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Connecting the real estate

The high-profile Meydan Development in the UAE is all set to usher in the new flavour of “Connected Real Estate” into the region. Adopting the Smart City wave, Meydan will inject different technologies to create intelligent communities, shares the CIO Wassim Hamwi.

Hamwi is all set to push the usage of IT beyond the traditional borders, and as a greenfield project, it makes it all the more exciting for him. “The whole project is starting up as a mega greenfield project and traditional corporate IT usage in the form of ERP, CRM solution etc is already part of the basic fabric. What we are set to do is to inject a new dose of intelligent and energy efficient technologies that will be a first, especially in the real-estate sector,” he says.

The connected city

Referring to it as a new flavour, Hamwi explains that “connected” means that the smart homes concept will enable the entire city to be controlled and managed together in a manner that will improve the lifestyle, connectivity and community interaction for its residents. “Technology will play a critical role in enhancing the lifestyle of the residents while reducing the energy consumption through the adoption of green community practices, tapping into renewable energy sources and the introduction of recycling initiatives,” he emphasises.

Hamwi and his team are currently building an integrated framework to link the Building Management Systems with the Enterprise Applications “We want to profile energy usage across relevant units, provide tenants with easily read consumption figures, and link this information across to our enterprise systems for further analysis,” he says.

The buildings themselves are also designed to be “energy aware”. Different metering systems within the buildings will be able to register their consumptions into the backend financial system to register utility consumption for example, and then provide tenants with an insight into their usage pattern.

“This is what we refer to as the beyond-the-bracket approach, where we can then induce behavioural and usage changes based on customer insight,” Hamwi says.

“Clearly, the IT department at Meydan is aiming to be a pioneer in executing on the remarkable ‘Green Building’ initiative of His Highness,” he adds. Interestingly, this project will also see highly integrated efforts between Meydan and DEWA to find ways to collectively improve energy consumption through the development of sustainable and energy-renewable infrastructure.

Involved in the business

The IT department at Meydan is working closely with the business to align the utilisation of technology with the overall business strategy which focuses on both the Meydan community lifestyle and the ROI of the proposed technology initiatives. “The Executive Management at Meydan has a great understanding of the technology impact on the project. The IT team is constantly working with the business to assess and enhance the value add of the capital investment in technology to improve the tenants lifestyle and reduce the community facility and operational costs,” Hamwi says.

A new approach to Facility Management

One of Meydan’s core objectives is to provide Meydan city tenants with highly quality facility and community services effectively and efficiently. To meet this objective Meydan IT is working on defining the different facility services and the infrastructure design that would allow Meydan Facility Management to provide those services better, faster, and cheaper. “We are studying the facilities management lifecycle very closely and we are looking at how we can efficiently monitor, manage and easily integrate services to improve customer satisfaction and reduce the cost of those community services as they become available,” he says.

As a greenfield project, Meydan is placing great emphasis on being at the cutting edge of connectivity and infrastructure. The entire project is linked through fibre optic networks, supported by a robust infrastructure. All the buildings are enabled for true IP convergence. “At Meydan, IP Networks will literally be the 4th utility,” he says.

Knowing your people

The entire project is architected around the people who will be living, working and entertaining at Meydan communities. Meydan IT is working on defining an Identity Management Framework for the city residents to improve security and enhance user experience while utilising different facilities and services within the city. “We see Meydan as a ubiquitous city where identities of people are known, protected and enabled to interact within the community. Each user will have one common ID to access all facilities and services they need within the city,” he says.

Interestingly, Meydan is working on constructing a catalogue of community services that will be heavily depend on the Identify Management Framework. .

A new partnership model

As a team that is coming together to build on a greenfield project, Hamwi has the advantage of defining a new partnership model for IT with key vendors. “What we are doing is building strategic vendor partnerships that will extend beyond traditional supply of goods and services. We are particularly seeking out vendors based on their futuristic technology ideas and in some cases these vendors will be making their entry into the region with our project,” Hamwi shares.

Vendors from the region and other markets are participating in the implementation of Meydan IT projects. Vendors are invited to bring on new ideas that would unlock the potential of their products and more importantly service the objectives of the Meydan project.

“The vendor community has demonstrated a great interest in working on the Meydan project. Most have gone above and beyond investing time and efforts to make our project a showcase for technology application,” he says.

“We have brought several vendors to work together in an effort to effectively unlock the potential of different technologies and create a unique ecosystem that will future proof the design of our infrastructure and applications for years to come,” Hamwi emphasises.

To emphasise the importance of technology and the need to utilise renewable and green energy within the Meydan projects, the team is working on the creation of Meydan Real Estate Technology Services – where innovative ideas for better living are generated, assessed and highly integrated to form the lifestyle management model for Meydan.

The company is also looking at a strategic technology sourcing model and adopting a hybrid multi-sourcing approach to working with its core team and a team of external consultants. “We are working with a number of key consultancies in order to rapidly meet our objectives. Our are defining the key IT roles within the organisation that we will retain, and we will rely on different consultancy services to augment our core team to execute on the different IT initiatives in accordance with our strategic business objectives, ” Hamwi says.

For Hamwi, having moved from his earlier role as CTO at Dubai World, this is a great learning curve. “I’m learning how to build a new green, intelligent and energy aware city, where technology is highly utilised to reduce the impact of our projects on the environment, ease the usability of services, and enhance the lifestyle of the people who will live, work, and entertain at Meydan,” Hamwi shares. Certainly, busy times ahead for Hamwi and his team at Meydan.

Project at a glance:

The Meydan Project, a multi-billion dollar initiative under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, has the following key areas in focus – Racing District, Business Parks, Residential, and Hospitality developments.

The Racing District, a AED 4.7 billion project in itself will include the new Meydan Grandstand, a world class racecourse, a five star hotel that will oversee the racecourse, galleries, iMAX theatres, a conference centre, and many other sporting and entertainment facilities..

The Business Parks are positioned to attract unique businesses and organisations. The Majority of Business Park phase one has been purchased by Amlak at price tag of AED 2.6 billion.

The Meydan City will include business, residential and hospitality projects.

The Godolphin River City currently being planned as part of this project.

A hotel project managed by Banyan Tree will be ready for opening by early 2009.

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