Growing MENA’s energy and water industry with digitalisation
Following the release of ‘Energy and Utilities Market Outlook 2020’, digitalisation has been identified as a key driver for energy and water supply in the MENA.
Commissioned by Informa Markets, the most recent report highlights the “tremendous growth opportunities for those willing to become digital champions of the global power community.”
Key areas of opportunity include:
Smart lighting - forecasted to reach US$2.1bn by 2023
Smart grid investment - forecasted to reach US$17.6bn by 2027
Overall sector profitability - forecasted to increase by 20-30%
Dr. Josef Petek, Manager of Commercial Operations at ENEXSA, highlights the increasingly high levels of complexity within energy and water supply, and the need for digitalisation to combat this. “Today, complex tasks must be solved within a short space of time, and every decision must be based on profound knowledge of the current situation and the understanding of the effects of the measures to be taken. Digitalisation not only means creating more information through many more measurements, but also understanding the complex interrelations in the processes so that intelligent devices and large-scale optimisation systems can become effective.”
Petek further comments that “digitalisation is the key ingredient to make the energy and water supply resilient, effective and affordable. Making the right dispatch decisions that will make maximum use of renewable energy sources while at the same time ensuring that the demand can always be met by the most efficient generation assets of the fleet requires good data, good models, and effective algorithms to support the decision makers.“
All over the world, “Digitalisation is playing an increasingly prominent role in industries, and the energy sector is ripe for transformation,” adds Claudia Konieczna, Exhibition Director, Middle East Energy.
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Nybl: Saudi Startup to Expand AI Solutions
According to co-founder Nour Alnahhas, nybl was formed for the greater good. A visual data mining and machine learning platform, the platform will help organisations streamline their operations. ‘We wanted to centralise our vision around AI and machine learning’, said Alnahhas. ‘Something not just for profit, but added value. Conscious capitalism’.
Nybl aims to democratise artificial intelligence by making it possible for anyone to build an AI solution. What website builders like Wix and Squarespace did for site design, nybl will do for AI—allowing even non-coders to feel comfortable creating solutions. In fact, Alnahhas calls it a ‘Shopify of AI’, or a third-party platform that helps businesses deliver better service.
With hubs in Kuwait, the UAE, North America, and India, nybl is focused on launching operations in Saudi Arabia, Alnahhas’s home country. When the company first launched, it was difficult to convince Saudi Arabian businesses to work with a startup. Yet now, nybl has proven itself. ‘We had support in the UAE, so now we’re coming back’, said Alnahhas.
Alnahhas has launched a pilot with Saudi Aramco and has slowly built partnerships with paper, heating, HVAC air conditioning, and manufacturing companies. In addition, the Saudi government has started to invest in the Kingdom’s National Strategy for Data and AI, which means that nbyl, as a tech startup, has finally gained credibility.
No War for Talent
One of the most critical parts of nybl’s expansion will be hiring the right individuals. Thankfully, there’s a current surplus of talented researchers, developers, and data scientists within the Kingdom. Like nybl’s Alnahhas—educated at the University of Houston, the Wharton School of Business, and INSEAD— many Saudi Arabians have benefited from government-sponsored education abroad.
Last year, Saudi Arabia signed several partnerships with tech firms to advance the Kingdom’s skills in artificial intelligence. ‘It’s exciting to be in Saudi Arabia where there’s alignment and support’, Alnahhas concluded. ‘You’re getting an increasing talent pool. And even old and big family conglomerates are finally changing to use AI’.