Expert: Data is key in building smart cities

Khaled Charif, director of technology and innovation at NXN, reveals how data is the main ingredient when it comes to creating smart cities

Khaled Charif, director of technology and innovation.
Khaled Charif, director of technology and innovation.

NXN (formerly neXgen) is a company that calls itself a thought leader in the domains of smart cities and next-generation technology innovation. Established a decade ago, NXN provides consulting and managed services for smart cities, smart districts and smart buildings in the GCC.

Elaborating more on NXN’s role, Charif says: “When we talk about managed services, we have a growing portfolio comprising of energy management, security management, mobility and logistics, etc. Our overall engagement life cycle with our customers follows a consult, design, build and operate cycle, whereas in the consulting part, we have accomplished our core competency as the region’s leading smart city consultant. We use the design, build and operate cycle to execute on our consultancy and provide managed services,  and thereby bring recommendations to life.”

According to Charif’s understanding of “smart”, data is the key enabler for smart, be it a smart building, smart car or smart app. He says: “We see data as what puts the smart in a smart service. When we talk about data, we talk about relevant and contextual data; data when we need it, and where we need it. We are talking about both historical and real-time data. So in that sense, a smart building will have relevant and contextual data readily available when it comes to a specific service such as to avail a concierge service, to book a parking spot or to manage a security alarm.”


Charif continues: “The best solutions in my opinion are those that do not disturb existing environments. So smart solutions are important for greenfields as well as brownfields. It’s important to be able to retrofit existing buildings with smart technologies.”

“The goal is to integrate IOT solutions with existing building systems rather than to replace them. And as much as possible, be able to tap into the data of these systems in a non-intrusive way. Now, one of the advantages that IOT is bringing is the ability to augment existing building systems with non-intrusive, cost-effective sensors that can be plugged in the building and augment the data that can be extracted from that building.”

Talking about big data, Charif says that the efficiencies that smart cities strive towards require an increasingly connected world. He adds: “An increasingly connected world will share data across multiple disciplines being at the heart of any smart service. It is data that provides the necessary and contextual insights for any smart service. It is data that fuels and connects multiple disparate workflows that are needed into a holistic and seamless end-to-end service. Big data is essential when it comes to managing the data lifecycle of an entire city, and we need to manage the data, and support historical, real-time, and even predictive analytics.

“We are talking about very large volumes of data that grow on a daily basis. The relevance of both big data and big data analytics within a smart city platform is key,” he concludes. 

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