What does being the aviation capital of the world really mean? and how did this conversation come about? In late October 2015, HH Sheikh Mohamed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, ruler of Dubai tweeted:
“Our vision for Emirates for the next 30 years is rooted in innovation: to reinvent aviation with new products, technologies and services… Competing in aviation requires not only physical infrastructure but also intellectual infrastructure to entirely redefine global travel.”
Sheikh Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum also added to the statement by including that the effort could not be done in a silo, it would require the collaboration between “the airline, the airport and the entire ecosystem”. (The National)
To address this topic at STEP, we had a diverse mix of the ecosystem on the panel, from government – Mr. Raed Kuhail of DTCM, to private sector – Ms. Kirsten Kutz of GE, to a startup – Mr. Omar Abou Faraj of Dubz. The aim was to question the possibility of this statement with the intention of providing a deeper understanding on the direction in which the ecosystem is moving. The three major areas we focused on were technology trends, developing entrepreneurial talent, as well as corporate and startup partnerships.
1) TECHNOLOGY TRENDS
From the position of a startup, we heard Mr. Abou Faraj, co-founder of Dubz, discuss his position on the use of open-source technology.
Dubz wants to relieve customers of the pain of dragging their bag around instead of enjoying their last few hours in Dubai. Mr. Abou Faraj emphasized the importance for startups to stand out, and customize their user experience which means truly providing a unique and personalized service.
Platforms like Predix, powered by GE, and Microsoft Azure are becoming avenues for young startups to test, iterate and develop their solutions.
The Cloud Foundry Foundation delves deep on players in the market, and highlighted recently that GE is partnering with Google on front-end UI/UX components, and is embracing the Polymer stack of Web Components. This could become the best avenue for startups to start developing.
From the perspective of government, Mr. Kuhail, who is not only the CIO of Dubai Tourism Commerce & Marketing but also a software engineer a UC Berkeley graduate. He also mentioned that aside from open source software, Blockchain will effect tourists entering Dubai very soon.
For anybody who might not be familiar with Dubai’s movement towards Blockchain or would like to pursue more information on the subject, I suggest starting here.
The home run here is Blockchain
It is a technology that predominantly ties the knot between the user journey and riding this continuity throughout the usually dispersed touchpoints within the tourist journey. This will be a true disrupter of the journey for the traveler using this technology. From the consumer side, it can be loyalty and gamification for the tourist. From the business angle, this will offer us transparency in pricing of packages and generate further competitive offerings. I see here a big opportunity, where we can see the startups providing these types of transparency and to find the most affordable options, that’s where you can really find the value, if you can provide this type of efficiency.
We just heard about the coolest travel startup disrupting the tourism space using Blockchain out of the United Kingdom:
“TamTam Travels is now looking to “leverage the power of blockchain” technology and combine it with member benefits and discounts across a broad range of travel and related services.” (Forbes)
2) DEVELOPING ENTREPRENEURIAL TALENT
This type of innovation is what we need to start seeing spur out of the startup scene locally with startups like Dubz, Intelak truly is on the verge of recruiting the best to develop, engineer and pilot these types of projects with The Emirates Group, GE & Etisalat.
Mr. Abou Faraj commented on the panel about the cross-pollination between him and the other startups in the incubator, that sharing of knowledge is very valuable. Intelak is trying to bring together an innovation hub specifically for startups in the aviation and travel space, Dubz believes this can be a driver of creating a vibrant experiential shared economy.
3) CORPORATE & STARTUPS MIX WELL TOGETHER
We cannot do it alone, said Ms. Kutz. We are all part of the ecosystem, so we all have to work together to make it happen. With 95% of the business ecosystem being SMEs, big corporations are working with the SME market to ensure that we are aligned on future objectives of the UAE.
GE is going digital with Predix.io
The Head of Communication of GE Digital for MENAT also commented on the growth of startups in the aviation space, she had one of the more difficult questions on the panel. We asked Ms. Kutz what it was about corporates, why are all startups trying to work with GE?
Ms. Kutz recommends we check out predix.io. “Predix has been developing solution in the aviation space as well on predix, an amazing example of this being Infosys engineering services team (a startup) uses Predix to predict and avoid landing gear problems and downtime that spares the airline $25k-$40k per flight in delays.
She added that we all have to do our part in the ecosystem. GE doesn’t want to go it alone, and we know there’s a huge amount of talent outside our walls. At the same time, we’re a “125-year-old startup” so we have a lot of history and experience that can be shared with those just starting out.
Intelak, with the trio partnership between the Emirates Group, GE & Etisalat, is working hard to keep the vision of the local ecosystem at heart with the vision of Dubai becoming the aviation capital of the world. By combining the vision of Corporations and government with the speed and innovation of startups we will be able to achieve our goal much faster and create more use cases to design a better and brighter future for Dubai.