Focus: Smart Qatar

Smart is as smart does

Jan. 20, 2020

ICT is as much of a game-changer as steam and electricity were before it. As such, it is only a matter of how quickly you factor it into your economy.

The smart city is no longer a media-worthy soundbite, but a forward-looking urban reality of an information economy. Qatar's concrete steps to trace the ICT curve are in full view, with over 40% of its urban areas already meeting smart criteria. The consequences are comprehensive, ranging from smart traffic and airport management at the civic level, to logistics at the commercial end, with the shipments of the diversifying economy expedited by zeroes and ones.

Qatar Science and Technology Park (QSTP), home to Total Research Centre-Qatar (TRC-Q), is the country's proverbial ICT hub that incubates blue-sky thinkers, promotes relevant SMEs, and turns facilitated R&D activity into marketable products. Some of those have included M2M services platform, like LabeebTM, and Arabic e-content delivery platform KutobiTM.

Leading the charge is the Ministry of Transport and Communications (MoTC), which forecasts Qatar's overall ICT market scaling USD4 billion by 2021.

TASMU Smart Qatar Program (TASMU) is the poster-boy of the MoTC's drive to meet goals set out in the Qatar National Vision 2030; it spans the five key sectors of transport, logistics, environment, healthcare, and sports. The program is effectively an ongoing dialogue between the local ICT community and priority sectors to ensure that Qatar's technological needs are met and opportunities capitalized on, wherever possible through local content. The myriad aspects of the smart revolution encompassing cybersecurity, AI, and the application of 5G in urban planning were on display at the safe smart cities-themed Qatar IT Conference & Exhibition 2019 (QITCOM 2019), another springboard for TASMU. Another exhibitor and sponsor of QITCOM 2019 was Hamad International Airport (HIA), an exemplar of smart applications that employ robotics in biometric-enabled passenger handling from self-check-in to self-bag-drop, pre-immigration, and self-boarding.

Upping the scale from micro to macro, we arrive at Lusail City, lying close to the capital city of Doha and first announced as Qatar secured the 2022 World Cup. With a strong commercial focus, the wired/wireless urban environment spanning 38sqkm will rely upon the Lusail Command & Control Centre (LCCC) for the integrity of its vast data center, sustainably of course. The area's cooling system, among the largest in the world, features 175km of piping estimated to spare the air around 200,000 tons of carbon dioxide per year. Ultimately, around 450,000 switched-on residents will call Lusail home. Meanwhile, telcos like Ooredoo are introducing 5G cellular networks earmarked for rollout at the end of 2019.

We arrive at Msheireb Downtown Doha (MDD) Smart City, where every building aims to hold an average gold rating within the international LEED certification system, with others shooting for platinum. It is home to the smart experience center of ICT stalwart Huawei, itself a pioneer of the 5G and AI capabilities that drive connectivity. The project will boast around 1 million sensors feeding vital data to the smart systems of home, street, and office, while over 9,000 plus CCTV cameras will provide a sense of security.

Late in 2018, Msheireb Properties, an arm of the Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development, was awarded at the World Smart City Awards for the aforementioned urban scheme, identified as the world's second-smartest city. MDD's other 2018 awards encompassed health and safety and sustainability, including accolades from the National Programme for Conservation and Energy (Tarsheed).

Qatar's smart vision is a regulated, ICT-driven springboard to broader economic aspirations; one that immediately chimes with tomorrow's innovators, the tech-savvy of generations X and Z.