4IR can help KSA become a global hub for new drone technology

There were also key areas where 4IR technology could be used in the campaign against climate change. (SPA)
There were also key areas where 4IR technology could be used in the campaign against climate change. (SPA)
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Updated 31 July 2021

4IR can help KSA become a global hub for new drone technology

There were also key areas where 4IR technology could be used in the campaign against climate change. (SPA)
  • Improving the Kingdom’s logistical infrastructure is a priority area of the Vision 2030 strategy

DUBAI: Saudi Arabia could become a global center for new drone technology under plans being advanced by the Center for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) recently inaugurated in Riyadh in partnership with the World Economic Forum (WEF).

Mansour Alsaleh, director of the center, told Arab News that heavy lift drone technology had been prioritized by the Kingdom as one of its 4IR projects. “Saudi Arabia can be a leading country in developing the regulatory framework for heavy-lift drones. It can be ahead of the world,” he said.
Heavy lift drone technology has advanced to a stage where it requires a more sophisticated regulatory framework, he said, not just in the Kingdom but globally, and these are being developed in partnership with the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation, the Ministry of Transport and Saudi Aramco. “The applications are endless,” Alsaleh said.
Advanced drones have been used to deliver vaccines in Africa in the course of the pandemic, and American drone manufacturers have also been accelerating their efforts to transport heavy loads — up to 500kg depending on the technology — to locations with poor access. Improving the Kingdom’s logistical infrastructure was identified as a priority area of the Vision 2030 strategy, and drones are seen as a key enhancer of existing transport systems.
“By integrating these two mutually supportive components of regulatory transformation and pilot tests, Saudi Arabia can be a model for the rest of the world while supporting its own industrial development and social goals,” the WEF said in a recent report of which Alsaleh was a co-author.




Mansour Alsaleh

Alsaleh said that the Kingdom had identified 70 opportunities to apply 4IR technologies, and was prioritizing plans in five other areas, apart from drone technology — artificial intelligence (AI), the Internet of Things (IoT), blockchain, government data systems, and “smart cities” such as NEOM.
Each potential project goes through four stages, he explained: Identifying and selection; framework development in partnership with other stakeholders; prototyping and testing; and scaling up within a regulatory framework.
At the recent two-day event run from Riyadh to celebrate the inauguration of the 4IR center, many speakers underlined the need for partnership between government and other parts of the economy and society. Alsaleh reinforced that view. “We are looking for an eco-system, involving the public and regulatory sector, along with private industry and research and academia. It is about having the right blend between those areas,” he said.
One of the challenges was to identify technology at an early stage and take it through the phases of “sandboxing” and testing to further development, even as a regulatory framework was being fully developed. “Sometimes you have just got to take the risk,” he said. Some experts have warned of the challenges associated with rapid technological development, such as vulnerability to cyberattack and concerns over data privacy, but Alsaleh was confident these issues could be met and overcome. “There is no one single recipe to solve these challenges, we need to tackle them one by one. But if we focus more on the benefits that will flow from 4IR technology, it will help you overcome the challenges. We have to minimize the risks from emerging technologies,” he said.
The impact of 4IR technologies cuts across all aspects of human social and economic activity, Alsaleh said. “You cannot limit it to one particular sector, it is everywhere. If you do not keep up with the pace and become an early adopter, you will fall behind,” he explained, underlining the need to strike a balance between the “explore” and “exploit” phases of a 4IR project. But he said that IoT and AI technologies had great market value and could be used in multiple different applications. “You never know what will be shaping the future,” he said.
There were also key areas where 4IR technology could be used in the campaign against climate change. “We have the Circular Carbon Economy initiative. To make a clean energy transition, 4IR must be at the heart of that,” Alsaleh said.
Advanced technologies have been crucial in helping confront the big issues presented by the pandemic, and some changes — such as remote working via virtual communication systems — may become a permanent feature of the post-pandemic world.
Saudi Arabia is one of 13 centers for 4IR around the world, and Alsaleh said the benefits would have global impact.

“Organizations such as the WEF and 4IR are reaching out to everybody. It is all accessible and everyone can benefit from the work,” he said.


Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress

Updated 23 sec ago

Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress

Saudi team’s performance at robotics summit to pave way for more progress

RIYADH/JEDDAH: As the Saudi team secured sixth place in a contest at the World Robot Summit held in Japan, the chief of the Research Products Development Co. (RPDC) expressed optimism over Kingdom’s plan to promote artificial intelligence and build a strong robotics base in the Kingdom.

Abdulmohsen Al-Majnouni told Arab News that it was a major accomplishment as the Kingdom “is building its capabilities” to bring about the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

The company is owned by Taqnia, a subsidiary of the Public Investment Fund. Officials of the Research Products Development Co. led the Saudi robotics team, which competed with 16 other countries at the summit and qualified for the final contest.

“Inspired by the Kingdom’s Vision 2030, our national robotics team of young men and women, under the leadership of Dr. Nahid Sidki, the chief technology officer of RPDC, reached the final competition. The journey to the summit included qualification round of 119 international teams where 16 teams managed to reach the finals in the industrial challenge,” he said.

According to Saudi Minister of Communications and Information Technology Abdullah Alsawaha, advanced technology from the Fourth Industrial Revolution is expected to generate around SR1 trillion for the Saudi economy in new revenue streams.

The Kingdom will enjoy economic boosts from robotics, artificial intelligence, and wireless production models as it pushes for smarter cities and infrastructure.

“This accomplishment is inspiring to both our young men and women and to our leadership. We do not need to wait until 2030 to start achieving our targets. They are closer than many (people) think. With the government's support, we can start building amazing capabilities in robotics and AI and transform the Kingdom into a highly competitive economy,” said RPDC COO Dr. Mashal Al-Harbi. 

The secret to achieving the target, he said, is to find “passionate, dedicated and smart talent, engaging them in challenging projects for hands-on experience and supporting them with the needed resources and guidance to unlock their full potential.”

The World Robot Summit is supported by Japan’s Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry; and the Energy Industrial Technology Development Organization. It aims to expedite the development of robotics and AI technologies to support the Fourth Industrial Revolution. 

“They open it up to the world to inspire young men and women to solve a very challenging problem. We managed to develop an innovative architecture to address the challenge and our talented team worked hard for almost two years despite the COVID-19 lockdown and the many challenges we faced,” said Sidki.

“The accomplishment is a reminder to our young talent that only through the dedication and hard work we can accomplish what others consider impossible,” he said.

“My message to Saudi young men and women is to follow your dreams and unlock your full potential and don’t let fear drive your ambition. Moving forward, we expect Saudi Arabia’s young talent to be major competitors in international AI and Robotics competitions,” the company’s chief technology officer said.


Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector

Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector
Updated 51 min 6 sec ago

Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector

Egypt’s sovereign fund eyes investment in fintech sector

RIYADH: The Sovereign Fund of Egypt is exploring investment opportunities in the fintech sector with a focus on small and medium projects, Ayman Suliman said in a CNBC Arabiya interview.

Talking about investments in other sectors, the chief executive officer of the fund said the tourism sector represents 20-20 percent of the fund's total investments.

Suliman also mentioned the fund’s plans to transform the historic Bab Al-Azab area in Cairo’s Salah Al-Din Al-Ayoubi Citadel into the first integrated innovation zone in the Middle East and North Africa.  

He said several projects in the health sector are also being studied such as the expansion of pharmaceutical exports.

“The health sector is a mainstay in the fund’s investment portfolio,” the CEO added.

The fund aims to attract private investments in Egypt’s underutilized assets and create wealth for future generations and boost the country’s economic growth.


Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies

Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies
Updated 21 September 2021

Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies

Abu Dhabi to use drones to deliver medical supplies

DUBAI: Abu Dhabi is working on plans to add advances drones to its health sector’s supply chain, said an official statement.

Drones will be used to deliver medical supplies, medicine and blood units, vaccines and samples between laboratories, pharmacies, blood banks across healthcare facilities around the city in a safe manner.

The project will create a state-of-the-art delivery system and network using drones at 40 stations throughout the year 2022, the statement said. 

The project is a collaboration between Abu Dhabi’s Department of Health, the General Civil Aviation Authority, SkyGo and Matternet. It will leverage existing advanced infrastructure to transform healthcare logistics.

It aligns with the year of preparation for the “UAE Projects of the 50,” the UAE's Fourth Industrial Revolution Strategy, and broader strategies to position Abu Dhabi as a global hub for innovation. 

The statement issued by the Abu Dhabi Government Media Office said: The use of drones will yield environmental benefits with a reduction in CO2 emissions and reduced road traffic congestion.” 

SkyGo and Matternet have completed phase one of testing and are now working on phase two, which will be finalized by the end of this year and will address all aviation safety requirement and risk assessments.


Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries

Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries
Updated 21 September 2021

Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries

Oil, equities appear to shake off Evergrande worries
  • Evergrande, founded in 1996, is one of China’s biggest builders of apartments, office towers and shopping malls

LONDON: Oil and equities finally appeared to shake off concerns that have plagued financial markets in recent days following the crisis at China’s largest property group Evergrande.

Most economists now believe there is little risk of wider global financial market contagion from the problems at Evergrande which is on the verge of defaulting on its massive $300 billion debt pile.

Indeed, it emerged that funds run by US asset management giant BlackRock and global bank HSBC appeared to have embarked on a “buying the dip” strategy and increased their holdings of Evergrande bonds as the developer’s liquidity crisis was intensifying.

Data by Morningstar reveals BlackRock bought up five different Evergrande dollar bonds through one of its high-yield funds, which had holdings in the developer then worth $18 million, in August.

An HSBC-run high yield fund also purchased Evergrande’s debt over the summer. The Morningstar data revealed the fund increased bond holdings by 38 percent since February, but the value of the fund’s total exposure at $31m declined over the same period due to falling prices.
Ashmore, the emerging market investment specialist, is understood to have the highest exposure with more than $400 million of its bonds. UBS had close to $300 million of exposure to Evergrande bonds.

Patrick Ge, manager research analyst at Morningstar, said: “We’ve seen a few funds adding to China Evergrande between July and August 2021, given widening spreads and attractive valuations. This is in line with what we have heard from some managers where they said that at its current levels, they believe Evergrande is a buy.”

Evergrande’s Hong Kong-traded shares have fallen 85 percent this year and its bonds have also been downgraded by global credit ratings agencies.

Simon MacAdam from Capital Economics said: “A managed default or even messy collapse of Evergrande would have little global impact beyond some market turbulence.”

However, Chinese regulators, who are understood to be looking at breaking the company up, have so far failed to provide any details about how they will resolve Evergrande’s $300 billion debt pile.

China watchers only expect the government to intervene if the company and its lenders fail to agree on how to handle its debts.

JP Morgan analyst, Frank Pan, said Evergrande was likely to go through the same process as developer China Fortune Land, which defaulted on $530m of dollar-denominated debt earlier this year.

Pan said: “That means a standstill for all creditors while allowing operations to continue.”

After a decade of warnings from economist on the threat posed by China’s rising debt levels, Beijing’s financial regulator last year imposed much tighter limits on real estate-related borrowing.

Evergrande has $18 billion of outstanding foreign-currency bonds, mostly held by Chinese banks and other institutions. 

Fears persist that China’s property sector, which has been a central engine of the country’s economic expansion, is facing an unprecedented slowdown because of the current tightened credit conditions.

If property companies default on their debts, investors who hold their bonds could find their finances under pressure, forcing them to sell other investments to raise cash, which could in turn impact on other markets beyond property and beyond China.

Evergrande, founded in 1996, is one of China’s biggest builders of apartments, office towers and shopping malls.

It is estimated to have more than 200,000 employees and supports almost 4 million jobs in construction and other industries through 1,300 projects in 280 cities across China.

Evergrande’s founder, Xu Jiayin, was China’s richest entrepreneur in 2017 with a net worth of $43 billion and remains the country’s richest real estate developer.


CMA approves Al Hasoob's listing on Nomu

CMA approves Al Hasoob's listing on Nomu
Updated 21 September 2021

CMA approves Al Hasoob's listing on Nomu

CMA approves Al Hasoob's listing on Nomu

RIYADH: Al Hasoob, the computer and electronics retailer with seven branches throughout Saudi Arabia, has won Capital Market Authority (CMA) approval to list on the parallel Nomu market.

The offer of 280,000 shares to qualified investors represents 20 percent of the company’s share capital, the CMS said in a filing on Tuesday.

No date was provided for the listing, but the CMA's approval is valid for six months and will be cancelled if the offering and listing of the Company's shares does not happen within this period.