MAXIMIZE AND OPTIMIZE

Abu Dhabi 2019 | ENVIRONMENT & GREEN ENERGY | INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Dietmar Siersdorfer, CEO of Siemens Middle East and Siemens UAE, on its innovative IoT operating system, cybersecurity, and embracing digitalization

Dietmar Siersdorfer
BIOGRAPHY
Dietmar Siersdorfer has been CEO of Siemens Middle East and CEO of Siemens LLC United Arab Emirates since 2013. He joined Siemens in 1987 in Mannheim, Germany, as an electrical engineer and held various managerial positions in the industry and energy sectors. For two years, he was located at the Siemens Southeast Asia headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. In 2001, Siersdorfer took over the global responsibility for manufacturing execution systems within Siemens AG in Germany. In 2004, he was appointed Executive Senior Vice President for fossil power generation for Europe, Africa, Middle East, and India. Two years later, he became President and CEO of the global fossil energy solutions business within the Siemens Power Generation division.

What are Siemens' strategic goals for 2018, and how do they align with the country's preparation for the World Expo 2020 and UAE Vision 2021?

We recently announced plans to expand our digital presence in the Middle East with a USD500-million investment over the next three years, which includes the opening of two MindSphere Application Centers in the UAE. MindSphere is a cloud-based, open IoT operating system that connects products, plants, systems, and machines, enabling organizations to harness the wealth of data generated by IoT with advanced analytics and granting them an edge to cloud connectivity. In this context, the Dubai center will handle airports, logistics, and cargo, in addition to co-developing innovative approaches that improve the movement of people and goods. This will allow us to work closely with our customers and partners to come up with digital solutions specifically aimed at solving their challenges. The MindSphere Application Center in Abu Dhabi will cater to process industries, mainly focusing on oil, gas, water, and waste. It is aimed at enabling customers to improve operational efficiency and reduce their costs across the entire value chain. We are also heavily investing in software grants across the region, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt. These grants are aimed at boosting digital skills among youth in the region by providing them with our Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) software. Developing local skills is the key to driving the countries' digital transformation. Moreover, Dubai selected Siemens as the Premier Partner for Intelligent Infrastructure & Operations for Expo 2020, enabled and digitalized by MindSphere. With MindSphere at the heart of our partnership, we are working closely with our partners to create a digitally connected Expo unlike any other previous one. We look to provide crucial products, services, and solutions that will maximize and optimize Expo 2020 for visitors and operators.

What are the major challenges in applying cybersecurity measures for industrial and energy automation systems in the UAE?

Cybersecurity is one of the biggest challenges facing industries today. While companies have improved protection for their IT environment, they have yet to do the same for their operational technology (OT), namely implementing technology solutions suitable for OT to protect the operational assets. We conducted a study on the state of readiness of the oil and gas industry in the Middle East to tackle cyber attacks, which revealed oil and gas OT environments face significant and mounting cybersecurity risk. Moreover, around 60% of respondents surveyed said they face a greater risk in the OT than in the IT environment, and 67% believe the risk level to industrial control systems over the past few years has substantially increased because of cyber threats. In order for organizations to capture the full benefits of digitalization, it is essential that they rigorously address the OT cyber risk.

What sectors, so far, have shown the greatest flexibility in adapting to digitalization?

It is not about adapting to digitalization; it is about embracing it. Different sectors are at various stages of embracing digitalization with different imperatives. When it comes to building infrastructure, for example, digital technologies have been implemented on a wider scale given the availability of data and the speed at which digitalization can realize gains in energy efficiency, cost reduction, and security. We have also seen some of the more nascent manufacturing companies in the UAE adopting digital technologies such as 3D printing. In 2017, Siemens successfully completed a pilot project for the first certified aircraft interior part that was 3D printed with STRATA and Etihad. This was a first for the Middle East and North Africa region, and we expect this technology to be used more widely. The across the board implementation of other digital technologies such as AI and blockchain is only set to increase over time. For example, companies such as LO3 already use blockchain in the energy sector to achieve greater efficiencies.