This week’s Inspire Middle East goes high-tech as we focus on the big and small innovations that will be impacting tomorrow’s world. We feature an exclusive interview with the CEO of Hyperloop One, the 700-mile-per-hour magnetic vehicle that is set to disrupt logistics in the region and potentially replace train travel. Plus, we introduce Dubai Police’s newest recruit, a real-life Robocop and spotlight the Future Tech Week event.
Hyperloop One, spearheaded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group, is looking to shake up transportation in the Middle East with the rollout of a cargo and passenger network of levitating pods.
This week they teamed up with global port operator DP World to announce the roadmap, in a conference for press and VIP guests held on board the historic ocean liner QE, which is docked in Dubai.
The 100 percent electric system – where pods move within a low-pressure tube - will create a backbone for DP World’s supply chain.
It will also enable the UAE-based container-handler and terminal operator to deliver goods and services to businesses and consumers at the speed of flight (up to 3 times faster than high-speed rail) whilst also slashing costs.
“Seeing a container on the back of a train, it could take four days to move containers in a certain destination. We can do that in sixteen hours but, instead of the price of the air freight, we could do this at one eighth the cost,” Rob Lloyd, CEO of Hyperloop One told Inspire Middle East.
Llyod explained that as we move towards an ‘on-demand economy’, transportation and delivery infrastructures haven't fully adapted to this evolution. And that’s why the company’s hyperfast and less costly delivery plans would bring big changes to the retail market worldwide, in addition to its major impact on travel and commuting.
The CEO of Hyperloop One also revealed his ambitious idea of connecting the Gulf region with hyperspeed vehicles.
“I think the biggest idea that we think possible, perhaps in the world, is to be able to go from Jabel Ali through Abu Dhabi, through to Riyadh, Jeddah on the Red Sea and then connect all of the G.C.C. countries. In doing so we could create a competitive advantage with the leapfrog technology and infrastructure that no other region of the world has,” he said.
As to whether this possibility is already on the table, Lloyd said “conversations” are taking place. He added that HRH Mohammad bin Salman, Crown Prince of Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, seemed impressed with the concept:
“There is a lot of discussion about building a G.C.C. rail network. Perhaps he [the Crown Prince] stopped and thought: ‘why would we build a rail network based on 100-year-old technology when we could be leapfrogging to something that is purpose-built for this environment, [protected] from sand and wind?’”
The Hyperloop project in the UAE marks the fourth exploration of Virgin’s technology which is also being looked into in the UK, India and the United States.
INTRODUCING THE MIDDLE EAST’S REAL-LIFE ROBOCOP
Another tech innovation that presents an important economic opportunity in the Middle East is Artificial Intelligence. According to PricewaterhouseCoopers, a $320bn contribution to the regional economy is predicted by 2021.
Dubai Police was quick to realise this potential, with their first robotic recruit appearing on the scene last year.
Brigadier Khalid Al Razooqi, who heads the force’s Artificial Intelligence Department, is putting into action his futuristic vision of law enforcement.
“We are spending a huge amount of money on those technologies, but we have to think the other way, for the outcome. The artificial intelligence that is going to cover also the crime prevention,” he explains.
Standing at 5.5ft tall and weighing 100kgs, the robot is still in the testing phase. But police say that by the end of this year its functions will include allowing people to report crimes and even paying their traffic fines when they visit the station.
The robotic officer relies heavily on facial recognition technology to identify and store information about those interacting with it and all the data is then sent via a live stream to the police operations room.
Dubai's police force stands at more than 15,000 and by 2030 Brigadier Al Razooqi believes that as much as 25% of the staff will be robots.
AI-SPARKED FUTURE TECH WEEK HITS DUBAI
Following the trend, AI technology was also featured at this year’s Future Tech Week in Dubai, which showcased the groundbreaking innovations of 120 exhibitors from more than 80 different countries.
Integration between human and machine spurred excitement on the ground, with Artificial Intelligence artists, an app that transforms humming into musical compositions and body-controlled jet engine suits.
With artificial intelligence developing so quickly, one of the main questions at the event was if human labour will soon become obsolete? A report by McKinsey estimates that 45% percent of jobs people are paid to perform today will eventually be replaced by machines.
However, expert Gary Thompson, regional director of consulting company Rokaboat believes that won’t exactly be the case.
“What’s going to happen is that those monotonous tasks are going to be taken away [….] so humans become more subject matter experts rather than rekeying manual work,” he explained at the event.
SOCIAL EYES: INSPIRED TALENT TRENDING ONLINE
Czech-Angolan singer Ben Cristovao got to grips with virtual reality in this video clip from Dubai.
Jordanian architect Riyad from the Middle East Architecture Lab grappled with a 3D printer in this post, as he gave a workshop in the UAE.
And drone operator Anthony from the Philipines captured this picture whilst filming with a TV commercial in Abu Dhabi.