using a 5G-ready network. Nokia and du used Nokia AirScale Radio Access to showcase 360 degree virtual reality (VR) video streaming. In the demonstration, 3D 360 VR content created with the Nokia OZO VR camera was streamed to head-mounted displays using Nokia's 5G-ready network, delivering a fully immersive VR experience for attendees. The demonstration was yet another milestone for du on its path to 5G technology and taking 5G beyond speed and connectivity by demonstrating real 5G use cases.
""Smart cities of tomorrow would require high speed and low latency connectivity to connect internet of things applications. The demonstration of 3D 360 VR video streaming over a 5G-ready system provides a glimpse into the future of one such application,"" said Saleem Al Blooshi, executive vice president - Network Development and Operations, du. ""It underscores our commitment to go beyond connectivity and speed and providing end to end real use cases for 5G. Nokia is our partner for UAE 5G innovation Gate (U5GIG) that will enable UAE to participate in the development and standardization of 5G system. Nokia will continue to be a strategic partner for 5G network that we will offer in Dubai Expo 2020.""
Troy Carter, global head of Creator Services for digital music service, Spotify, and founder of the Atom Factory, spoke at the GITEX Vertical Days conference about how virtual reality concerts and big data will transform the music experience. He said the future is ""mixed reality with live spaces and concerts, and integrated music videos. New technology leads to better and richer experiences when technology is layered on top. Artists didn't have access to data before. Now we can reach super-fans, those are the fans who want more.""
Artificial intelligence (AI) was another hot topic showcased at this year's GITEX Technology Week. For instance, visitors to Microsoft's stand were surprised to learn just how far cognitive reasoning, natural-language processing and bot AI have come, as they wandered through specially constructed Experience Zones at Microsoft's stand.
Dubai Bot, a showcase demo developed by Microsoft Gulf, acts as a virtual tour guide for visitors to the emirate, giving them an AI source for all their travel needs. It can suggest restaurants and entertainment venues, museums and beaches and ideal attractions for children, parents or the lone traveler. The bot also helps with the more formal aspects of travel, such as booking a taxi, advising on use of the Metro or giving up-to-the-second updates on currency exchange rates. All of this interaction is based on the bot's knowledge of the user's circumstances, such as their length of stay, age and whether they are travelling alone or in company.
Dubai Bot presents an ideal application for Microsoft's Bot Framework and Cognitive Services, which are best suited to scenarios where repetitive tasks normally coordinated by human actors can be handed over to automation. It uses Cognitive Services' Language Understanding Intelligence Service (LUIS) to perform real-time natural-language processing, allowing meaningful, on-the-spot conversations or text exchanges with users, via smart devices. The Microsoft Bot Framework lies at the core of the solution and enables straightforward integration with popular communication channels such as Skype, Slack, Telegram, Facebook Messenger and email.