This page highlights the applications of emerging technologies as well as investments adopted by various entities to support innovation and keep pace with the developments of the 4th Industrial Revolution.
The Government Innovation Initiative:
The Government Innovation Initiative is established to support innovation and creativity in government entities providing effective proposals that contribute in finding innovative solutions to enhance the governmental performance and increase its efficiency in various fields. The initiative aims to reduce time and effort required to provide a service while maintaining the highest standards of quality and effectiveness. This is fulfilled by using unconventional patterns and emerging technologies such as Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, IoT, Cloud Computing, Virtual Reality Applications and other procedures that are considered a paradigm shift in supporting advanced governmental performance.
Some measure applications of emerging technologies:
The Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs has employed Artificial Intelligence (AI) and the Internet of Things (IOT) technologies in order to find an analytical environment for the Ministry’s operational systems. This project is implemented in three phases across 6 months. The first phase aims at establishing a data warehouse in which the data is collected from all the Ministry’s operational systems and stored in a data lake, which is created as an ideal environment for easier searching and analysis. The second phase concerns establishing a data analysis system related to the mosques and their assets using IA technology. This system involves monitoring and maintaining the mosques’ operational data, such as electricity and water data, using special algorithms. The last phase focuses on setting-up a special system for managing zakat and charity donations .
Advanced technologies are widely used in Oman to reduce traffic congestions, facilitate movement and provide transportation and smart parking. This is clearly reflected in the use of ITS system by Mwasalat, which includes a mobile app, passengers and cargo details, reservation system, electronic tickets, and buses and drivers monitoring system. It is also reflected in launching Baladiyeti mobile app, by Muscat Municipality, which provides parking reservation services and e-payment of parking violations. In addition, smart parking has been provided in many places in Oman such as Knowledge Oasis- Muscat and some government entities like the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs.
Currently, studies are being conducted to explore the possibility of using the Hyperloop technology to transport passengers and cargos with a speed of 1000 km/h in low-pressure pipes. When applied, the technology shall connect Muscat to Abu Dhabi and Dubai as well as connecting the north to the south of Oman.
In addition, drones are under study to be used in transport and logistics in the oil and gas industry and factory logistics as per a memorandum of understanding signed by Oman Technology Fund to find intelligent solutions for transport and delivery using this technology.
Moreover, Oman Airports has introduced electronic immigration gates (E-gates) to make the entry and exit process easier with no more waiting in long queues to get the passport stamped upon entering and exiting the country. Similarly, an automated gate has been launched at Sohar Port to help reduce the waiting time for ships at the port which resulted in achieving a growth of 6% in the first quarter of the same year the port was launched.
Many Omani companies and factories merge design with production through the use of 3D modeling software or computer-aided design such as Bilad Oman , which is specialized in design, fabrication and erection of pre-engineered buildings and structural steel works.
Work has started to build the Oman-Qatar buses assembly factory in Duqm, which will be equipped with the latest technologies in the field. The factory will be the first of its kind in the Sultanate.
A smart wheelchair that can be controlled using eye tracking technology has been made to facilitate the movement of paralyzed people or who have lost their fingers or limbs. It features the capability of turning into a self-moving robot, the ability of moving according to site map on a screen through which the user determines where to go using his eyes, and automatic brakes for bumps that makes the chair a lot safer.
To boost innovation, The Research Council announced the best three projects that will represent the Sultanate in the international Falling Walls Lab 2019 in Berlin, which are: ‘Breaking the Wall of Plastic’ which aims at mixing the roots of mushrooms with the agricultural residues to produce a decayable product as an alternative to plastic; ‘Breaking the Wall of Natural Anti-fog’ which produces a natural and sustainable product capable of providing transparent surfaces with anti-fog property; ‘Breaking the Wall of Recognition of Dates’ which comes up with a programme that compiles dates through a software that recognizes its type and maturity.
The Council has also approved a study to establish the Institute of Advanced Technology Integration (IATI), hoping to establish a culture of innovation and entrepreneurship in the fields of research and science and to function as intermediary between the industry and business sector and the academic sector in Oman. The objective behind establishing this institution is to develop scientific researches into innovative technologies and marketable products as well as to create a stimulating environment to conduct researches that will help the Sultanate meet market demands and tackle current challenges in water, renewable energy and oil and gas sectors.
Oman National CERT was established to analyze and tackle cyber-security threats and protect information and privacy of end users.
Also, Oman Government Cloud ensures the optimal use of the IT resources and increases the efficiency of the electronic services provided to the public. In addition, the work in progress to build a data and cloud services center to meet the high demands from the entities. The center will be located in Al Jabal Al Akhdar to avoid the risk of high temperatures and energy waste.
A Chat Bot is an artificial intelligence (AI) software that simulate how a human would behave in a conversation with the users and respond to their inquiries through websites and mobile apps or through the telephone. ‘Saeed’ is the first chatbot in the Sultanate which is available on Ooredoo’s mobile app and website to help customers know more about the company products and services, provide them with the best solutions, and respond to their questions and enquiries.
Some other entities have adopted this technology such as Muscat Municipality , the Ministry of Finance , Al Raffd Fund, Oman Oil, as well as the Ministry of Technology and Communications through "Manshood" to bring the best customer experience and interact with the users in the local dialect to provide information, answer inquiries, and get direct and quick responses. The service developers are seeking to integrate all the eGovernment services with Manshood to better serve citizens and residents in the Sultanate.
The Communication & Information Research Centre at SQU is currently implementing several projects relevant to the 4th Industrial Revolution, such as smart street, remote healthcare system for monitoring and diagnosis, a vision-based navigation system using the robot application of deep learning techniques in the National Museum of Oman, smart urban water management, neural networks for medical diagnosis depending on artificial intelligence technology, and Internet of Things in security and privacy aspects related to architecture and communication.
IDO Investments invests in local and international companies that offer innovative products and solutions to address the challenges in the Sultanate and beyond in order to transfer technology and support the growth of a knowledge-based economy in Oman. The company has invested in several fields such as health, energy, water, food and agriculture, logistics as well as emerging technologies.
Also, Oman Technology Fund provides investments and guidance to technology startups and entrepreneurs through three investment programs: "Techween Incubator", "Wadi Accelerator" and "Jasoor Ventures". Wadi Accelerator, which is a seed stage fund and accelerator program, has invested $ 1.2 million in 12 tech startups in Oman and MENA region. These companies provide services in the field of technology, biotechnology, Industrial Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, smart cities, digital media, e-commerce and advertising, such as: Almanjam, Crowd Media, Iris Technology, MerMaid, Mrayti, Social Champ, Smartchoice, PG Studios and WattNow.
Upgrade is an initiative aims at capitalizing the hidden potentials and opportunities presented by ICT graduation projects with a vision to help convert 1% of such projects to successful ICT startups.
Innovation Park Muscat is another initiative that aims to encourage scientific research, innovation and collaboration between diverse industry sectors. It will provide an access to so many facilities and services to create an environment that inspires innovators and entrepreneurs to develop extraordinary ideas and companies in the energy, food and biotechnology, health, water and environment sectors.
As part of the Research Council competition to raise awareness about eco-friendly houses, save energy in hot atmospheres and reinforce the concept of sustainable development; several eco-houses have been established in Dhofar University , Sultan Qaboos University , Nizwa University , German University of Technology and High College of Technology . State-of-the-art technology such as eco-friendly designs and solar panels, etc. have been used for building these houses.
A memorandum of understanding has been signed between Omantel and University City (Oman University, Science and Technology City) to develop the city and turn it into a smart academic city equipped with the latest ICT services and 4th Industrial Revolution technologies to promote scientific research, find a smart scientific environment, and build a digital community able to keep up with the technological advancements.
The Internet of Things (IoT) Laboratory was recently opened at SQU as a platform for developing various IoT applications in smart cities and finding smart solutions based on ICT and latest digital technologies. The lab aims to transform the campus into a smart one, as well as enhance the application of IoT technology in Oman to improve the quality of life in different Omani cities.
Also, Madinat Al Irfan is being developed to be the first smart city in Oman. It aims to enhance and improve the lifestyles of citizens and residents through integrating the latest smart technologies, such as smart parking system, Biometric Security Check Technology, Waste Tracking, Real Time Digital Wayfinding Signage, Command and Control Centre, etc.
There is also a plan to turn Duqm to a smart city as per the memorandum of understanding signed between Tatweer and Omantel , which will cover different aspects including: infrastructure, public services, tourism services, security and safety services, smart harbour solutions, smart building management, waste management, transport services, smart bus station, parking, video surveillance, vehicle plate identification, SEZAD e-application “My Duqm”, etc.
Moreover, a hackathon was performed in 2017 to brainstorm smart solutions to transform Muttrah into a smart city. Therefore, the city will get a major boost in digital and public infrastructure to improve the living environment for residents and make it more tourist-friendly.
The eHealth Portal and Al Shifa system ensure the provision of comprehensive health care using the latest technology.
The world witnesses a fast growing application of the 4th Industrial Revolution technologies in the healthcare sector. Likewise, the Sultanate has employed Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the early diagnosis of breast cancer in a project adopted by the Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Technology and Communications. With an accuracy rate of 96%, this technology has been implemented in 5 hospitals around the Sultanate, to facilitate the early detection of breast cancer, provide the necessary early healthcare to the diagnosed women, and measure the efficiency of the system and the possibility of circulating it around the Sultanate hospitals through the integration with Al Shifa system and the Digital Screening system. It is worth to mention that breast cancer is one of the most common diseases in Oman, representing 24.4% of the total diagnosed cancer cases. Currently, there are more than 200 cases diagnosed every year which is predicted to reach 975 cases by 2040. Statistics show that the number of Mammograms used to diagnose cancer, that 5 specialists can handle, are annually 49920 mammograms and are predicted to increase to 99840 annually with the new system. Moreover, the treatment costs will decrease significantly saving OMR 2.3 million for 100 cases.
Researchers at Sultan Qaboos University have adopted artificial intelligence technologies in a number of medical projects, such as the use of artificial neural networks to diagnose obstructive sleep apnea, congestive heart failure and preeclampsia, an investigation of heart rate on variability of patients in non-surgical ways, and a mobile healthcare system to monitor and diagnose remote patient with sleep disorders through a wireless body area sensor network that provides all the necessary biomedical signals.
With regard to safety and security, the Public Authority for Civil Defense and Ambulance has used Intelligent Addressable Fire Alarm and Fighting System to detect, control, and fight the fire. Also, advanced CCTV and Motion Detection Sensors are being used by many governmental entities such as Oman Airports and international borders of Oman to ensure the safety of passengers.
The Ministry of Education has signed an agreement to develop "Darb Al Salamah" system by providing school buses with the latest information and communication technologies. The new system enables the ministry and the parents to ensure the safety of their children remotely by monitoring the bus speed, notifying the parents when the bus leaves the school and gets closer to the house, notifying the school if a student was left in the bus, and alerting the school administration and the Directorate of Education if the bus was derailed.
New technologies are being adopted to invest in
Al Khuwair Natural Reserve such as using electric cars for transport and installing telescopes to observe the wildlife of the Reserve.
Muscat Municipality offers a Plants Program which identifies the characteristics of all existing plants in the Municipality plantations, such as colors, diseases, seasons and areas of growth as well as images. Moreover, the Municipality uses drones for wadis monitoring purposes.
Sultan Qaboos University has invested in remote sensing and GIS technology to carry out a number of research projects such as the potential extraction of diamonds in Al Batinah, remote sensing and analysis of the geospatial data of Bar Al Hakman, achieving sustainable development in the fisheries and aquaculture sector in Musandam, and the conservation of Al Jabal Al Akhdar environment.
With regard to climate affair, the Directorate General of Metrology offers an online weather forecast in which advanced technologies are used to acquire the accurate data. The Directorate is also in the process of installing early warning systems in the coastal areas.
Research on renewable energy is an integral part of the development plan of the Research Council and Public Authority for Electricity and Water. Innovative ideas and initiatives have been adopted in this area such as Miraah , which will be one of the world’s largest solar plants, renewable energy projects .
Currently, “Smart meters” are being installed across the Sultanate to automatically calculate water consumption and send it directly to the consumer.
Oman Oil Company has launched the first service station in Oman energized by solar power .
Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) is exploiting emerging digital technologies and Agile Ways of Working in innovative and transformative ways as part of its newly created Digitalization function. Examples of the business problems currently being solved with these exciting technologies include:
Work is progress to build Hayy Al Sharq to be the biggest entertainment destination for children and adults. In addition to the amusement and water parks and the zoo, the project will include innovative learning-focused activities as part of the interactive Science and Technology Multimedia Centre.
Many virtual reality projects are being developed by the SAS Virtual Reality Centre to encourage the use of technology in presenting the Omani culture and landscape to the world.
In addition, a number of mobile apps have been developed to help visitors and tourists to explore the different places of interest in Oman such as the Muscat Geotourism Guide.
The Educational Portal was launched along with some learning technologies, which are normally used in higher education institutions, which reached around 5200 smart tabs and 500 interactive projectors across the Sultanate. They aim to get higher access rates to information and knowledge in order to empower the next generation and improve the teaching and learning methods in an effort to achieve the sustainable development goals and usher into the digital community.
A laser lab of high-efficiency solar cells has been installed in the Department of Chemistry at SQU to enable studying high-speed chemical and physical reactions occurring in one billionth of a second. This new tool will help studying the chemical and physical properties of new materials used in constructing modified semiconductors in solar cells. Moreover, it provides students with a training opportunity on a wide range of scientific research tools.
The National ePayment Gateway is an operational component of the eGovernment infrastructure as it ensures a secure online payment process. It allows online payment for shopping and services for the public as it accepts all types of debit and credit cards. The easy and secure payment process helps to increase the number of customers, save administrative costs and reduce queueing at the physical counters. Currently, the ePG provides new services including the payment of traffic fines, internet and landline telephone bills, mobile bills, electricity bills, etc.
Recently, Blockchain technology has been introduced in the Sultanate, which will provide many technological potentials in various fields such as finance, banking, e-commerce, and import and export. As a result, Blockchain Solutions & Services and Oman Blockchain Club were established, following in the footsteps of some countries in creating special centers to manage the trade processes based on blockchain technology and seeking a rapid adoption of this technology for its great economic returns.
The Strategic Program for Water Research , supervised by the Research Council, aims at supporting the projects that seek to secure reusable water sources to be used for irrigation and develop new methods of water treatment that do not involve the use of chemicals harmful to the environment. Its ultimate goal is to increase agriculture productivity, expand green spaces, and reduce water loss to more than 50%. In its second round, the program awarded several projects such as Biological Treatment, Smart Irrigation, Smart Tank, Grey Water Filtration, etc. as part of the Research and Innovation Award for their national benefits.
The Million Date Palm Plantation Project is one of the important applications of the development and use of smart irrigation systems to achieve nutritional, economic, social and environmental benefits. The farms of the project depend on the use of new technology to manage water resources, mitigate depletion and increase dates production process. They also depend on drones for pollination and early detection of diseases that may affect palm trees.
The same technology is planned to be used for other agricultural purposes, such as a desert locust survey in the Wilayat Bidiyah, conducted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries .
A scientific study has been conducted at the College of Agricultural and Marine Sciences at Sultan Qaboos University to develop reliable methods to overcome the barriers of evaluating the freshness of fish using advanced techniques such as e-nose and e-tongue, which would complement or replace traditional methods. The study findings would provide the scientific basis and develop protocols and guidelines for this technology.