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Enabling smart cities: forward-thinking investments are vital to the Kingdom’s future

Abdulrahman Al Moaiqel, TAWAL’s Chief Commercial Officer, details how “TAWAL” the leading ICT infrastructure is laying the groundwork for the Kingdom’s future-readiness.

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Smart cities are an essential component of Saudi Arabia’s national transformation and economic diversification plans. The use of technology as a facilitator and enabler has been specifically highlighted in Saudi Vision 2030 as well as the National Transformation Plan. Since the launch of Vision 2030 in 2016, the nation has begun work on smart pilots and projects across at least ten cities.

According to the World Economic Forum, urbanization is a megatrend that is shaping the world. People are concentrating in urban centers, which are becoming larger and more complex. Since 1950, the world’s urban population has risen by almost 600%. Over the next few decades, urban populations will continue to shoot up to 6 billion people and beyond.

Making cities smart is essential to ensuring that these large populations can be catered for while effectively providing public services and ensuring a high quality of life.

The first prerequisite of a smart city is connectivity. Without the infrastructure that enables people, organizations, and devices to connect, a smart city could not exist.

TAWAL’s role starts here — in creating the fundamental and foundational ICT building blocks that enable the exchange of data and information. As the first tower company in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, TAWAL designs, builds and operates state of the art telecom infrastructure. Where telecom towers and fixed fiber lay the backbone of connectivity throughout the Kingdom.

The second prerequisite for a smart city is a hardware layer that gathers data at the source. This includes smart sensors and Internet of Things devices that can record, store, and transmit information about the world around them. Examples include smart meters for energy consumption, smart light controls, vehicle sensors, surveillance equipment, and much more, serving as a smart city’s eyes and ears.

This hardware layer works with the connectivity infrastructure built into the fabric of a smart city, ensuring that data isn’t just gathered but also communicated. On this front, TAWAL again offers a number of cutting-edge solutions. Its Smart Tower is capable of hosting multiple IoT-enabled smart sensors. TAWAL Smart Pole, which is 5G-equipped, can carry weather sensors, surveillance cameras, Electric Vehicle charging stations and other equipment. Small cells and in-building solutions offer other powerful ways of connecting the physical world with the digital.

This rich picture of data and connectivity is brought together in an application layer comprising storage and analytics. Here, deep data lakes, machine learning algorithms and AI sift through the data to create insights, turning into actionable intelligence. Data is compiled into reports and easy-to-read metrics that users can access through app platforms. The application layer empowers decision-makers, and acts as the brains guiding the real-time nervous system of a smart city.

At TAWAL, we aim to make infrastructure shared for all connectivity and hardware required for cognitive cities in a similar way to cloud revolution to datacenters. Sharing infrastructure will accelerate the development of smart cities and has different benefits. It is a way of reducing the costs of investing in networks, increasing the value of the business, optimizing the allocation and use of infrastructures when duplication is impossible, and guaranteeing compliance with regulatory obligations.

Through sharing infrastructure, TAWAL assists in accelerating the roll-out of the 5G network and related future technologies, including IoT functions, while making a positive impact on the local community and ensuring environmental sustainability.

Ultimately, we strive to be as government-aligned as possible, working closely with local leadership to accomplish the goals of Saudi Vision 2030. In this way, we regard ourselves, TAWAL, as a supporter of the Kingdom — a partner committed to advancing its progress and economic diversification. A forward-looking organization, we are not just focused on serving today’s client needs through ICT solutions; we are investing in the nation’s future. Smart cities are essential to catering for an urban-centric tomorrow, and we are laying the foundation of limitless possibilities.