Orange signs ICT consulting deal for world's tallest tower in Saudi Arabia

14 March 2018

Orange Business Services have signed a deal to develop the information and communications technology infrastructure for Saudi Arabia’s Jeddah Tower, set to be the world’s tallest building at a height of over one kilometer.

Orange Business Services, the consulting and B2B services arm of French telecommunications firm Orange S.A. (formerly France Télécom), has signed a smart city consulting agreement with Jeddah Economic Company (JEC), the master developers of the Jeddah Tower in Saudi Arabia. The firm has been tasked with developing an end-to-end blueprint for the monumental tower’s ICT infrastructure.

Backed by Saudi prince Al-Waleed bin Talal, the chairman of JEC’s co-founder Kingdom Holding Company, the Jeddah Tower will act as the dizzying centerpiece of the 5.3 million square meter Jeddah Economic City Project, a $20 billion smart city development situated on the Red Sea north of the country’s second largest center.

The tower’s final elevation is still being kept under wraps, but at over one kilometer in height will be at least 175-odd meters taller than the world’s next tallest building – the Burj Khalifa skyscraper of Dubai. As a contrast, the Jeddah Tower will stand at more than twice the height of the Petronas Towers of Kuala Lumpur, which at 450m were the world’s tallest construction up until 2004.

Orange signs ICT consulting deal for world's tallest tower in Saudi Arabia

“In Saudi Arabia, smart city projects are gaining momentum fast and are setting the pace for the region’s rapidly growing economic and technological developments planned under the Saudi National Vision 2030,” Luc Serviant, the vice president of Orange Business Services (OBS) for MENA, said of the announcement.

“Orange brings a wealth of experience in developing infrastructures and smart services for smart cities on a global level, together with insights, innovations and expertise. This includes cutting-edge digital technologies that will have a transformative impact on the way people live and how businesses will work in the future. We are delighted to be working with JEC to help them achieve their vision of transformation in the Kingdom.”

Commenting on the OBS appointment, the CEO of Jeddah Economic City, Mounib Hammoud said, “The implementation of the smart city components is considered as an essential step for delivering an environmentally friendly self-sustainable project.” At the signing ceremony, Kingdom Holding Company’s CEO Talal Almaiman added, “we will spare no effort in using the top digital technologies for smarter living and working environment.”

Regional footprint

With over 2000 employees and a fifty-year presence in the MENA region, OBS, through its major local offices in Riyadh, Cairo, Beirut, and Dubai, has been notably active in respect to the burgeoning smart city enterprises of Saudi Arabia and the greater Gulf. Such projects include the $70 billion King Abdullah Financial District in Riyadh, and the Msheireb Downtown Doha redevelopment in Qatar. In addition to infrastructure operations, OBS bills itself as a technology integrator, offering clients a variety of integrated digital technologies, including, among others, Big Data and IoT, cloud computing, and cybersecurity.

Reflecting on the region’s appetite for smart cities in an interview last year, Mohammed Adnane Retni, the consulting firm's Head of Orange Applications for Business in IMEAR, said; “The example of the Middle East is revealing. Those countries actively developing smart cities or smart components of urban areas enjoy significant advantages and benefits, from clear and visionary leadership, well organised and very committed approach to projects and the resources to deliver fast results. They are also hungry for innovation and with the benefits of greenfield sites and few legacy constraints, real innovation is a possibility.”

Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in Dubai

18 April 2019

The Middle East branch of international construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has launched a new innovation hub in Dubai

Following the appointment of ex-Ramboll exec Abdulmajid Karanouhas as its Head of Interdisciplinary Design & Innovation earlier this year to spearhead the firm’s R&D drive in the Middle East, the local branch of German-origin construction and real estate consultancy Drees & Sommer has now launched a new innovation hub in Dubai – designed as a collaborative environment to serve both external start-ups and its own employees.

“It has always been part of our corporate culture to promote our own ideas and initiatives,” said Drees & Sommer executive board member Steffen Szeidl. “Increasingly, digital transformation and our clients are calling for completely new and disruptive business models. The Innovation Centre is one of our responses to these challenges. All 3,200 staff members can upload their ideas virtually.”

According to Szeidl, from there, promising concepts and solutions addressing identified market gaps in areas such as planning, construction and operations will be developed, funded and localised for any market which sees the potential. He continues: “Adding the Dubai innovation hub emphasises our status as a global innovation company by being one of the few companies doing R&D in this region.”Construction consultancy Drees & Sommer launches innovation hub in DubaiLocally established in 2003, Drees & Sommer was founded close to 50 years ago in Stuttgart, since growing to include some 40 offices worldwide, with its global headcount of 3,200 professionals generating revenues upwards of $430 million in 2017. The firm’s offerings span the gamut of real estate and infrastructure requirements, delivered according to its ‘blue way’, which takes into account economic, functionality, and ecological aspects together.

This, for Drees & Sommer, is an important point in the regional context.  “There is a huge demand in this market for contextual solutions as most models and systems are imported from abroad with little to no adaptation to the local culture, economy, and environment,” explains Karanouh. “As a consequence of this approach, we are facing major challenges related to user-comfort, efficiency, manageability, durability, and overall sustainability and feasibility of the built environment in the region.”

Accordingly, the firm has tailored each of its innovation hubs rolled out so far across the world to drive specific initiatives. In Aachen, Germany’s ‘Silicon Valley’, for example, there is a focus on customised smart buildings, IoT product testing and cyber-security, while the firm’s Stuttgart hub focuses on start-ups and processes and its Berlin one on smart cities and smart quarters. The Netherlands hub meanwhile focuses on wellbeing and sustainable innovation.

Karanouh: “The innovation hub brings together specialists of various disciplines from across the industry as a single interdisciplinary team that advises clients from early feasibility studies all the way to operation and revitalisation of buildings to maximise comfort, efficiency, sustainability, return of investment and overall value. The platform allows for brainstorming ideas, identifying market gaps and needs, adapting existing solutions or/and developing new solutions tailored to the local market and environment.”