In recent years the Middle-Eastern nations have been at the forefront of new technology adoption. An early indicator of the visionary adoption of new ‘smart’ technologies was announced in 2014, as Dubai’s leader and local government announced the Smart Dubai strategy. The aim is to “provide seamless services to the public” over 6 key pillars: Transport, Communications, Infrastructure, Electricity, Economic Services and Urban Planning. Hundreds of individual initiatives are now underway, many of which are seeing great success and rapid implementation, such as electric car charging stations, free public WiFi and monitoring stations for weather and pollution. Such huge successes in the project over the last 4 years have been repeated in other cities globally, and now many of these technologies are becoming common-place in the world’s technology capitals.
One initiative in particular, however, truly is ground-breaking and, once fully operational, will allow Dubai to call itself the world’s Blockchain capital. Through collaboration with tech giant IBM, the Smart Dubai team recently announced the Dubai Blockchain Platform – the enabler for many of the paperless, frictionless initiatives that form part of the 6-pillar strategy. IBM will build and manage the platform, which will be hosted locally in the UAE, based on their latest LinuxONE technology. This infrastructure will allow for super-high bandwidth performance and will pave the way to make the city’s systems centrally managed though a “united portal” in the coming years. As an early win, the Smart Dubai team announced that the ‘Dubai Pay Blockchain Settlement and Reconciliation System’ has already been embedded onto the platform, with the target of being the first applied initiative which will reduce friction in inter-department payments and automate many of the existing settlement processes.
Additionally, the platform will be opened up to businesses who wish to adopt Blockchain services and solutions. Until today the barriers to entry have been vast, from lack of knowledge and data science skills to the upfront cost of hardware and software required to develop a specialised system. IBM plan to create options for using the platform under a blockchain-as-a-service model, reducing those barriers and allowing for wider-spread experimentation and application. In the case of the IT channel in the region, the platform could be used as a testbed for a number of business initiatives, such as:
- Partner Programme Management – Centralising the process of tracking purchases between a distributor and their resellers, and enabling them to rebate effectively through their loyalty programmes.
- Through-Partner Marketing – Understanding the successfulness of marketing campaigns, through direct tracking of response rates, click-through and location information.
- MDF Optimisation – Managed via smart contracts to ensure that funds are used appropriately, with an added bonus of tracking the ROI more efficiently.
- … and many more
Therefore, Smart Dubai and IBM are opening up a centralised, relatively barrier-free and cost-effective method for testing the true potential of the Blockchain, beyond the hype which followed the spectacular rise and fall of cryptocurrencies in 2017/18. It goes to show that sticking with an initiative and quietly executing on it, whilst the rest of the world rides the wave of hype, really can pay off.