Inspector Gadget drops in to boom town

IT solutions for the construction industry have had to evolve as fast as the projects on which they are being used. And portable devices launched at this year's Gitex exhibition go a long way in meeting the demands of an industry on the move. Christopher Sell reports on gadgets to make life easier.

With the world becoming a more complex environment by the day, it is no wonder that companies are constantly trying to make things simpler. To that end, Gitex, the largest IT exhibition in the Middle East – and one of the top three in the world – took place this week, with 1,200 exhibitors from 61 countries showcasing the latest technology.

And it comes as little surprise to see a large number of high-profile companies delivering mobile-friendly technology that could make the life of those within the construction industry much more efficient and easier.

HP is looking to expand its mobile offering with the launch of a new HP iPAQ Pocket PC, which is designed to make it easier for active professionals to be more productive on the go. “This new mobility product provides a rich mobile data experience that customers are demanding for both professionals and personal productivity,” says Vishnu Taimni, business notebooks and handhelds product manager, HP Middle East. “As the industry leader in handhelds and a company that delivers products and solutions across the entire mobility spectrum – from devices, servers and software to infrastructure and services – HP is mobilising customers by providing access to relevant content and information they need to stay productive.”

The HP iPAQ rw6815 (pictured top right), launched last week at Gitex, includes a number of connectivity and data protection features, including WLAN access to enable users to connect to the internet and e-mail on the go. Bluetooth wireless technology enables convenient, wire-free, short-range communication with other Bluetooth devices, enabling users to synchronise personal data and surf the internet, or print photos to an HP Bluetooth printer.

Other high-profile companies have also launched new hardware products with mobility a key feature. Fujitsu Siemens Computers, Europe’s leading IT manufacturer has launched the latest in its innovative LIFEBOOK notebook series, the Q2010.

Exclusively designed for the increasing number of mobile executives in the Middle East, the Q2010 is one of the lightest and slimmest notebooks available, weighing just 1kg with a width of 20mm. The notebook’s optical drive has been replaced by a Universal Mobile Telecommunications System (UMTS) to reduce its size and enable fast and wireless data access. Fujitsu Siemens Computers is one of the first major vendors to introduce a notebook with embedded UMTS, enabling anytime anywhere data access and telephony.

Not content to miss out, LG is planning to enter the lucrative portable market, with the launch of its C1 Express Dual series (pictured bottom right). The new line in ultra portable notebooks with powerful mobilities and advanced capabilities was unveiled on the first day of the exhibition. Combining the functionality of a notebook with the convenience of a tablet, it features a distinctive swivel action for its 269mm fine, bright, touch-sensitive screen that rotates in either direction and flips down to ‘convert’ into a tablet position for taking notes.

Meanwhile, Symbol Technologies has launched its new wearable mobile computer and scanner system for computing in extreme environments in the Middle East. Worn on either the wrist or hip, Symbol’s WT4000 series of wearable mobile computers allow users to move freely and scan data, access business-critical information, and accurately perform data entry in real time. For maximum flexibility, Symbol’s new wearable mobile computer also offers headset support for voice picking.

And GFI Software announced its partner programme for the Middle East, which will enable its partners to better solve the IT issues of the small to medium business within the regional marketplace. “There has been a proliferation of small- to medium-sized businesses throughout the Middle East as a result of the regions’ unprecedented economic growth and development over the last three years,’ says Simon Azzopardi, managing director, EMEA. “This new generation of SMBs has been set up on IT platforms that increasingly demand security and messaging solutions designed for their needs. GFI has focused on building solutions to solve the security and messaging issues specifically for the SMB market and prices those solutions to meet limited IT budget resources. We have seen a dramatically rising demand for these solutions and have established our channel strategy to help our partners more effectively meet this demand.”

However, it is not just hardware that is being launched at Gitex to capitalise on the emirate’s economic boom. Companies are also announcing investment within the region that could have a real impact on the construction industry. Solar Technologies Group announced at Gitex that it will invest US $30.4 million (AED112 million) in the technology free zone. The activities include R&D as well as manufacturing the next generation optical media products, solar cells, solar panels and tempered glass used in photovoltaic and the building industry.

This will be the first facility of its kind in the Middle East and will generate skilled jobs for over 200 people. The facility is expected to open by the end of 2007.

The agreement between Optical Disc Group (a leading supplier of equipment and technology for the optical media industry) and Solar Technologies Group will set up a processing centre for production of photovoltaic components, solar cells and panels. Solar energy can be converted directly or indirectly into other forms of energy, such as heat and electricity through the photovoltaic process.

“Solar energy is the future of creating clean and environmentally friendly energy. Many countries around the world have adopted this technology for numerous commercial, industrial, government and domestic applications. Our agreement with the Solar Technologies Group will oversee the development of this important industry in the Middle East,” says Abdul Razak, deputy CEO, Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority, a free-zone technology park.

A complimentary activity to the photovoltaic products will be to temper glass for the building industry. The factory will be equipped with sophisticated CNC equipment supplied by one of the world’s leading manufacturer Lisec from Austria and Tamglass from Finland. The products manufactured will be insulated glass units, tempered and heat strengthened glass as well as laminated glass to meet with European standards to be supplied to local market as well as meet demand in neighbouring countries. The facilities will also develop new products, which meet demand in hot climate countries like the Middle East.

Furthermore, Microsoft strengthened its presence within the Middle East following the signing of an MoU with The National Technology Enterprises Company (NTEC) in Kuwait at Gitex this week. The agreement is designed to enable NTEC and Microsoft to work together to create a favourable environment for the growing software and IT sector in Kuwait and strengthen the business and technology economy.

“It comes as little surprise to see a large number of high-profile companies delivering mobile-friendly technology that could make the life of those within the construction industry much more efficient and easier.”

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