06 Apr SecurMiddleEast Dubai 2022
March 2022 marked a return of the SecurMiddleEast Symposium a series of events devoted to sharing best practice, collective wisdom and thoughts and ideas from a host of global leaders in the field of security.
The latest event –the first to be held in 2022 and the third in the successful series – was devoted to the topic of smart cities. Particularly aptly it was held in Dubai, a key example of a smart city, on the 10th March at The Westin Dubai Mina Seyahi.
We were joined by hundreds of security professionals. Many were able to join us in-person, where they also had the chance to attend a networking lunch. Many others tuned in virtually to hear from our speakers.
We were delighted to have such a high calibre of speakers join us for the Dubai event who were willing to share their expertise gained at the cutting edge of the security industry and drawn from decades of high-level industry experience. The event was led by our compere Richard Burns, Chairman of ISS and well-known figure within the security industry.
Building a safe city
Eng. Arif Al Janahi, Director of Security Engineering, SIRA, took our audience on a tour of the requirements, challenges and technologies involved in transforming Dubai into a leading example of a smart city. He unpicked the various layers of a safe city and how a smart city vision can be achieved.
He said: “Same as before IP systems are combined with IT systems… now safe cities and smart cities are the same. They are becoming integrated, because information is information.” But he continued to explain that this information can also be the biggest hurdle for smart city projects: “Everyone is so protective about the information that they have that we don’t have any transparency… The biggest weakness in any digitisation is people themselves. The culture. So safe city is all about peace of mind.
In his key note he also explained how practices have evolved over time and his opinion that those advocating for new technology should be held accountable if they fail. He told our audience: “One of the regulations that I proposed last week is that if a person sells something which is an over expectation and it doesn’t work, he has to be criminally charged. This is related to a safe city, so if a person comes in and says my camera does this, this, this and it didn’t do (that) and the crime happens then he must be partially responsible for that crime. People will be more responsible.”
Although Sameer Sharma, Global GM, Intel, wasn’t able to be in the room in person, he did join us all the way from Northern California via weblink, where he took part in a fireside chat with Burns.
Burns suggested that when it comes to smart cities, technologists have a tendency to overpromise and under-deliver – something Sharma acknowledged: “Sometimes we tend to overestimate how quickly a technology transition will happen but you also almost always under estimate how far reaching the consequences will be.”
He said: “I think if you look at any sort of technology based transition, we go through this sort of graph of excitement, a little bit of disappointment and then we come out of the trough of the disappointment to talk about what is pragmatically possible. I can give you multiple examples from my own career, my own experience.”
He also discussed the standards of the implementation of smart city technology and how it’s not as straight forward as them being replicable, scalable and readily adoptable globally. In many cases one size does not fit all.
He said: “When we talk about the deployment of smart cities technology I think we have to factor in the reality that every city in the world has different demographics; when it comes to the state of infrastructure, things look different; the policies, the cultural expectations, all of these have to be factored in.
“So from a technology perspective, I would love to be able to create one blueprint and deploy that in the same way in different parts of the world. The fact is we are all unique, our cities are unique and we need to find common themes but we need to be able to customise the needs of every city.”
He rounded off his chat by talking not of smart cities but of happy cities: “Ultimately for me, the right criteria for a smart city – even though smart equals technology in a lot of peoples’ minds – is not about smartness. It’s about happiness. The happiness of its citizens. So if I could rebrand smart cities I would call them happy cities. Because that’s the ultimate goal.”
The smart city debate
Our final session for Dubai 2022 was our panel discussion which bought together Alusio Figueiredo, CEO, ISS; Mohannad Salam, Regional Lead, Smart Cities & Digital Twin, Atkins; Christie Bear, Managing Director, G2K; James Connolly, Regional Director, Darktrace and Nabil Cheqroun, Regional General Manager, Honeywell.
To start our panellists were asked to define what a smart city was, with Christie talking about how we need to think beyond geography. She explained: “A smart city is whatever geography the client wants to gain intelligent business analytics from… The world is getting smaller and smaller and we need to think beyond the geography we can see and bring in the analytics globally that can help predict now into the future here and in other places what’s going to happen and taken action.”
Mohannad was quick to point out how Dubai as carved a reputation as a leading example of a smart city: “Dubai is a pioneer in this region. So Dubai benchmarked a lot of those cities (earlier smart cities such as Barcelona and Tokyo) and took a lot of success stories from there and implemented them here in Dubai. What we saw in Dubai in the past five or six years was nothing like in the region now. We see a lot of projects happening or taking over in Saudi Arabi but I’d say that this is more of a community project rather than a full city scale project like what we saw in Dubai. We’re blessed to be here with this leadership where we saw a real smart city project and that led us to see the quality of life that the old place here.”
Of course the event involved plenty of talk around smart city technologies, most notably artificial intelligence. Talking about the use of AI on projects, Aluisio, commented: “AI is the type of communication used in all parts of the eco system and more and more we see this being standardised. You cannot be hostage to a certain technology here, and they change quite often. So what we see is basically tonnes of information going to a central location being processed and generating reactions. This is not to replace the human being. We are multiplying the force. It is providing and streamlining the information so they can take quick reactions.”
Talking about the disparity of outcomes in societies where smart technologies are used and not used, Nabil picked up on Sharma’s idea of happy cities. He said: “It all starts with leadership. Disparities between people within the same communities or a challenge for the leadership. To name the UAE as an example, the leadership has been systematically focusing on happiness… Treating people equally with the sustainability and happiness approach is the leadership vision. Now we can take examples where we should actually be doing more to avoid those gaps. We need to start somewhere.”
“Happiness might be the vision if you like,” joined in James, “the end goal. I would say a lot of the cases where we’ve been doing an evaluation or a project with a client, it’s very, very often if the data is wrong going in to whatever it may be – like an AI model or an initiative – you’re going to get the wrong outcomes coming out.”
He finished with some advice for listeners: “One of the big things I’d recommend to the room is with these initiatives and with these kind of projects where the data is and where it’s coming from and the quality of that data is often really, really key as well.”