The Future of Technology and Digital | Discuss the Future with Joseph Bradley.

by | Jul 18, 2020

#NEOM will create the world’s first cognitive cities.

Joseph Bradley, the Future of Technology and Digital Sector Head, explains how NEOM will accomplish this goal by first establishing cognitive foundations.

NEOM will not create smart cities – that on average uses less than 1% of the data it produces – rather, cognitive cities that use over 90% of the data it generates to fundamentally change its residents’ lives for the better. NEOM will also create cognitive technology, such as robots and artificial intelligence, with the intention of understanding how to perform different tasks for multiple uses.

In order to build this with data at the very core, NEOM will invest in several cognitive foundations. The first foundation will be ubiquitous connectivity for everyone by means of huge investment in satellite services to provide 5G wireless solutions, as well as fiber and hollow core fiber deployments. Also, NEOM will invest in one of the world’s most advanced hyperscale data centers, which is both entirely autonomous and environmentally neutral.

Additionally, it will invest in the ability to compute and direct this data, which will be accomplished with the data center that acts as the source for all information that flows throughout the cities, protecting the privacy of residents and harnessing the power of analytics to make decisions in ways never seen before.

The Future of Technology and Digital Sector strategy aims to use data innovatively to make fundamentally new and informed decisions on how to improve society for everyone in NEOM and around the world.


My name is Anita Mendiratta, and I’m a strategic advisor in sustainable development. Thank you for joining us to discuss the future.

NEOM is built on three main areas of focus: exceptional livability, thriving business, and reinventing conservation. Today, we’re going to be speaking about the future of Tech & Digital at NEOM. And it is my great pleasure to welcome Joseph Bradley who’s the Sector Head of Tech & Digital at NEOM. Joseph, welcome!

Thank you very much.

Joseph, can you please share with us a little bit about the strategy of Tech & Digital and how it fits into the greater NEOM development.

Yes, when you think about what we’ve done in the last few years, you think about 2018 when we had almost 23 billion connected devices, almost three connected devices per person. We all got really excited about all that innovation and change. Yet when you look at what’s really happened in the world today, we still have a quarter of all humans living without electricity. We still have 22,000 children dying each and every day because of poverty.

NEOM is truly about transforming, not just in building a smart city, but building a cognitive one.

The center of our technology strategy is ultimately driving three core capabilities:

  • The ability for NEOM citizens and NEOM enterprises to connect to physical things
  • It’s the ability for those same enterprises, those same people to be able to compute or to analyze those things
  • And then finally, to be able to make decisions or to contextualize it, to take all that great connectivity, take all that great data, and be able to drive fundamentally new decisions

So that’s how they ultimately fit into the overall NEOM strategy.

I like the principle of Connect, Compute, and Conceptualize.

I’m curious, is this the core difference between a cognitive city and a smart city? What is the difference there?

Yes, smart cities today focus on typically one particular use case or their independent technologies. So you think we have smart lighting or we have smart waste management.

A cognitive city is not an isolated set of use cases. It’s a system of use cases that come together.

A smart city leverages less than 1% of the data generated within that city to make a difference in the lives of its citizens.

A cognitive city like NEOM will leverage over 90% of the data that is generated and will use it to create and fundamentally change how its citizens work, how we live, and how we play.

That is quite a massive, massive undertaking when you think of the degree of integration that’s required.

What are some of the investments that NEOM is making into Tech & Digital to make this all happen and sustainably?

Great question. When you think about the actual execution strategy, there are three core elements to our strategy.

The first says you have to build a cognitive foundation. Part of that foundation means that you have to have the ability to connect. That’s our fiber. And hollow-core fiber deployment, our 5G wireless solution is what we have. We don’t want to have a digital divide anymore. It means we want ubiquitous connectivity for everyone. We have a huge investment in satellite services.

The next area is that of compute. Once you have all this data, once you’re connecting it from all these assets, you have to have a way to be able to fundamentally analyze all that data. So, we’re investing in one of the world’s greatest and most advanced hyperscale data centers, fully autonomous operation and environmentally neutral. It’ll be state-of-the-art and one of a kind.

And then lastly, the basis of any cognitive foundation, of any cognitive city is data. You have to have the ability to extract data from assets. You have to build the ability to compute and then direct that data. We are going to build what we call the NEOM data store, and that data is a single source of truth for all the data that flows throughout NEOM. It includes and puts the citizen at the core of that data so privacy is taken care of. More importantly, it allows us to bring the power of analytics to enable decision making in ways in which we’ve never been able to before.

So very, very exciting investment in all of those three areas – of compute, of connectivity, and ultimately application and platform.

That really is quite remarkable, and more so if you think of NEOM’s importance at the heart of Vision 2030. So much is being done that is truly groundbreaking.

To that point, you are literally breaking ground from a completely blank slate. I’m curious to understand, in your portfolio of Tech & Digital, how are you actually engaging with the other sectors of development within the greater NEOM construct.

Our sectors are immensely important to our success. What we do from an engagement standpoint is we look at the sectors and how they’re going to be enabled through the cognitive city of NEOM.

They are deploying well over 500 use cases. When you think about those 500 use cases, they are deploying robots in pipes to be able to determine leakages. They’re using advanced artificial intelligence in exoskeletons for people who are paralyzed. We’re talking about universal translation services. All these great use cases fundamentally rely upon three core technologies. They use artificial intelligence, robotics, and what we call human-machine fusion.

We as the Tech & Digital organization are bringing those technology investments to bear so that we can help enable hundreds of solutions that the sectors are driving in NEOM.

It’s quite remarkable in terms of just the anatomy of the development of NEOM. It really does have an entire ecosystem that it will be supporting all at once.

I’m curious for all of the developments that are being done around the world, what can NEOM teach the rest of the world in terms of technology and digital innovations? This really is, as I said earlier, groundbreaking, and very visionary.

It really is when you think about what NEOM can share with the rest of the world.

The first is that we fundamentally understand that you have to have an open and inclusive approach. Everything at NEOM is about including, driving, and accessing the world’s greatest talent to drive innovation. There are no digital divides. There are no physical divides. Everyone at NEOM is included in the process and really driving our ability to look forward and be successful.

Secondly, I think what you can learn from NEOM is that we are not sacrificing the environment to achieve our results. HOW we are achieving our results is just as important in NEOM as the actual results we are achieving. So, we are very, very, very concerned and really passionate about preserving our environment; not just keeping it status quo, but leaving it better than we first initially saw it.

I think those are the core things that you can ultimately take away from the NEOM experience and that we’re driving in NEOM.

I love the principle of what you were saying because ultimately, sustainability has to be at the heart of future development. How do you define sustainability, Joseph?

Sustainability is something that at the end of the day means that whatever you deploy, whether that’s a solution or a technology, the world is a better place as a result of that being done, not just in the immediate, but in the long term. It requires a longer-term view

so that at the end of the day, you can leave this world in a much better place than when we first saw it.

And I think that’s really at the heart of what NEOM is about. It’s a long-term view, delivering short-term value but extending that as we look out to the future.

Indeed, as we say, the world does need fresh thinking and new solutions, so it’s lovely that you have an initiative like NEOM, that you’re at the technology and digital heart of to bring that to life and to lives.

I’m curious to ask Joseph, why is this one of the most exciting projects of your entire life?

Without a doubt it is. I’ve spent my whole life thinking about how you change the impossible into the art of the possible. How do you surround yourself with some of the smartest and brightest people in the world?

You can tackle challenges and problems that really, really matter. At NEOM the talent level is off the charts – the minds and brains and excitement from millennials to everyone across age groups, all of the folks that are at NEOM. Just the ability for us to work together is so motivating, so exciting.

Secondly, when you think about the challenges that we’re taking on. At NEOM, we don’t worry about what we don’t know. But we wake up each and every day and fundamentally challenge what we believe to be true.

What an environment to work in. I just feel so grateful to be a part of this experience.

It’s lovely to hear you respond because there’s a distinct excitement and pride that you have in being a part of NEOM, which is really very special.

We thank you very much, Joseph, for sharing that energy and spirit and smartness with us today as we discuss the future of Tech & Digital.

Thank you so much.

About the Author

Joseph Bradley

Chief Executive Officer of NEOM Tech & Digital.
Humanist. Visionary. Galvanizer.

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