In November, 2006, the first Telematics system ever developed in the Arabian Gulf region was launched as part of a long-term collaboration between the Centre of Excellence for Applied Research and Training or CERT and IBM. Named Falcon, the state-of-the-art system relies on connectivity to certain satellites orbiting Earth to provide the driver with a continuous flow of information on the geographical location and direction of the car and to warn the driver or control centre of any defects and possible driving risks. Communicating over the mobile phone network, the system can also monitor condition of the load (e.g. concrete; foodstuffs) and report this information back to base.
â€œFalcon comes as part of long-term collaboration with IBM. Other technological projects are also underway to serve UAE national development. Advanced information solutions developed by CERT and IBM researchers allow for remote monitoring of the vehicle and load data through utilizing wireless transmission of signals carried on both GSM and GPRS networks,” said Dr Tayeb A Kamali, Vice Chairman of CERT, who is also the Vice Chancellor of Higher Colleges of Technology.
The CERT group of companies began as the commercial arm of the Higher Colleges of Technology (HCT) in the UAE. Last year, CERT announced that it would build a 1 billion dollar CERT City which will include a cluster of initiatives including learning, innovation and business. Today, CERT is the biggest investor in the development and commercialization of technology with a USD 35 million investment in 2006 alone in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.
In 2005 CERT signed the largest Telematics deal in history with IBM that led to the development of Telematics technology in the UAE. â€œCERT Telematics amalgamates the IT and the automotive industries. This new technology combines world-class Intellectual Property with one of the world’s most rapidly expanding markets. CERT along with IBM has contracts in place to design/build and sell world-wide IBM latest technology in Telematics. Our Telematics solutions have been developed with the objective of providing high quality fleet management capability, as well as safety and security,â€ says Dr Kamali.
CERT also provides the only supercomputing center in the South Asia, Middle East, North Africa region. The CERT Blue Gene supercomputer offers 5.7 teraflops calculating speed to corporate clients for use in biotechnology, nanotechnology, and genetics research as well as oil and gas simulation. The CERT Technology Park in the UAE is home to international companies such as Intel, Honeywell and Lucent Technologies. The CERT IBM Center of Excellence for Nanotechnology is commercializing nanotechnology discoveries in desalination, alternative energy and bio-assay for life sciences.
The ten year old CERT and its partners in the technology park it runs, provide a myriad of solutions, training and consultancy services to foster technology transfer, as well entrepreneurship, and business incubator services for high technology and innovative new projects and business ventures.
Automotive Industries spoke to Dr Kamali, Vice Chairman of CERT and Vice Chancellor of the Higher Colleges of Technology.
AI: How would you describe CERT â€“ as a knowledge center or as an opportunity center? And why?
It is both â€“ we have many opportunities to invest in and develop knowledge based business, but the long term aim is that these businesses provide the basis for rapid growth in the UAE knowledge economy. At present, the UAE is for the most part an early adapter of the output of the world’s knowledge economy â€“ we intend to become a contributor very quickly and CERT is one means of achieving this.
AI: Please tell us a little about how you expect CERT’s telematic venture to help the automotive sector.
CERT’s Falcon solution, developed in collaboration with IBM, is one of the most advanced, most flexible and most upgradeable Telematics solutions in the world. When combined with the appropriate software it is not just a Telematics solution, but a real end-to-end business improvement solution. Once widely deployed, we expect Falcon to change the landscape of automotive Telematics in business. Falcon is essentially an onboard computer with all of the power that implies. The hardware can be reconfigured using wireless software downloads. This ensures the system has a long and flexible life span.
AI: What other kind of research and development is CERT doing (along with partners) aimed at the automotive industry?
Allied to Telematics, we are developing software to enable real time deployment and scheduling of product and service delivery. This will take onto account aspects such as road and traffic conditions as well as the condition of the product itself. Our initial target is the readymix concrete industry. CERT’s RFID company Cathexis Middle East provides a dynamic way to keep track of assets and inventory. This technology correlates well with Falcon as it allows for the management of cargo as well as the vehicle in which the cargo rides. Also, our supercomputing capability allows us to work in computational fluid dynamics as well as crash simulation using finite element analysis.
AI: Do you see your country emerging as an important player in the development of new technologies for the automotive sector?
We are interested in all leading edge technologies and some of these will inevitable impact on the automotive sector. Also, in the UAE, there is great interest in motor sport and automobiles generally. There is a thriving rally scene and it has recently been announced that there will be an F1 Grand Prix held in Abu Dhabi in 2009. We see this as an ideal environment for automotive developments and we will pursue further initiatives where we feel it is most appropriate.
AI: What are some of the collaborations we can expect this year for CERT?
We have just launched a major initiative with Microsoft to establish a software innovation and design centre. We have tied this to Microsoft’s â€œImagine Cupâ€ process such that we are inviting innovative solutions from inventors and engineers from the GCC region. Microsoft has accepted Cathexis Middle East into its exclusive â€œJump Startâ€ program. Only 20 companies are accepted to this program world wide. This has already resulted in a significant market penetration for Cathexis Middle East. CERT is currently negotiating a deal with IBM that will see IBM patents in nanotechnology made available to CERT for application in desalination and alternative energy. Some 50 IBM nano-researchers will be seconded to CERT for a 3 year period. The legacy of this initiative will be a leading Nanotechnology Centre of Excellence established in Abu Dhabi.