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Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life

Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life

An eye-opener amongst all current development lines in archaeology would be this article dated 27 February 2020 that states that Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life and improve conservation.


Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life and improve conservation

Tarek Teba, University of Portsmouth

Around 3,300 years ago, the port city of Ugarit was a vibrant urban centre, located strategically on the overland network linking Egypt with Asia Minor and on the route between Persia and India in the east and Greece and Cyprus in the west. The city’s origins date back to 3000BC and the first alphabet and alphabetic writing system are believed to have developed there in the 14th century BC.

Today Ugarit is a Bronze Age archaeological site in northwest Syria, first excavated in 1929. It can tell us a huge amount about the past, but Ugarit is also a place in its own right. The conservation of the site needs to help us understand the site’s history, as well as preserving and restoring what remains. Our work on virtual reality and reconstruction can meet both these goals.

Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life
Figure 1: The location of Ugarit and its historic links. Google Map

Although only 30% of Ugarit has been excavated, the discovered areas give clues about the organisation of the city. The buildings include royal palaces, large houses, tombs, sanctuaries, public buildings and temples. Ugarit’s golden age was between the 14th and 12th century BC, and the excavated ruins show that interesting political, social and economic evolution took place in the city.

The royal area shows evidence of a developed political system, with complex defensive architecture and a well-structured palace. Domestic areas reveal important information about the Ugaritic people’s everyday life and their veneration of the dead. However, the structures are in a ruined condition and some are deteriorating, thanks to being exposed for more than 90 years with only minimal maintenance and repair work.

Virtual conservation

A shift toward using virtual technologies as preservation methods to document historic sites and provide educational opportunities has taken place in recent years. This prevents misguided architectural conservation, which can damage a site.

Augmented reality can project reconstructions onto archaeological ruins, such as at the medieval village of Ename in Belgium. Elsewhere, virtual reconstruction has produced 3D textured models, including of the “Sala dello Scrutinio” at the Doges’ Palace in Venice.

Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life
Figure 2: A map of the city of Ugarit showing the excavated areas and the sacred route between the Royal Palace and the Temple. Latakia National Museum, Syria

We have used computer-aided design modelling to test out conservation options for Ugarit and to investigate the effects of possible conservation interventions on the ruins. This led to changes in design concepts and materials to better fit the aims of the conservation.

Preserving a sacred route

Excavations have revealed a key sacred route that linked the Royal Palace with the main Temple of Baal and passed through public areas of Ugarit. Researchers believe that the king followed this sacred path to practice cult sacrifices at the temple.

The route contains important tangible elements, such as the remains of the palace, houses, and the temple, for example. But the conservation strategy also intends to reconstruct the intangible aspects of the route – the monumental fortifications, the scale of the temple, and the experience of walking the sacred path, all of which cannot be easily grasped from the remaining ruins.

Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life
Figure 3: Point A of the Sacred Route. The Author

Virtual reconstruction is an effective tool to assess these proposals and judge their ability to protect the ruins, as well as revealing intangible aspects, such as the atmosphere of a street, which are lost to time. We have developed virtual tours which create an opportunity for screen displays to be installed on the site before the actual proposal is implemented.

Virtual reality can bring ancient cities back to life
Figure 10: Virtual reconstruction of interventions proposed for Point C of the sacred route – the Temple of Baal. The author, Author provided

These virtual tours include an area of the site that historically featured a plaza and tavern. Here the conservation approach includes the creation of a social and entertaining hub. This will allow the urban environment of the plaza and the dim and cosy interior of the tavern to be restored.

The tours provide reliable evidence for the second stage of the conservation proposal, the design stage and community consultation. However, the political situation in Syria has put the consultation process on hold.

This political situation also means that it is not possible to visit Ugarit at the moment – a position shared by hundreds of archaeological sites around the world. So the virtual reconstructions serve another purpose: they allow those interested a glimpse of this fascinating city and provide an opportunity to raise awareness of the site’s cultural importance with an international audience.

Tarek Teba, Senior Lecturer, School of Architecture, University of Portsmouth

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

The Conversation

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Automation ‘to take over half of all jobs in 15 years’

Automation ‘to take over half of all jobs in 15 years’

The robots are coming! started The Guardian in its 2017 edition before informing that regular reports warn us that an automation apocalypse is nigh.  Here is Automation ‘to take over half of all jobs in 15 years’ that again alerts us on everything but the positive aspects if any, of such technological advancements.


Approximately half of all jobs will be materially impacted by automation in the next 15-20 years, said professional services firm Accenture in a new report.

Meanwhile, 79 per cent of executives agree that work is shifting from roles to projects—challenging both the function and makeup of the workforce as we know it, said Tanushree Guha, managing director of Applied Intelligence and global lead for the Workforce Analytics practice at Accenture in the report titled “OCED Employment Outlook 2019: The Future of Work”.

As more and more employees look for different opportunities, many are not choosing permanent jobs. In 2018 alone, 56.7 million Americans freelanced, and it is predicted that by 2027, the majority of America’s workers will be freelance. Those choosing part-time work or even working for multiple employers at one time will need to be factored into evolving workforce models, says Guha.

“Advances in digital and automation have allowed organizations to gain efficiency and increase productivity. But adopting these technologies means that organizations must plan for their workforce—especially those at risk of being made redundant,” the report said.

As many as 40 percent of companies are already reporting that talent shortages are impacting their ability to adapt and innovate and this highlights the need for organizations to upskill, reskill and cross-skill existing workers, it added.

A new approach to workforce management

Strategic workforce planning (SWFP) helps organizations strike the right balance between external contractors and internal workforce, as well as the right blend of human and machine effort to drive the business forward.

By providing a holistic perspective of the current workforce, and existing as well as future gaps, workforce planning can help organizations assess forthcoming risks and identify quick wins to yield potential savings. This enables organizations to strategize their recruitment and reskilling plans well in advance, as well as ascertain the most advantageous size and workforce mix of the organization both in the short and long term, the article said.

For example, using HR transformation analytics, organizations are turning recruitment from what was traditionally often a process based on “gut-feel,” to one informed and backed by advanced data insights. This transformation enables businesses to find the right people at the right time with the most relevant skills from a larger pool of applicants, whilst saving on time and money.

According to Guha, SWFP helps companies to be in a future-ready state, by enabling them to:

•    Have a good hold of the current workforce scenario
•    Be well informed of possible future workforce gaps, facilitating them to strategize gap fulfilment and avoid the probable revenue losses due to those gaps
•    Devise a comprehensive action plan on efficiently utilizing the various workforce types to drive maximum productivity
•    Be well aware of the overtime changes in workforce dynamics and reasons for those changes
•    Design and implement optimal reskilling strategies in line with the changing requirements, at the same time as providing optimal career pathways to their workforce. – TradeArabia News Service

Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive

Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive

In a Press Release on 6 February 2020, Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive as elaborated on below.


At this year’s Light+Building trade fair, Siemens will showcase its vision for transforming today’s passive buildings into learning and adaptive environments that intelligently interact with people. The company’s focus at this year’s show is “Building the future today”, outlining the innovations that will make this possible. These include cloud-based technologies, digital planning, occupant-centric building automation and services. New solutions for smart electrical infrastructure that seamlessly connects to the Internet of Things (IoT) are also at the core of this transformation. 

Siemens transforms buildings from passive to adaptive

„Building the future today”: Siemens at Light+Building 2020 in hall 11, booth B56“Around 99 percent of today’s buildings are not smart. Digitalization has the power to transform buildings from silent and passive structures into living organisms that interact, learn from and adapt to the changing needs of occupants. This is a significant leap in the evolution of buildings where our technology plays a vital role,” said Cedrik Neike, Member of the Managing Board of Siemens AG and Chief Executive Officer of Siemens Smart Infrastructure. “This transformation is already becoming a reality. We expect to see the first entirely self-adaptive buildings in three to five years from now.”

Digital solutions for the entire building lifecycle

Globalization, urbanization, climate change, and demographics are changing the way people live and work. At the same time, digitalization is ubiquitous. With some 10 billion building devices already connected to the IoT, buildings are ready to leverage the potential of digitalization. People spend an estimated 90 percent of their lives indoors, so ensuring buildings meet the broad range of individuals’ needs is crucial. On one hand, smart buildings actively contribute to occupants’ enhanced productivity, wellbeing and comfort. For operators and owners, they help them collect and analyze data to create actionable insights, boosting buildings’ performance and therefore revenue.Siemens will showcase the smart buildings suite of IoT enabled devices, applications and services. At the core of the suite is the “Building Twin” application, which will be on display at the booth. It provides a fully digital representation of a physical building, merging static as well as dynamic data from multiple sources into a 3D virtual model. With real-time understanding of how a building is performing, operators can immediately make adjustments to boost efficiency as well as extract data to improve the design of future buildings. One of the new IoT-enabled applications is “Building Operator”, which allows remote monitoring, operation and maintenance of buildings. Available as Software as a Service (SaaS), it provides real-time building data as the basis for predictive and corrective maintenance.

Smart electrical infrastructure

Given that buildings account for more than 40 percent of electricity consumption in cities, building efficiency is crucial in the battle towards decarbonization. Electrical infrastructure lays the foundation for safe, reliable and efficient building operations, while delivering essential data for a holistic, cloud-based building management. This is made possible by communication-capable low-voltage products, power distribution boards and busbar trunking systems that enable the measurement and wireless transmission of energy and status data. To illustrate this, Siemens will exhibit a unique end-to-end solution for cloud-based power monitoring in buildings. Electrical installations can now be supplemented with digital metering without additional space requirements or wiring outlay. This makes it easy for electrical installers to start using digitalization to their benefit. With “Powermanager”, a power monitoring software, now fully integrated into the Desigo CC building management platform, all building and energy data can be managed, monitored and analyzed from one single platform.Siemens will also display its electromobility ecosystem, including battery storage and charging systems for residential buildings. In a parallel show, “Intersec Building 2020”, in hall 9.1, booth B50, the company will exhibit integrated and networked systems for safety and fire protection.  

For further information on Siemens Smart Infrastructure, please see
www.siemens.com/smart-infrastructure

For further information about Siemens at Light+Building 2020, please see
www.siemens.com/press/lightbuilding-2020

App Nabd Overtakes all Social Media in MENA

App Nabd Overtakes all Social Media in MENA

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates-Tuesday 14 January 2020, AETOSWIRE informs that App Nabd Overtakes all Social Media in MENA. Would not it also be a good idea to have its extent and spread in the region?


Personalized News Aggregator App Nabd Overtakes Social Media in Driving Traffic to Key Publishers in MENA

Nabd, the Middle East’s Leading Personalized News App, Overtakes Social Media Networks in Driving Referral Traffic to Key Publishers in the MENA region

For many publishers in the Middle East region, Nabd – the largest personalized Arabic news aggregator – has become the number one source of referrals to their portals, exceeding Social Media networks, as a traffic source.

“In BBC Arabic, we consider our partnership with Nabd to be the most valuable and important of all our digital partnerships. This reflects the growing importance of news aggregators and the position of Nabd as a market leader. Our partnership with Nabd has enabled us to widen our reach and gain a new perspective of our audience needs”, says Mohamed Yehia, Head of daily output at BBC.

In its efforts to support its partners, the local, regional and international publishers, Nabd has launched a dedicated portal for publishers, enabling them to obtain and analyze detailed insights about their content, engagement, and users in Nabd.

“NABD is one of the top sources of traffic for RT Arabic. During the last 3 months NABD replaced Twitter as the second-best source of traffic from social media to the website”, says Maya Manna, Editor-in-Chief at RT Arabic.

Today, Nabd is considered by over 1,000 premium Arabic publishers, as a corner stone in their content distribution strategy, since it enables them to reach and tap into a massive audience, and continuously engage with them.

“We extremely value and enjoy our strategic partnerships with publisher partners. Such partnerships have empowered us to achieve our mission of supporting quality journalism in our region, and delivering relevant premium Arabic content for the Arabic audience globally”, says Mazen Singer, Chief Strategy Officer at Nabd.

About Nabd  (Nabd.com)

Nabd is a Personalized Arabic Content Reader, enabling Arab users across the globe to stay up-to-date with their favorite topics on the go. Today, Nabd reaches over 20 million users, generating over 1.6 billion page views every quarter, making it the biggest Arabic app globally. It is currently available for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices.


Source: AETOS Wire

Digital innovation ‘key to ME construction sector’

Digital innovation ‘key to ME construction sector’

The future of real estate development is digital, with demand for cost-effective, innovative and sustainable buildings inspiring data-led business models that will fuel the growth of the Middle East construction industry, say, industry experts. So is Digital innovation ‘key to ME construction sector’?


A warning aimed at the Middle East involved construction firms of the risks of not digitising operations, posted on April 26, 2019, was posted for its obvious benefits to the MENA’s development.


“Innovation and sustainability in construction, specifically in connection with new digital solutions, are driving the future of real estate in the Middle East,” said Dierk Mutschler, CEO, Drees & Sommer, a leading construction and real estate consultancy.

“A gentle slowdown in some regional markets coupled with the emergence of new technology and business models will pave the way for forward-thinking companies to capitalise on these shifts. From 2020, the increasingly competitive environment will result in more demand for quality products, leading to a longer-term focus on investment in sustainable business models.

“After all, future business models, products and services will be measured not only by their economic success, but by their impact on our environment,” asserted Mutschler.

“Old business models will become obsolete,” he continued. “Real estate developers and contractors will need to truly understand data and what digitisation means for the construction industry. They will need to design and construct buildings with the capacity to adapt to new technology and future needs for the next 50 to 80 years.

“Ultimately, digitisation means ‘software’. If smart buildings are in danger of becoming outdated, a software update can make them state-of-the-art again. In our Drees & Sommer innovation laboratories, we are researching the use of regenerative technology, which will help ensure buildings are adaptable and future-proof– offering significant cost-saving benefits too,” said Mutschler.

He cited the findings of the KPMG Global Construction Survey, which forecasts six to 10 percent growth in the UAE’s construction sector in 2020 and Global Construction 2020, a report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, Global Construction Perspectives and Oxford Economics, which forecasts $4.3 trillion will be spent on construction in the Middle East and North Africa region over the next decade, as indicative of the positive outlook for the sector.

With regard to the UAE specifically, Stephan Degenhart, associate partner and managing director of Drees & Sommer Middle East, said the current focus lies in the delivery and completion of ongoing projects in anticipation of Expo Dubai 2020, which will attract 25 million visits during its six-month duration.

Following this, he predicted development would focus on delivering the ambitious roadmap of Smart Dubai 2021, which aims to make Dubai the happiest city on earth by embracing technology innovation for a seamless, efficient, safe and personalised city experience.

Degenhart commented: “The opportunities for growth lie within these shifts and changes. We predict that buildings will be completely reimagined and investors will need to consider how their business models will serve the new demands of end users. Existing buildings will also need extensive repositioning and revitalisation in order to compete in the digitised environment of the future.”

There are a host of smart technology solutions already available, from 3D laser scanning and digital modular fabrication to intelligent construction equipment and BIM models for design and construction, not to mention the use of IoT systems, robotics and data-driven business models for operation. Challenges lie in achieving the successful integration or networking of multiple systems from different technology providers and critically, according to Degenhart, in realising a change in mindset.

“Digital solutions have the power to dramatically impact the way we plan, construct and operate buildings. According to recent research by McKinsey & Company, adopting digital solutions throughout every phase of the construction process could increase market productivity by as much as 15 per cent and reduce project costs by up to 45 per cent,” Degenhart said.

“At Drees & Sommer, we are looking forward to working with developers and investors seeking to expand or enhance their portfolio in 2020, as well as supporting those new to the region. Our goal is to deliver cost-effective and sustainable buildings, profitable real estate portfolios, people-oriented working environments, visionary mobility concepts and liveable cities,” concluded Degenhart.

TradeArabia News Service

Need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the SDGs

Need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the SDGs


Digital adoption key to cope with growth of mega cities or as put by Fida Kibbi: “As we continue to advance towards a more urbanized world and the impacts of climate change grow progressively, there is a greater need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).”


Need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the SDGs
Fida Kibbi: Need to accelerate digital adoption in line with
the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

The number of megacities is forecast to increase to 43, each with more than 10 million inhabitants by 2030, said an industry expert, citing a report by the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.

More than half of the world’s population will live in urban areas by 2050, the report said.

“As we continue to advance towards a more urbanized world and the impacts of climate change grow progressively, there is a greater need to accelerate digital adoption in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” said Fida Kibbi, vice president and head of Marketing, Communications and Sustainability & Corporate Responsibility at Ericsson Middle East & Africa.
 
Digitalization has a unique potential to enable other industrial sectors to move towards the low-carbon economy. According to the “2019 Exponential Roadmap” report, the digital industry has an important role to play in reducing global carbon emissions through existing ICT solutions across energy, manufacturing, agriculture, land use, buildings, services, transportation and traffic management.

According to research by Ericsson, ICT solutions could help to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by up to 15 per cent by 2030, amounting to around ten gigatonnes of CO2e—more than the current carbon footprint of the EU and US combined. Examples of areas where the savings can be enabled by ICT solutions are: transportation, energy, industries and agriculture.

Ericsson takes a proactive stance and collaborates with a wide range of stakeholders to scale the impact of our joint programs and initiatives in areas like climate change, agriculture, financial inclusion and, humanitarian response.

Technology innovations have the potential to accelerate global efforts to achieve Sustainable Development Goals:

Technology to address the impacts of climate change

According to a report by the Global Humanitarian Forum, climate change is responsible for some 300,000 deaths each year and over $100 billion worth of economic losses, mainly because of shocks related to health and agricultural productivity. According to a recently published report, Africa is the region at the most immediate risk of droughts and floods.

With the acceleration of extreme weather, sea level rise, and other climate change impacts – precise weather information has become an absolute necessity. Innovators at Ericsson and the Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute (SMHI) have been leveraging microwave data to solve the problem in a unique new initiative being piloted in Rwanda.

Ericsson Weather Data creates detailed and cost-efficient rainfall and flood predictions using the existing telecom infrastructure. Ericsson and SMHI leverage cellular network data to measure rainfall in real time, utilizing signal disturbances in microwave links.

By applying an algorithm, these disturbances can be used to measure exactly how much rain has fallen between two points on a microwave network. Potential use cases include climate mitigation efforts, flood prevention in sewage and stormwater systems in cities, agriculture, transport solutions, tourism, insurance, weather agencies and water utilities.

Banking the unbanked

Mobile financial services are a global game-changer with an open money network being the connection needed between the financial industry and telecom to increase both the commercial and social inclusion benefits.

With mobile money, people can make payments anywhere at any time with their mobile devices connected with Internet. This allows end-users to seamlessly purchase products or services without having to physically hand overcash or swipe a card. The freedom to send, spend and receive money with a mobile phone is quickly becoming an essential part of life for billions of people.

According to data from Ericsson ConsumerLab, more than half of consumers in Africa are using mobile money services through an agent, and some 20 per cent use mobile money themselves on a mobile phone. However, the unbanked are the ones who are least involved in the formal financial system, due to factors such as distance to banks, education, and the inability to authenticate their identity,

Increasing financial inclusion through the use of digital technology is an essential element in furthering the economic development of Africa. And the story does not end here. Mobile money services have become an essential, life-changing tool across Africa, providing access to safe and secure financial services but also to energy, health, education and employment opportunities.

“Ericsson is committed to using technology to contribute to new innovative solutions for a better tomorrow, and our aim is to develop solutions that support the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals within the context of sustainable business practices,” Kibbi concluded.

– TradeArabia News Service

Internet access is now a Human Right

Internet access is now a Human Right


Free broadband: internet access is now a human right, no matter who pays the bills, as per Merten Reglitz, University of Birmingham, it is a universal entitlement as well.


The UK Labour Party is promising to provide free broadband internet to every British household by 2030 if it wins the 2019 election. To do this, the party would nationalise the broadband infrastructure business of BT and tax internet giants like Google and Facebook. Whatever you think of this plan, it at least reflects that the internet has become not only an essential utility for conducting daily life, but also crucial for exercising our political rights.

In fact, I recently published research that shows why internet access should be considered a human right and a universal entitlement. And for that reason, it ought to be provided free to those who can’t afford it, not just in the UK, but around the world.

Internet access is today necessary for leading a minimally decent life, which doesn’t just mean survival but rather includes political rights that allow us to influence the rules that shape our lives and hold authorities accountable. That is why rights such as free speech, free association, and free information are among the central rights included in the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights. And, crucially, everyone needs to have roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights.

Before the internet, most people in democracies had roughly equal opportunities to exercise their political rights. They could vote, write to newspapers or their political representative, attend public meetings and join organisations.

But when some people gained internet access, their opportunities to exercise political rights became much greater compared to those without the internet. They could publish their views online for potentially millions of people to see, join forces with other people without having to physically attend regular meetings, and obtain a wealth of previously inaccessible political information.

Today, a large proportion of our political debates take place online, so in some ways our political rights can only be exercised via the internet. This means internet access is required for people to have roughly equal opportunities to make use of their political freedoms, and why we should recognise internet access as a human right.

Much political discussion now happens online. RawPixel/Shutterstock

As a human right, internet access should be “free” in two ways. First, it should be unmonitored, uncensored, and uninterrupted – as the UN’s General Assembly has demanded in a non-binding resolution in 2016. Second, governments should guarantee a minimally decent infrastructure that is available to all citizens no matter how much money they have. This means funding for internet access should be part of minimum welfare benefits, provided without charge to those who can’t afford to pay for it, just like legal counsel. (This is already the case in Germany.)

A political goal

In developing countries, digital infrastructure reaching everyone might be too expensive to guarantee immediately. But with the required technology becoming cheaper (more people on the planet have access to a web-capable phone than have access to clean water and a toilet), universal access could first be guaranteed via free wifi in public places. Supply can start off in a basic way and grow over time.

Still, expensive infrastructure isn’t the sole obstacle to universal access in developing nations. The spread of the internet could also be increased by promoting gender equality and literacy and digital skills. Developed nations ought to support these efforts by honouring their commitments to the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

Should everyone in Britain have free broadband in their homes? There are many good reasons to provide the best possible internet access to everyone, such as increasing economic productivity, sharing prosperity more evenly across the country, or promoting opportunities for social engagement and civic participation. And, as such, free broadband for all may be a worthy political goal.

But what is most important is ensuring that everyone has the kind of internet access required for roughly equal opportunities to use their political freedoms. Guaranteed internet access should be considered a human right in our virtual world, whoever ultimately pays the bills.


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Merten Reglitz, Lecturer in Global Ethics, University of Birmingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency

MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency

EF Education First (EF): MENA Countries Ranked for English Proficiency by Global Index of 100 Countries shows clearly that the ranking of each country has if only culturally, little to do with, as it were, its specific historical track record. The top ten middle eastern countries are as follow.

And In today’s world, the English language demonstrates a strong network effect: the more people use it, the more useful it becomes.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, Nov. 12, 2019 / PRNewswire/ — EF Education First released the ninth annual edition of its EF English Proficiency Index (EF EPI), analyzing data from 2.3 million non-native English speakers in 100 countries and regions, including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE, and other Arab countries. The Netherlands topped this year’s index, placing Sweden, last year’s top-scorer, in the second position.

The EF English Proficiency Index is an annual ranking of countries and regions by English skills

In the MENA region, Bahrain scored the highest. However, the region has continued to lag behind the other regions of the world. The index has also found that in the MENA region, young adults have a somewhat similar English proficiency level as adults over 40 years of age. This suggests that English instruction in the region’s schools has not been evolving over the years. The results have also shown a great convergence in the levels of proficiency among adults in the region, with only 9 scores separating Bahrain, MENA’s best achiever, from the weakest performing country, Libya.

The EF EPI has shown a direct relationship between the average per capita income and standard of living in a country, and the average proficiency in the English language among its adults. Moreover, with exports accounting for nearly 20 per cent of world trade output, adopting English as a language of communication will further reduce costs for businesses and governments. These findings indicate the potential returns of investing in English instruction to qualify the young human capital in MENA for the major economic transformations that the region is witnessing.

In speaking about Saudi Arabia, EF Education First‘s country manager in the Kingdom, John Bernström, said: “This year’s ranking arrives as Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 and its National Transformation Program are in full swing to transform the Kingdom’s economy. As the country invests tremendously in the education and training of its youthful human capital, our report aims to assess how local English language proficiency fits within this frame and what are the best methods to optimize it in the future”.

The EF EPI is based on test scores from the EF Standard English Test (EF SET), the world’s first free standardized English test. The EF SET has been used worldwide by thousands of schools, companies, and governments for large-scale testing.

The EF English Proficiency Index for Schools (EF EPI-s), a companion report to the EF EPI, was also released with the index. The EF EPI-s examines the acquisition of English skills by secondary and tertiary students from 43 countries.

The EF EPI and EF EPI-s reports and country/region fact sheets are available for download at http://www.ef.com/sa/epi.   

About EF Education First

EF Education First is an international education company that focuses on language, academics, and cultural experience. Founded in 1965, EF’s mission is “opening the world through education.” With more than 600 schools and offices in over 50 countries, EF is the Official Language Training Partner for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

EF Logo

Logo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1021478/EF_Education_First_Logo.jpg
Photo – https://mma.prnewswire.com/media/1027036/EF_English_Index.jpg

Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?

Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?

Mark Anthony Karam in an October 21, 2019, article that is a response to his “Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?” elaborates on possibilities of moving around obviously the plush urban centres of the GCC. But only during certain times of the year unless a personalised Air Conditioning apparatus is provided with the ‘cyacle’. The image above is credit to The National.ae .

Does micro mobility have a place in the GCC?

With the rest of the world continues to see the micro-mobility sector enjoy growing success, could we see a similar success in the GCC?

  • Micro mobility was an ideal solution to the last-mile issue in countries like China or the US
  • The GCC might not be as ideal for a replicated success
  • There are several factors today that pose obstacles impeding its growth

Micro mobility, which involves light-weighted means of transportation like electric scooters and bikes for short trips, usually in urban areas, has continued to grow internationally. Countries like China, the United States and many EU nations are finding great success with this novel sector, which builds on many of the concepts of the sharing economy that innovators like Uber brought into the mainstream.

Lime and Bird, US rivals in the sector, reached unicorn status in a handful of years each since their founding. One of the reasons for their sudden success is that they solved the long-standing last-mile issue, capitalizing on a neglected market gap.

Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?
Image: Careem

The GCC goes mobile
Today in the GCC, some are attempting to solve this last-mile problem as well. Earlier this year, Careem announced that it had acquired Abu Dhabi bikeshare startup Cyacle, which would add a micro-mobility offering to their services. Launched in December 2014, Cyacle is a fully-automated docked bike-share service currently operating in Abu Dhabi. Stations run 24-hours a day via an app, a touch screen kiosk and docking system that releases bikes using a ride code or a member key.

At the time, Careem had also announced that it was partnering with Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) to install 350 bike docking stations across the Emirates, where citizens would have access to 3,500 bicycles to bike share.  

Besides Careem and its affiliates, many startups have ventured into the field as well. European e-mobility startup Circ launched its Middle Eastern HQ in the UAE this summer, bringing the region a new player in the micro-mobility field. It deployed its bikes in Abu Dhabi, recently partnering with real estate management services provider Provis to make its e-scooters available across their communities. 

Another firm, Dubai-based Arnab Mobility, is also providing a similar service. 

“Global cities are currently trying to find solutions to the global warming problems mainly caused by fossil fuel vehicles,” Dr. Dheeraj Bhardwaj, Group CEO of Arnab Mobility, tells Gulf News. He ponders an age-old question: “Also, city inhabitants and visitors struggle with first/last mile transportation, congestion and expenses. How efficient is it for a one-ton hulk of metal to take one person two to three miles? Conventional transportation systems are currently insufficient with people dealing daily with traffic, a lack of parking spaces, as well as long walks from bus stops and metro stations.”

Yet, while these solutions offer a service on par with international counterparts, it is important to remember the financial, cultural, and climate situation of the region. 

Does micro-mobility have a place in the GCC?
Image: Arnab Mobility

Regional-specific constraints

Firstly, it is important to remember that the GCC region is known for its oil-derived wealth, with many nationals owning multiple vehicles and often employing personal drivers to help family members commute. Secondly, travel distances for major outings are already quite short. 

“With urbanization on the rise, the majority of trips people take fall within the category of micro-mobility and thus are prime candidates for bike and scooter usage. In the US, for instance, roughly 60% of all trips are 5 miles or less,” CBinsights explains. 

One of the reasons micro-mobility solutions are so attractive abroad is because of their perceived value for the service provided. Instead of paying a whopping fee for a taxi get you across 4 city blocks in New York, a US citizen would opt to rent a Lime scooter for a fraction of the cost. In the GCC, with its small-sized nations, large roads and affordable taxi services, this is not yet a problem. The countries in the region, save for Saudi Arabia, are sometimes comparable to entire Western cities in size. Bahrain, for example, has an area of 765.3 km², which is half the size of London (1,572 km²). 

Therefore, from a financial and spatial perspective, micro-mobility services might struggle. 

Then arises the issue of culture perceptions. While women have been driving for more than a year now in Saudi Arabia for example, breaking gender bias and perception is still an ongoing challenge. The country is certainly moving towards progress, but micro-mobility firms will have to consider this nonetheless. Also, consider that environmental awareness and consideration only just recently began to receive mass attention in the region in the past few years. Getting people to opt for bikes over a more convenient car ride will still prove a struggle. 

Finally, and perhaps the most glaring of the issues plaguing micro-mobility companies in the region, is the climate and weather. The GCC is infamous for its scorching desert sun and sweltering heat. While public transportation like the Dubai metro or public buses offer some reprieve from the heat with their AC units, an e-scooter or bike doesn’t. When it’s 50 degrees Celsius outside and you need to just get home after a long day at work, a taxi or Uber, even for the higher fee, will prove the go-to choice. That remains the sector’s greatest obstacle. How it addresses it is still in question. 

Mark Anthony Karam has 4 years of experience in the field of visual and written media, having earned his Masters degree from the UK. You can get in touch with him here: m.karam@mediaquestcorp.com

The World’s First AI Research University in Abu Dhabi

The World’s First AI Research University in Abu Dhabi

The UAE has added another feather to its cap. After appointing the world’s first artificial intelligence minister, it has established the world’s first AI Research University in Abu Dhabi at Masdar City.

ABU DHABI, UAE, Oct. 16, 2019 / PRNewswire/ — Abu Dhabi today announced the establishment of the Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence (MBZUAI), the first graduate level, research-based AI university in the world. MBZUAI will enable graduate students, businesses, and governments to advance artificial intelligence.

MBZUAI Board of Trustees launching the world’s first graduate level AI university.
MBZUAI Board of Trustees launching the world’s first graduate level AI university.

The University is named after His Highness Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, who has long advocated for the UAE’s development of human capital through knowledge and scientific thinking to take the nation into the future. MBZUAI will introduce a new model of academia and research to the field of AI, providing students and faculty access to some of the world’s most advanced AI systems to unleash its potential for economic and societal development.

His Excellency Dr. Sultan Ahmed Al Jaber, UAE Minister of State, who has been appointed Chair of the MBZUAI Board of Trustees and is spearheading the establishment of the University, said: “The Mohamed bin Zayed University of Artificial Intelligence is an open invitation from Abu Dhabi to the world to unleash AI’s full potential.”

“The University will bring the discipline of AI into the forefront, molding and empowering creative pioneers who can lead us to a new AI empowered era,” he added.

Experts from around the world have been selected for the University’s Board of Trustees. They include MBZUAI Interim President, Professor Sir Michael Brady, professor of Oncological Imaging at the University of Oxford, UK; Professor Anil K. Jain, a University Distinguished Professor at Michigan State University, USA; Professor Andrew Chi-Chih Yao, Dean of the Institute for Interdisciplinary Information Sciences at Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; Dr. Kai-Fu Lee, a technology executive and venture capitalist based in Beijing, China; Professor Daniela Rus, Director of Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL), USA, and Peng Xiao, CEO of Group 42.

Over the next decade, AI is set to have a transformational impact on the global economy, with experts estimating that, by 2030, AI could contribute nearly $16 trillion to the global economy[1] and account for nearly 14% of the UAE’s GDP[2].

Professor Sir Michael Brady, Interim President of MBZUAI, said: “We are now at a turning point in the widespread application of advanced intelligence. That evolution is – among other things – creating exciting new career opportunities in nearly every sector of society. At MBZUAI, we will support students to capture those opportunities and to magnify their contribution to the field of AI globally.”

The University will offer Master of Science (MSc) and PhD level programs in key areas of AI – Machine Learning, Computer Vision, and Natural Language Processing. All admitted students will receive a full scholarship, monthly allowance, health insurance, and accommodation.

Graduate students can now apply to MBZUAI via the University’s website. The first class will commence coursework at MBZUAI’s Masdar City campus in September 2020.

For more information, please visit www.mbzuai.ac.ae.

10 key technologies disrupting the GCC market

10 key technologies disrupting the GCC market

From artificial intelligence to autonomous vehicles, transformative science and technology have driven impactful change across the GCC countries in recent years, a report said. Trade Arabia in 10 key technologies disrupting the GCC market, elaborates on how the latest advances in technology are impacting the countries of the Gulf.

With regional governments now set to reduce oil dependency through policy and regulation change, the Industrial Revolution 4.0 and the phenomenon of the Internet of Things (IoT) is now rife among all sectors in the region, added the report from MEED, a leading business intelligence provider.

 Organizations are on board to make structural changes through the usage of advanced and innovative technology. But while many of the innovations that promise to shape the region in the coming years are still new, and sometimes experimental, others are widely known, even if not yet in common use.

MEED looks at 10 technologies set to transform the Middle East over the next decade.

Grid-scale batteries to enable energy diversification

Global investment in high-capacity batteries is transforming the market for renewable energy.  The large-scale adoption of alternative energy has long been hampered by the unreliable, inflexible nature of its major sources, the wind and sun. The problems caused by intermittent energy production can only be solved by developing effective storage solutions; batteries that can store energy at peak production times for later deployment.

A significant drop in the prices of lithium and vanadium – essential battery components – in addition to improvements in battery efficiency, are enabling large scale adoption of energy storage facilities.

Abu Dhabi’s recent launch of the region’s first Grid-Scale Battery Deployment and the world’s largest Virtual Battery Plant is indicative of the region’s commitment to diversifying its energy supply.

Digital payment – fintech

The initial caution of governments in GCC to digital payments and financial technology (fintech) is beginning to abate and the first online payments were made across the region in 2018, following a series successful trials of the technology that persuaded authorities to relax regulation. With limited access to banking facilities, an estimated 86 per cent of adults in the region (Reuters) do not have a bank account. This, coupled with an increase in the mobile phone capabilities makes the Mena market a real opportunity for fintech investment. Research company Mena Research Partners estimated the fintech market in the Mena region to be worth $2 billion in 2018 and it is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2022.

Smart’ everything

There is a growing realisation that complex systems such as oil fields, electricity grids, building sites and entire cities can be managed more effectively if siloed data can be combined on a single platform. New remote sensor technology can provide critical real-time data, allowing managers to make quick, informed decisions and increasingly intelligent software is being developed to automate complex processes. Internet of Things (IoT), which is a convergence of technologies such as remote sensors, machine learning and real-time analytics, is central to the development of these smart, digital ecosystems.

Autonomous vehicles

The GCC has been a global frontrunner in the uptake of autonomous driving, with UAE leading the way. The Dubai Future Foundation in partnership with Dubai Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) launched the Dubai Autonomous Transportation Strategy which aims to make 25 per cent of Dubai transportation autonomous by 2030, saving $6 billion annually. The RTA is currently conducting tests to decide the winners of the Dubai World Challenge for Self-Driving Transport, which are focused on the provision of first/last Mile transportation.

5G supporting the new digital ecosystem

In May this year, Emirates Telecommunication Company, Etisalat, launched the region’s first 5G enabled smartphones. The new 5G networks transfer data 20 times faster than 4G, have a bigger capacity, are more reliable. This vital development is needed to support the emerging ecosystem of digital technologies including IoT, smart cities, cloud computing and autonomous vehicles. According to Globaldata, the number of mobile network subscriptions in the Mena region is expected to be 15.8 million by 2023.

Hydrogen fuel

Shift away from traditional fuel sources to free up crude oil for higher value products and export sees an increase in demand for alternative energy sources. One of the most promising alternative fuels is hydrogen, which can be produced using solar photovoltaic technology.  This will be showcased at Expo 2020 by the use of fuel-cell vehicles that run on hydrogen generated at a solar-driven hydrogen electrolysis facility at Mohammed bin Rashid Solar Park.

Using AI to make the most of VR and AR

Initially gaining popularity through the gaming industry, augmented and virtual reality (AR and VR) are increasingly being used for training, marketing and problem-solving. VR systems can have powerful applications when combined with artificial intelligence (AI). For example, it could be possible to develop a microscope that can highlight cancerous cells or the dashboard of a vehicle that can detect hazards and alert the driver using signals on the dashboard.

Electrification of transport

Electric Vehicles (EVs) potentially are among the most transformative of all emerging technologies, delivering a change as significant as the move from horse-drawn carts and internal combustion engines in the early 2oth century. While electric milk floats and golf buggies have been widely used since the middle of the 20th century, huge leaps forward in battery capacity and materials technology have brought EVs to the edge of becoming mainstream modes of transport.

Their benefits in terms of reducing carbon emissions and energy conservation could be huge. Technical challenges ranging from development of electricity charging infrastructure through to battery capacity and safety capabilities remain to be overcome however before EVs they will become our primary mode of transport.  

3D printing

By 2025, the global 3D printing market is expected account for an annual spend of over $20bn.The Middle East is recognising the potential of additive manufacturing, with Dubai leading the trend with its3D printing strategy, announced in April 2016, which set the ambitious target of all constructing 25 per cent of new buildings using additive manufacturing. The sectors that could see the most benefit from the technology are healthcare – for joints, teeth, medical and training equipment, aerospace, consumer manufacturing and construction.

Food security – Vertical farming and hydroponics

Increasing population, extreme climate conditions and political and economic instability are putting food security in the Middle East high on the political agenda. With the region importing over 50 per cent of its food, governments are looking to boost local production using soil-free methods of farming that are 70 per cent more water efficient than traditional methods and use fewer chemicals. New, vertical farming techniques that require less space can be adopted in urban areas to bring production closer to the consumers.

With these new technological trends disrupting the market, Meed has introduced the third edition of the MEED awards, assessing companies on their initiatives in becoming more technologically advanced. Powered by Parsons (strategic construction partner) and Acwa Power (official power & water partner) the MEED awards is due to close its submission deadlines by the end of this week. – TradeArabia News Service

Recent Developments and Trends in Social Media usage across the region

Recent Developments and Trends in Social Media usage across the region

The latest political upheavals in certain countries of the MENA cannot separate from the recent developments and trends in social media usage across the region. In effect, whether it is those gigantic streets demonstrations of Algiers, Khartoum, and Cairo and more recently those in Bagdad, it is to be acknowledged that these have something to do with the ease and spread of information to and from any movement of their respective populations.
Facebook, of course, with more than 150 million active monthly users would by any standard be first with online Egypt its biggest national market. Besides that, lots of Twitter users in MENA post original content and YouTube channels together with Facebook are turned to for first-hand news, debates and any other information on all those on-going and immediate situations. In response to all that, countries have quickly devised new social media and websites regulations with distinct objectives of monitoring.

The following article on the same social media as used in countries of the GCC is illustrative on the specifics of that sub-region of the MENA’s.


Mohammed Ajawi, general manager at RAW

Mohammed Ajawi discusses how social media is evolving giving some Tech tips: Trends in social interaction in this article by Austyn Allison.

Social media has continuously evolved and adapted to how users use it by presenting new methods and platforms to take advantage of its service. Apart from personal use, social media is a boon for businesses seeking identification, recognition and a broader reach. The integration of artificial intelligence (AI) aims to enhance the social media experience through a variety of tools to target the right audience. In effect, AI is facilitating this journey for businesses by developing a better user experience on social media platforms.

Automation and chatbots

Businesses can no longer afford to overlook the added value and service that chatbots offer in regard to automated responses and replies as a form of a feedback mechanism. Customers today have a plethora of options when it comes to choosing a product or service, and the longer a business’s response time is, the less the chance of a conversion. Thanks to auto-responders, more deals are being closed and locked down without any human interaction than ever before, effectively selling your products or services while you are asleep.

VR and AR adoption

More than 50 per cent of investments in Silicon Valley are currently related to virtual reality (VR), which is a clear indication of its impact and importance, especially when considering its fast integration with social media as a means for further exploring the realm of communication. Alongside it is augmented reality, which has helped businesses offer a real-time view of their product, service or experience, with the sector poised for maximum benefits from AR and VR being leisure and entertainment.

It is all about engagement

According to a 2017 survey, Instagram was rated as the worst social media network for mental health and wellbeing, with the platform contributing to higher levels of anxiety and depression. Experts say that public display of likes has some significant negative impacts. In response, Instagram will no longer publicly display the number of likes in an experiment that will alter how the platform is used, especially regarding influencers, whose main metric is the number of engagements. However, this will emphasise the importance of comments, elevating them as the primary source of a person’s or brand’s true influence.

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