Saudi government agency receives top European award for quality

Time: 19 August, 2020

GAZT is taking several measures to boost its institutional performance and provide citizens the necessary support to fulfill their zakat and tax obligations. (File/AFP)
  • The General Authority of Zakat and Tax was awarded for its commitment to the standards of the European Institutional Excellence Model

The General Authority of Zakat and Tax (GAZT) has received a top European award for its commitment to the standards of the European Institutional Excellence Model.

The European Foundation for Quality Management (EFQM) awarded the authority the “Committed to Excellence 2 Star” award.

EFQM is a not-for-profit membership foundation in Brussels, established in 1989 to increase the competitiveness of the European economy.

GAZT Gov. Suhail bin Mohammed Abanmi said the authority is making all efforts to ensure best management practices and to raise the professional competence of its employees.

He said GAZT is taking several measures to boost its institutional performance and provide citizens the necessary support to fulfill their zakat and tax obligations without any hassles.

The authority recently received two certificates from the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) for affirming the effectiveness of quality control systems and for dealing with complaints and increasing customer satisfaction.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi railway wins international award for safety measures

14/08/20

Saudi Railways

SAR accords top priority to the culture of safety in the management, operation and maintenance of its trains by following international laws, says CEO(SPA)

RIYADH:  The Saudi Railways Co. (SAR) won the International Safety Award for 2020 from the British Safety Council for the second time in a row for its exemplary management of health, safety and environmental risks.

CEO of SAR Dr. Bashar bin Khalid Al-Malik said that the company puts at the forefront of its strategic plans the application of the highest safety standards in operating the rail network in the Kingdom.

He said that SAR accords top priority to the culture of safety in the management, operation and maintenance of its trains by following international laws that have proven effective in ensuring safety in the work environment.

Al-Malik said: “We are proud that SAR wins such international awards, which reflect the efforts and decisions taken to apply and develop health and safety measures.”

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi-backed electric car breaks 500-mile barrier

Time: 13 August, 2020

Customer deliveries of the Lucid Air, which will be produced at Lucid’s new factory in Casa Grande, Arizona, will begin in early 2021. (Supplied)
  • Public Investment Fund backing bears fruit as Lucid Air all-electric sedan covers 517 miles on a single charge

LONDON: A Saudi-backed electric vehicle has broken through the 500-mile range barrier from a single charge as global manufacturers race to extend battery life.

Lucid Motors, in which Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund (PIF) is a major investor, on Wednesday announced independent range verification of 517 miles on a single charge for its forthcoming Lucid Air all-electric sedan.

The car maker claims that the results confirm that the Lucid Air is the longest-range electric vehicle to date.

So-called “range anxiety,” where drivers fear being stranded without power in their cars, is a high priority for electric vehicle manufacturers in convincing people to make the switch from traditional gasoline-fueled vehicles.

“Range and efficiency are widely recognized as the most relevant proof points by which EV technical prowess is measured,” said Lucid Motors CEO Peter Rawlinson.

“A few years ago we revealed our alpha prototypes of the Lucid Air and promised over 400 miles range; a reflection of our technology at that time. In the intervening period we have achieved a series of technological breakthroughs, culminating in an unsurpassed degree of energy efficiency.”

The PIF agreed a $1 billion investment deal with Lucid Motors two years ago to develop the car at a factory in Arizona. The plant initially will have an annual capacity of 34,000 vehicles, building toward 360,000 about seven years later.

The production version of the Lucid Air will debut in an online event on Sept. 9, 2020.

In addition to the vehicle’s final interior and exterior designs, new details about production specifications, available configurations, and pricing information will also be shared. Customer deliveries will begin in early 2021.

Range is one of the biggest factors for consumers mulling the purchase of an electric vehicle, which is why manufacturers such as Elon Musk’s Tesla are investing heavily in battery technology.

China’s CATL which supplies Tesla, said on Wednesday that it was also working on a new technology allowing battery cells to be integrated into a vehicle’s chassis which would allow range to be extended to more than 500 miles.

Sales of electric cars topped 2.1 million globally in 2019, to boost the total stock to 7.2 million electric cars, according to the Paris-based International Energy Agency.

Consultancy Deloitte expects electric vehicle sales to rise from 4 million in 2020 to 21 million in 2030.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Saudi Arabia’s Maraya hall in historic AlUlawins major architecture prize

Time: 05 August, 2020

The cube-shaped structure is covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking surrounding landscape. (Supplied)
  • Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category and was named the 2020 popular choice winner.

RIYADH: Maraya, a concert and entertainment venue in AIUIa, northwest Saudi Arabia, has won one of the world’s biggest architecture awards.

The Architizer A+ Awards — hosted by New York-based community Architizer.com, a 7-million-plus online group of leading architects — consists of five peer-judged finalists, with one jury winner and one popular choice winner in each category. The awards promote and celebrate the year’s best architecture.

A finalist in the Architecture + Glass category, Maraya was selected by distinguished figures from industries including design, technology, real estate and fashion. Finalists were selected for excellence in architecture with criteria based on form, function, and impact.

Maraya achieved the most public votes in its category and was named the 2020 popular choice winner.

Philip Jones, chief destination management and marketing officer at the Royal Commission for AIUIa (RCU), welcomed the announcement, saying that although Maraya is closed for renovation, the venue will be have a key role when AIUIa reopens to visitors as a year-round destination in late 2020.

“It’s particularly gratifying to win the popular vote. Visitors are mesmerized by Maraya’s impact and the way it blends in so perfectly with its surroundings.

“Maraya has been conceived and designed in line with the RCU’s core values to develop AIUIa using a sensitive and responsible approach. AIUIa is a significant archaeological wonder and we look forward to welcoming the world when we reopen the sites,” he added.

The cube-shaped structure is covered in 9,740 square meters of mirrors that reflect the breathtaking surrounding landscape.

The building and its extraordinary facade were unveiled at a special ceremony staged by the Royal Commission for AlUla during the second season of the Winter at Tantora festival. The 500-seat venue has since hosted leading international artists, including Egyptian musician Omar Khairat and Italian opera singer Andrea Bocelli.

It achieved a Guinness World Record for being the largest mirrored building in the world in 2019 with its 26-meter-high theater.

Maraya’s giant retractable window of more than 800 square meters can open to offer an experience blending nature and entertainment.

Maraya means mirrors in Arabic. The building, designed by Florian Bole and architect Massimo Fogliati, of Gio Forma, Milan, was inspired by the surrounding landscape.

The site was recently used a location for commercial film shoots by luxury brands including Cartier, Rolls-Royce and Monot.

Maraya is located 12 km from Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, Hegra.

The venue is undergoing further renovations, including increased capacity, a dedicated conference floor, a ground-floor restaurant and a stunning rooftop terrace overlooking the Ashar valley, oasis and desert surroundings.

Maraya will be well-positioned to host regional and international business events, conferences, weddings and other special events when it reopens for business in late 2020.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Neom could become the first ‘health tech’ capital of the world

20/07/20

The coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic has catalyzed the digital transformation in the health care sector. As part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 plan, NEOM, the Kingdom’s futuristic smart city and Vision’s centerpiece, has an unprecedented opportunity to become the first health technology (health tech) capital of the world, and a global hub for innovation and cooperation in health and wellness technology.
This year will be recalled in the history of health tech as the equivalent of a decade of digital transformation, such is the speed with which the sector is responding to demand at every level. The COVID-19 pandemic has given health tech companies the chance to show what they are able to do, and accelerated the uptake of digital health solutions in ways hitherto unseen. The technologies being developed, tested and rolled out today are helping not only in the present, but will shape the future of health care across the world for years.
Even before COVID-19, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) region’s young, digitally savvy population had already showed a readiness to embrace artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics for their health care needs. According to a 2017 PwC report titled “What doctor? Why AI and robotics will define New Health,” two-thirds of Middle Eastern and North African consumers said they were willing to replace human clinicians with AI and robots, with the highest proportion, 66 percent, in Saudi Arabia.
The region already fosters a number of homegrown champions, such as Saudi-born Nala, the region’s fastest-growing health tech company and the world’s first AI platform to offer instant access to medical diagnoses in Arabic. With health care being one of the strategic pillars of Vision 2030 and the National Transformation Program, Saudi Arabia has the opportunity to offer the world its first true health tech capital at NEOM.
From laboratories specializing in stem cell therapy to innovation centers studying the human genome project, NEOM is ushering in a new era of modern medicine, leading to countless effective treatments and therapies. From companies leading the way in remote monitoring and tele-health, to innovative AI-powered assessment apps and platforms, meanwhile, the world is witnessing an unprecedented upsurge of momentum in the health tech sector, which represents a unique opportunity for Saudi Arabia and NEOM’s model for the new future.
The Future Investment Initiative (FII) Institute, as a key forum for coordination of policy and action within the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 goals, has a strategic role to play in shaping Saudi Arabia’s path toward becoming a global health tech hub. Initiatives such as the recent “Beyond The Crisis: Technology to the Rescue” series demonstrate its role as the curator of the global conversation on some of the most pressing issues of our time. Yet it is at NEOM where the Kingdom possesses an extraordinary platform to showcase global innovations that blend health care, well-being and technology together in a way that pushes the boundaries of what is possible.
NEOM’s futuristic model, that includes the presence of major tech-driven companies, represents a vast opportunity to host a major health tech hub and attract not only innovative entrepreneurs from across the GCC but also from across the world. It also offers the opportunity to showcase and scale-up the increasing number of domestic champions such as Sihatech, the Riyadh-based health care tech start-up that offers a cloud-based Hospital Information System to support the digitization efforts of the National Digital Transformation Unit and the Saudi Ministry of Health. NEOM is the key to cementing Saudi Arabia’s position as a health tech hub and provides a magnet for the talent needed to foster it.
The proposed NEOM HealthTech Hub will see year-long initiatives built around partnerships and collaboration agreements with other research institutions such as the Center of Excellence for NEOM Research at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. FII, an annual conference which has now become an institute for innovation, had a strong message at last year’s global summit: We are open for innovation.

This article was first published in Arab News

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Hyperloop One: The future of transit in Saudi Arabia

Time: 17 July, 2020

Under the initiative, Riyadh would become a transportation hub connecting cities such as Jeddah, and the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, with Hyperloop pods capable of carrying groups of 25 passengers comfortably at speeds of 1,000 km per hour. (Screenshot)
  • Riyadh would become a transportation hub connecting cities such as Jeddah, and the UAE capital Abu Dhabi

LOS ANGELES: American transportation technology company Hyperloop One is gearing up to bring the “future of transit” to Saudi Arabia via a partnership agreement with the Kingdom’s Ministry of Transport.

Under the initiative, Riyadh would become a transportation hub connecting cities such as Jeddah, and the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, with Hyperloop pods capable of carrying groups of 25 passengers comfortably at speeds of 1,000 km per hour.

Describing the technology, Josh Giegel, co-founder and chief technology officer of the Los Angeles-based firm, told Arab News: “Going from A to B, direct to destination at the speeds of an aircraft, but inside a tube.

“So, small vehicles direct to destination using electromagnetic propulsion and magnetic levitation.

“Being able to have breakfast in Riyadh, go to prayer in Makkah, come back all in time for lunch, do everything that you need to do really gives you a new type of way of being a logistics hub for the actual entire GCC region,” he said.

The system would also allow for safer social distancing, thanks to the small group sizes, lack of frequent stops, and adaptive artificial intelligence, which would allow for additional pods to be added, as necessary.

“You’re automating the fleet. That allows you, if you only need a 50 percent capacity in a single pod, to do that without having to tape off seats and other things like that,” Giegel added.

The partnership began in February, and Hyperloop technology is still in development with testing being conducted in Las Vegas, Nevada. The company anticipates Hyperloop will be ready for the public by the end of the decade.

This article was first published in Arab News

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