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IoT Security Helps Red Sea Construction Project Boost Process Efficiency

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As communities become more connected, they become more exposed to the risk of cyberattacks. Smart City projects uses IoT technologies can increase connectivity and in turn enhance critical infrastructures, including energy, water, communications, transportation, and governance. One of the most ambitious global projects, the Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) has recently implemented an extensive IoT security solution for its construction workforce and vehicle fleet at its site on the west coast of Saudi Arabia.

The new IoT connectivity solutions, comprising smart wearable technology and wireless tagging solutions  aim to address four key considerations for TRSDC’s core site area: site security, worker safety, and access control and process efficiency.

A challenging project

The Red Sea Project is a closed joint-stock company wholly owned by the Public Investment Fund (PIF) of Saudi Arabia. It was announced by the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman in July 2017 and focused on attracting tourists to visit and explore the Saudi western coast.

Photo: The Red Sea Project by TRSDC in Saudi Arabia (Source: The Red Sea Development Company)

The mega project is expected to contribute $5.86 billion per year to the Saudi GDP upon completion, at which point it will cover 28,000 km2 (11,000 sq mi) of pristine islands, sweeping desert dunes, mountain ranges and volcanoes. The first phase will complete by 2023 when 3,000 hotel rooms will be constructed along with an international airport, marina and recreation centers. The number of visitors will be capped at one million people every year in line with environmental commitments.

TRSDC aims to become a world leader in environmental sustainability across planning, construction and operations. The project is planned in a way that considers the natural ecosystem of the area and several policies have been developed in this regard including: no waste-to-landfill, no discharges to the sea, no use of single use plastic, achieving a 100% carbon neutrality. In fact, the project master plan predicts a 30 percent net conservation benefit by 2040, which will be achieved by enhancing key habitats such as corals, mangroves, sea grasses and land vegetation.

LoRaWAN is particularly interesting in line with the projects sustainability goals as it can serve a multitude of IoT use cases, not only during construction, but also once the project is finished. The same network infrastructure can be utilized to monitor and optimize waste management, parking, lighting, power and water utilities, remote asset monitoring, to monitor the environment and much more.

The IoT solution provided by Actility and Abeeway includes the deployment of a LoRaWAN network to cover more than 3,500 square kilometers on Actility’s ThingPark IoT platform and Abeeway smart badges for up to 36,000 construction workers, and Abeeway compact trackers for up to 3,000 vehicles, to ensure safety.

“We asked ourselves how we could enhance security on our site and enable an efficient construction process at the same time, while considering upwards of 36,000 workers across 3,500 kms, How could we ensure worker safety in case of health emergencies or prevent workers getting lost in remote locations in the desert or on islands? How could we control access and track the 3,000 vehicles of multiple contractors across the construction site, delivering materials, tools and transporting employees?” said Ian Williamson, TRSDC’s Chief Projects Delivery Officer.

The IoT Solution and the innovation behind

Explaining the technology behind the project, Williamson said, Abeeway smart badges and tracking devices allow TRSDC to identify workers and vehicles and secure the construction area against unauthorized individual and vehicle access. Individual access rights will be granted based on role, responsibility, category and group of workers. In addition, the possibility of identifying vehicles remotely, geo-fencing perimeters and setting up alerts based on worker and vehicle access breaches will further enhance security.

A panic button will enable workers in distress to send an SOS signal back to TRSDC’s security and emergency response center, allowing response teams to be sent directly to the location of the worker without losing potentially life-saving time. In fact, TRSDC recently opened their Central Medical Facility which will provide the highest medical care quality and assistance for those living and working on site during the construction phase, he said.

Man Tracker

From a process efficiency perspective, all tagged vehicles will have an estimated time of arrival (ETA) to ensure that there are no delays between required tasks. In addition, alerts will be triggered for idle workers or vehicles to enable improved worker supervision.

The technology will apply to all TRSDC’s contractors, who will be able to register their workers and vehicles and receive accreditation for them as required. Real-time and map-based remote tracking of workers and vehicles with heat-maps and counts will allow for more effective resource allocation across locations within TRSDC’s construction area. Given the criticality of the solution and the ranging temperatures experienced on-site, the Smart Badge and tag’s operability will be actively monitored with exchanges of devices with low battery and remote deactivation in cases of loss or misappropriation.

The Abeeway long autonomy devices allow continuous usage for months and years thanks to LoRaWAN connectivity. The devices work both indoors and outdoors due to their multi-technology geolocation system, integrating GPS, Abeeway’s patented Low-power GPS, WiFi Sniffing and Bluetooth Low Energy.

According to Williamson, TRSDC particularly values the Low-Power GPS – a patented Abeeway technology that significantly cuts GPS energy consumption and increases devices battery life up to 4 times, and BLE Beaconing feature for precise indoor tracking.

LoRaWAN is widely used wireless protocol that allows battery-operated devices to communicate with IoT applications via long-range, wireless connections, allowing longer battery life, thus lowering the cost of device ownership. It is especially useful in large-scale deployments because of its availability, cost, and reach, due to its use of unlicensed spectrum, the availability of standardized, low-cost modules with long battery life.

Williamson informs that Machinestalk is leveraging the Kingdom-wide IoT experience, tailoring the End-End service using ThingsTalk Platform, Application Enablement Platform (AEP), connecting Workforce and Vehicles over the provided LoRaWAN Infrastructure. It licensed as IoT-Virtual Network Operator (IoT-VNO and playing a role to enhance and enable IoT ecosystem in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

The advanced IoT platform and location technology is helping the project to meet and exceed the highest international standards for health, safety and sustainability, as John Pagano, CEO of The Red Sea Development Company mentioned, this partnership will play an important role in ensuring the welfare of our workers, given their experience in providing smart construction technology and alignment with our business goals.

Calling it a long-term Public-private partnership toward smart cities, Nawaaf AlShalani, CEO of MachinesTalk said that this project in varying degrees can be used to capture other as IoT use cases to scale city operations and uplift people experience.

“We believe LoRa is the most suitable connectivity method for this project and hope it is the start point and we could cover network throughout the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia by aligning with CITC and enhance the adoption of IoT and capture more use cases that focusing Sustainability and Wellbeing,” AlShalani said.

Today there are 8.6 billion IoT connections. By 2026, that number will nearly triple to 23.6 billion, according to a recent whitepaper published by ABI Research. Michela Menting, Digital Security Research Director at ABI Research predicts that large scale industrial, infrastructure, and smart cities projects will continue to drive this market in the long term.

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Sohini Bagchi
Sohini Bagchi is Editor at CXOToday, a published author and a storyteller. She can be reached at sohini.bagchi@trivone.com