EXECUTIVE INTERVIEW: Alaa Elshimy, Managing Director & Senior Vice President of Enterprise Business Group, Huawei Middle East
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How has the pandemic impacted technology adoption by the aviation industry in the Middle East?
The aviation sector has experienced unprecedented disruption from the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we are seeing a better than expected recovery, particularly in the Middle East. The recovery has been accelerated by accelerated technology adoption within the aviation sector. Contactless technology and AI-enabled video surveillance for enforcing social distancing protocols have effectively boosted confidence for travellers to return to the skies. Cloud technology has also enabled elasticity and resilience in COVID-enforced remote working environments and tight labor conditions. Another major trend is green airports and net-zero targets for the industry as sustainability takes hold.
Huawei has robust technologies and expertise in both cloud and digital power and supports Middle East carriers, airports, and other players in the sector to pursue digital transformation and meet their decarbonization targets.
Have industry players been quick to adapt technology to cater to the changing needs in the aerospace market?
Industry players have been quick to offer solutions to cater to rising demand. However, these upstarts run into two main challenges: One is that the industry is looking for a holistic solution to their challenges, and not piecemeal, point products. Second, some of those solutions require technology providers with expertise in these domains. For example, green solutions, digital power and cloud applications are highly specialized and require mature providers with expertise and a support pipeline to match. For example, a digital power solution requires capabilities only a few providers globally can provide.
Huawei has been investing and developing such technologies for the past 20 years and is ahead of the industry in addressing the urgent needs of the aviation industry for green solutions, scalable and resilient cloud infrastructure and connected power systems.
In which areas and geographies do you see the strongest potential for growth?
The Middle East and the Asia Pacific regions have traditionally been the two strongest regions in terms of growth. However, the different approaches to opening up the sector post-Covid will affect how fast industries in the respective countries recover and, by extension, their procurement decisions. For example, the Dubai Airshow is the first major international aviation event in aviation to be held. Additionally, Dubai international airport has recovered admirably this year. These developments mean that the Middle East will have a strong head-start over the competition.
What technologies do you predict will impact the aerospace industry most in the next five years?
Digital power technology to help realize the vision of green airports will be a significant industry focus, which is vital as regional countries have pledged to sustainability goals as part of national and national goals such as the recently concluded COP26.
Additionally, artificial intelligence will radically change the way the aviation industry operates. The world’s leading airlines and airports are already using AI to improve operational efficiency, avoid costly downtime through predictive maintenance, and increase customer satisfaction by using chatbots.
Cloud can enable standardization for the aviation industry where complex multi-cloud infrastructures are now the industry norm. Cloud can also help optimize operations by enabling elasticity to match output with resources needed due to the cyclical nature of the aviation industry.
What are your expectations from Dubai Airshow 2021 - which will be the first of its kind event since the coronavirus outbreak?
The scale and attendance of this event are highly encouraging, which serves as an excellent model to envision the sector’s short- and medium-term recovery. The robust participation also serves as a major motivation for all of us that, while COVID-19 has hit the industry hard, vision, hard work and imagination can help humanity overcome and adapt to future challenges.
Lastly, what are Huawei plans in the region?
Huawei’s vision is to bring digital to every person, home and enterprise. Unlike other ICT suppliers, Huawei, through its Enterprise Business Group, is committed to investing significantly in the aviation industry and are keen to co-innovate with our aviation partners. For example, we will soon announce an agreement with the Dubai Airport City Corporation to explore the use of digital power, cloud, AI, cybersecurity, autonomous vehicles and future connectivity to drive the grand vision of building “the aviation capital of the world”.
We welcome such collaborations to transform the industry towards better outcomes and increased resilience to future disruptions.