BICSI targets smart cities in 2019 training agenda

Shortage of IT and ICT skilled professionals in MEA region could hamper broader Smart City roll-outs

BICSI’s focus on Smart Cities is keeping with its constant evolution over the years.
BICSI’s focus on Smart Cities is keeping with its constant evolution over the years.

Most conversations around Smart City projects have a decidedly technological bent, with human capital almost always a distant afterthought.      

At the implementation stage is where the consequence of this oversight becomes apparent. However, BICSI, the global association of ICT professionals, wants skills to be the centre stage of Smart City deliberations. 

On the side-line of this year’s GITEX, whose theme was, incidentally, “Experience Future Urbanism”, BICSI held its 2018 MEA ACE Summit and Masterclass, with a focus on Smart Cities.

The ACE Summit featured presentations and a panel discussion from experts on a range of topics including “Turning Smart Cities into Safe Cities,” “Digital Disruption and Technology Trends,” “How Can MEP Build an Efficient Communication Infrastructure,” and “Future-Proofing ICT Infrastructure.”

Gail Moore-Swaby, BICSI vice president of professional development, said a confluence of factors has caused an undeniable shortage of IT and ICT skilled professionals in almost all regions, including the Middle East and Africa. “While understandable within the development Smart City applications, as we are on the forefront of a wave of innovation, many of the same principles and abilities can also be applied on a more localised level, such as a building or building complex,” Moore-Swaby said.

Intelligent buildings and cities require standards and best practices and a highly-qualified workforce. “While there has been an overall increase in the number of trade workers and professionals within ICT, that increase has not been able to maintain pace with the demand for growth,” Moore-Swaby observed.

More than 200 delegates, including Architects, Consultants & Engineers (ACE) attended the Summit and Masterclass to learn from industry experts and share experiences, expertise and challenges in designing ICT infrastructure systems deployed in Smart Cities, data centres and other ICT-intensive projects.

As Smart City projects have many facets and interact with a variety of systems and organisations, BICSI conferences attract a cross-section of IT experts representative of the region including from the government. “Topics of interest for public sector IT experts span the full concept of IoT and Smart Buildings/Cities, and we have attracted a number of these professionals to our events. These professionals are interested in many of the subjects we cover, including emergency communications, energy use and lighting management, and surveillance and security, to name a few,” Moore-Swaby said.

BICSI’s focus on Smart Cities is keeping with its constant evolution throughout the years as IT technology itself has advanced.  “BICSI was founded within the telecommunications industry before the advent of personal computers, corporate networks, and the technological advancements seen over the last thirty years. Maintaining focus on the professionals within what is now ICT has given BICSI the ability to adapt to the technological innovations and adoption by governments, companies and society without being linked to any particular technology or medium. Through our history, as telecommunications and ICT has evolved, BICSI has evolved,” Moore-Swaby said.

Part of this evolution has been through not only with keeping up with industry standards but championing them within the ecosystem. “While not originally a standards-developing organisation, the BICSI International Standards Program was started in 1995 to start addressing potential future trends that innovation was starting to create. Although the standards program is said to have started slowly, in the last ten years, it has grown to be at the forefront of applications that have entered into mass adoption,” Moore-Swaby explains.

Over the last 20 years, the focus on standards has grown, as technology has increasingly connected the globe, Moore-Swaby observed. While paradigm shifts from innovation will always outpace industry standards, the vast majority of evolving technology has been made possible by industry standards, as they provide a consistent and solid foundation to build upon. For example, the first standardisation work on Power over Ethernet (PoE) started in 1999 and was quickly adopted by office phone manufactures before the standard, IEEE 802.3af being completed in 2003. “Today, PoE is one a few core technologies allowing IoT and Smart City concepts to evolve. As industry standards have become more incorporated within technological products and services, we have noted that innovation is coming into the standards development process earlier, reducing the delay between innovation and defining of a standard,” she adds. 

The organisation wants to be part of the regional future IT roadmap.BICSI has a clear focus on providing ICT/ELV professionals opportunities for professional development and access to the latest standards and industry information,” said Moore-Swaby.

Several events are currently planned to advance this goal, including two breakfast meetings (13 December and 14 February), webinars, and the Middle East & Africa Conference & Exhibition at the Dubai World Trade Centre in April.

Additionally, BICSI HQ in Tampa has several projects in the works that will benefit MEA, said Moore-Swaby, including publications of new and revised BICSI standards for data centres, intelligent building, and 5G and public responder systems. “We will also continue to keep our other educational offerings up to date with the evolving technology trends over the year,” she adds.  

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