Expo 2020 Dubai goes hi-tech to prevent cyber attacks

Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, visits the Expo 2020 Dubai Site. — Wam
Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, visits the Expo 2020 Dubai Site. — Wam

Dubai - Expo 2020 Dubai is securing the most diverse and dynamic technology ecosystem that is capable of supporting 200-plus participants


Anjana Sankar

Published: Thu 8 Jul 2021, 7:26 PM

Expo 2020 Dubai has the world’s most advanced cyber security strategies in place to protect the mega event from cyberattacks, a top official has said.

Eman Al Awadhi, Vice-President, Cyber Security and Resilience at Expo 2020 Dubai, said the objective is to protect the sprawling site with all its infrastructure and technologies from unforeseen cyberattacks.

“We are managing the convergence of information technology and operational technologies, while also ensuring preparedness from unforeseen cyber-threats. Therefore, our objective is to protect Expo’s infrastructure and operations — everything from ticket sales and AI-driven robots to virtual reality, mega screens and more, across the site,” Al Awadhi said in an exclusive interview to Khaleej Times.

She said Expo 2020 Dubai is securing the most diverse and dynamic technology ecosystem that is capable of supporting 200-plus participants — including 191 countries, each with their own pavilion — as well as businesses, multilateral organisations, academic institutions and millions of visitors from around the globe. “As vice-president of Cyber Security, I am responsible for defining and implementing the most advanced cyber-security strategy ever seen at a world expo,” Al Awadhi said.

“Arguably, the biggest challenge of protecting and operating our 4.38sqkm smart site — which includes 130-plus buildings that are interconnected via smart building management system — is done through new, innovative technologies that the world hasn’t seen before, while simultaneously managing a very complex digital infrastructure,” said the official.

The Covid-19 pandemic has seen a skyrocketing of cyberattacks in the Middle East with individuals and companies falling prey to hackers and fraudsters. Last year, the UAE saw a 250 per cent rise in cyberattacks, according to the UAE head of Government Cyber Security.

As Dubai is preparing to roll out the world’s greatest show in just three months, which is expected to attract 25 million visitors during the six-month period between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022, it is expected that cyber criminals will be on the prowl.

But Expo 2020 Dubai is working with its technology partners Siemens, Accenture, Cisco, Etisalat, MasterCard and SAP, and also its official cyber security provider, Digital14, “to deliver a safe, secure, connected site with smart infrastructure that will c`ontinue to offer benefits beyond the event”, said Al Awadhi.

The 130-plus structures at Expo 2020 Dubai are connected to smart building technologies from Siemens’, which is the premier infrastructure digitalisation partner of the Expo.

It is controlled by MindSphere, a cloud-based Internet of Things operating system, which is part of one of the world’s largest installations of Siemens’ smart-building technologies.

Functions such as air conditioning, air quality monitoring, energy use, fire alarms, lifts and lighting will be ‘smart’, while data collected through MindSphere will help improve energy efficiency and maximise safety, security, and comfort.

“We’ve also spent the last three years planning with Digital 14, our cyber security provider, on how to provide a seamless experience to all our visitors, whether they visit Expo physically or digitally,” said Al Awadhi.

Leaving a digital legacy

Even after the Expo 2020 Dubai site is transformed into District 2020, its digital infrastructure will provide the tools to build the resilience that cities of the future need. All the technology infrastructure built for Expo 2020 Dubai will remain in legacy.

“This will serve as a lasting, measurable long-term legacy that will set a benchmark for future cities, not only for the country or region, but for the world,” she said.

District 2020 will offer cutting-edge enabling technologies such as augmented reality, big data, the Internet of Things, ultra-fast internet connectivity and 5G mobile network. It will integrate offices, residential, social, cultural and collaborative spaces to create a smart and sustainable community; and it will bring together Fortune 500 enterprises, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, R&D, accelerators, venture capital and incubators, providing them with a platform to collaborate and thrive, she said.

Elaborating on the digital legacy Expo 2020 Dubai will leave behind, Al Awadhi said Siemens has committed to setting up a global logistics headquarters as a key element of the site’s legacy. Terminus, a specialist in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT), will set up its first headquarters outside of China, as well as a research and development centre. DP World will transform its Flow Pavilion into a permanent faculty dedicated to logistical excellence.

“In addition, we have integrated sustainability into all aspects of the event to create a meaningful impact that reaches beyond the site and beyond the six months of Expo 2020 Dubai. This offers a model of how to successfully build a sustainable smart city — something that could be replicated anywhere in the world,” said the official.


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