GITEX Technology Week, the largest expo on modern technologies in the Gulf region, finished its work in Dubai. The event brought together more than 150 thousand guests from almost a hundred countries. Peter-Service joined the expo for the first time.
GITEX, or Gulf Information Technology Exhibition, has been hosted in the Emirates since 1981. Until the end of 1990s, the expo occupied 1 or 2 halls of the World Trade Center in Dubai, but it has been scaling up steadily and, for several years in a row, this huge facility has provided almost all its pavilions for this event, while the number participants has exceeded several thousand people from around the world. This year features the 37th GITEX which, expectedly, made its cross-cutting theme digital transformation and everything about it.
IDC analysts estimate that by 2019 the size of the transformation economy will reach 2.2 trillion dollars, so, this time, GITEX organizers tried to engage a maximum possible number of companies offering their solutions in this rapidly growing market. The expo welcomed immensely diverse audiences – from ordinary visitors to officials, from small startups and individual digital business enthusiasts to technology giants and major players of almost all industries of the region and other countries.
The UAE leadership also supported the significance of this event. The UAE Government has already drafted the UAE CENTENNIAL 2071 plan which aims to make the Emirates by 2071 – 100 years after their formation – a perfect place for innovations where creative specialists and the most disruptive companies will develop products and technologies for the humanity in the most relevant areas.
“This week is dedicated to education, innovation and sharing of technology and ideas that will shape the businesses of tomorrow” – this is how Trixie LohMirmand, Senior Vice President, Dubai World Trade Centre, one of the managers of the GITEX host platform, described the agenda of the expo.
The Verical Days conference hosted within GITEX became one of the most representative forums for sharing experience this year involving 126 speakers, 230 sessions involving experts and several thousand guests. Healthcare, retail, smart cities, transport, logistics, education, and digital marketing were the eight themes in primary focus.
The keynote speakers included such stars as Werner Vogels, CTO, Amazon.com, sharing on innovations at Amazon, Paul Walsh, SVP, VISA, outlining new horizons of the payment provider, Eleni Kitra, Head of Financial Services, Facebook, Marc Nolla Harey, Director Digital Transformation Office, SAP, Nikitas Glykas, President, HTC, MEA, and other digital transformation gurus.
Leading operators of the region embarked on a digital transformation journey. Etisalat presented its vision of Dubai's digital future including the advancement of service environment for consumers, public services, and business customers. Etisalat is primarily focused on IoT, digital security, use of Big Data, and cloud technologies. It takes full stock of the local specifics in the IoT field – for example, it demonstrated the system of smart irrigation which is critical for UAE's arid lands.
Local operators are also actively preparing for the launch of 5G and are not going to lag behind Europe and East Asia. In particular, the slogan selected by Du, a CSP, is "10 Times More" which implies more devices, faster connection and response time after switching to the next-generation connectivity standard. The most exciting case for UAE is Smart City and Smart Transport which will be further boosted after the introduction of 5G in such megacities as Dubai and Abu-Dhabi.
Saudi Telecom Company (STC) from the neighboring Saudi Arabia also stays well-tuned for the digital future. The company believes that the development of SMEs is vital being further driven by digital services through e-commerce, online services and business simplification. To do this, companies are actively developing cloud solutions, various Internet of Things platforms, and own managed services portfolios to help existing and new SMBs working in Saudi Arabia to launch their own services quicker and reach more end customers.
The expo featured plenty of startups. One of the most unusual of them, Winnovate, offers native clients (both B2C and B2B) a turnkey deployment of design thinking. According to Maartenjan de Wit, a representative of the startup, it will help companies and individuals faster launch innovations and search for creative approaches in the context of new digital reality. This small company presented one the funniest stands at GITEX – it featured live testing of design thinking concepts using a dedicated cube dispenser from which you need to take odd cubes and then decipher the collected "insights" guided by Winnovate specialists.
The expo brought together over 250 venture capitalists representing leading commercial funds from USA, Asia, Africa, and the Middle East. GITEX also welcomed public investors, primarily from the Emirates, but also from Saudi Arabia and other countries of the region.
In general, UAE as a country is making every effort to make its environment for technology startups equal to best world patterns. UAE wants to go beyond being a business and financial hub to being also a technology hub in the Greater Middle East region. GITEX launched GITEX Future Stars, a special discussion platform for startups, where new companies could share their disruptive ideas with people.
AR/VR, 3D-printing, IoT, Smart Cities, 5G, Artificial Intelligence (AI) were the most popular new-wave technologies featured at stands across GITEX. AR and VR devices, from traditional glasses to massive attractions, such as at the stand of Etisalat, of course, were the most visible technological advancements presented to the visitors of the expo.
Currently, the bulk of technologies in the core of the expo are entering the technological maturity phase. Taking this into account, GITEX invested much time on discussing the practical use of these technologies, e.g. overcoming traffic challenges following the appearance of smart cars, virtual reality as a tool for better surgery and education, artificial intelligence in various service-oriented services including public services.
At the same time, AI is the most trusted area in UAE. This technology is promising, while relevant talent is scarce even globally. In this context, countries are fiercely competing to accumulate the best AI talent and become the destination for "the blue ocean" of the future. Here, UAE's key competitors are Silicon Valley and China, but the Emirates stand a good chance to acquire the position of the new global technology center in this disruptive area.
Smart city was one of the most important topics highlighted at GITEX. In his message on this topic, Renato de Castro, a smart city expert, stressed that it was not the cities that were becoming smarter, rather than city residents, especially millennials, being deeper involved in the life of cities, i.e. it is the city residents who became smarter, rather than houses, pipes and wires. Further, smart cities should build on the 4P principle – public, private, people, partnership. According to de Castro, this new approach will be something that will transform Smart City from a faceless technology to a useful service for everyone.
In general, the topic of Smart Things and IoT was widely highlighted at the expo showcasing solutions from both individual suppliers and major operators. We see obvious improvement of interfaces, extension of functions and slow, yet steady, progress of this digital segment to standardization and, therefore, to a wide-spread deployment.
The topic of Blockchain did not remain unnoticed throughout the expo, but so far major players are not promoting it as intensively as other new products. Such innovators as Avaya are trying to combine blockchain with other traditional IT and telecom technologies and concepts – Customer Journey, IoT and predictive analytics, and in such a "package" deliver to end users.
We did an excellent job stacking up at the expo and dived deep into the core of the future technology world. Thanks to a range of solutions for digital transformation – IoT, mobile finance, Partner Relationship Management – we managed to gain visibility and attract significant attention to our stand.
For Peter-Service, the expo became an interesting platform for sharing experience on latest technologies and a milestone in its entry to the regions of the Middle East, Africa, and South Asia.