Qatar’s smartest investment
Smart cities are starting to become a commonplace feature within the developed world, as construction and technology companies increasingly join forces to create the most advanced yet user-friendly living situations for citizens. The ‘smart city’ concept is defined as being an urban living space connected by integrated IT (or the Internet of Things), not just within peoples’ homes, but in all available services required in day-to-day life, ensuring a fully digitally-supported lifestyle.
The Middle East has been a trailblazer of smart city innovation, with an especially successful cluster of such companies existing in Israel, particularly Tel Aviv. One of the most recent such developments of this kind is at Lusail City in Qatar, which aims to provide a high-tech environment for residents. Lusail is the newest planned city in Qatar, just 23 kilometres from the centre of Doha, on the coast in the north of the municipality of Al Daayen. It is 38 square kilometres in size and covers four exclusive man-made islands and 19 districts including residential, entertainment, and commercial. It is expected that 450,000 people will live there, and there will be around 22 hotels for visitors, ensuring that Lusail City and Qatar itself will become a hub of investment and international interest.
The planned districts include:
- Commercial Boulevard District
- Commercial Waterfront District
- Waterfront Residential
- Northern Villas District
- Education/Hospital District
- Boulevard Towers
- Entertainment District
- Entertainment Island
- Energy City 1&2
- Golf District
- Fox Hills
- Marina District
- Qetaifan Islands
- Al Khareej Towers
- Media City
- Al Erkya District
Developers plan to use a common fibre optic network infrastructure to integrate all systems and services, and they will be controlled via the Lusail Command & Control Centre (LCCC). This is placed at the heart of the city, and is the hub at which all smart services will be monitored. It is composed of an Operation Centre and a Data Centre, each including a team of dedicated operators keeping the LCCC working at optimal levels.
The LCCC provides three levels of service to residents, the ‘base’ level including mobility, security, municipality administration, telecoms, and traffic management. Value-added services will enrich the experience of the smart city resident and include: emergency, entertainment, marina operations, light control, energy management, utility monitoring, billing, smart card, private parking management, non-traditional communication, and other aspects which can be included to make life ever more easily managed.
The Lusail City project includes a strict public transport strategy, which is expected to cut road traffic incidents enormously, and ensure a swift and organised service. There will be a pedestrian network for walkers, bicycle ways for cyclists, and the promotion of buses, trains, and water taxis to be integrated in what has been named the Future Highway Network Development. A top-of-the-range underground train network is being developed, and emphasis is placed on the conservation of energy.
Sustainability, not always a priority in this region, is an important element of Lusail City. Utilities are a particular focus, and the project boasts district cooling, pneumatic waste collection, and an innovative gas network. City operations and maintenance costs will be lowered due to the integration of all necessary daily services. Lusail City also falls in line with Qatar’s ongoing 2030 national vision and the Kyoto Protocol, which was signed by the nation in 2012 and outlines a strategy to reduce the world’s carbon footprint.
Lusail’s eHome service for within private buildings is perhaps the smartest element of the city. The available functions are diverse and innovative, and include:
- A ‘mood’ function which creates appropriate entertainment atmospheres
- The ability to open curtains and close shutters remotely
- eHome sprinklers which water the garden remotely
- Specific lighting effects
- The opening and closure of the garage door
- The remote turning on and off of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning
- eHome can link to the home’s security systems
- Access to security cameras via the internet
The pinnacle of Lusail City will be its Iconic Stadium, which is set to host the opening and final matches of the 2022 FIFA World Cup. It will have a capacity of at least 80,000 people, and the design is inspired by the sail of a traditional dhow (a lateen-rigged ship). Post-World Cup, and once it has accumulated well-deserved fame, Iconic Stadium will be used to host other sporting events.
Lusail City should be completed by 2019, and will undoubtedly be a cultural and technological jewel in the Middle East’s crown.
GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud
GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.
In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade.
“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.
Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.
By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.
One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.
“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.
Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs.
“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.
The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment.
The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.
One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.
“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.
“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client.
“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”