How the UAE can lead global food waste reduction through tech

28 OCT 2018

Hotels are increasingly competing on the strength of their food and beverage (F&B) offer as the UAE is quickly becoming a landmark destination for foodie travellers. At the same time, food waste has been rising up the national agenda with waste from buffets a perennial problem. The good news is that digitisation is having a real impact in the hospitality space, and that the UAE is leading the industry to become more sustainable.

Food waste is a global problem. A third of all food produced - 1.3bn tonnes per year - ends up being wasted, and this costs the global economy nearly a trillion US dollars annually. If food waste was a country, it would be the third largest emitter of greenhouse gases after America and China.

Food waste has risen up the global agenda over the last few years as the problem has become better understood. In poor countries, around US$310bn worth of food is wasted. Inefficient supply chains, poor infrastructure and a lack of cold chains mean that much of the food leaving farms never makes it to consumers.

In rich countries we have broadly solved this problem with efficient logistics systems and digitised networks. However, we have created two new ones. At the farm, cosmetic standards and last-minute changes to orders mean that farmers are often forced to waste perfectly good food. At the consumer end, we waste food in our homes and restaurants. Consequently, rich countries waste more than double that of poor countries.

A global problem requires a global response, and UN Sustainable Development Goal 12 seeks to “ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns”. The third target under this goal is to halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains by 2030.

The UAE is well-placed to take the lead on this issue. Food waste costs the country an average of 13 billion dirhams per year. Recent research has found that restaurants are the main source of food waste in the UAE, contributing 32% of the total. This is followed closely by excess food cooked for celebrations, which accounts for 30%. There is a substantial opportunity here, and the hospitality sector is already coming together to make a difference.

Winnow was launched in the UK five years ago, a tech-for-good startup drawing on recent advances in the Internet of Things. It helps chefs run more profitable and sustainable kitchens by harnessing the power of data. The system comprises of a digital scale and connected tablet which is configured with the kitchen’s menu and ingredients. As a chef throws food away, the scale automatically captures its weight, and the chef identifies the dish on the touchscreen tablet. This data is analysed in the cloud, and the head chef and managers receive a report the next morning highlighting where improvements can be made to reduce waste.

It is an example of a business benefiting from the convergence of advances in cloud analytics, big data, and sensor technology. It is one of a growing number of companies looking to harness these advances to use resources more efficiently, manage infrastructure more intelligently, and deliver services more sustainably. Cities like Abu Dhabi are already pursuing programmes drawing on comparable technology in areas like transport, energy and green buildings, and the UAE was therefore the perfect place for Winnow.

Launched in the UAE in 2016, the startup now has has more than 70 units deployed in the country’s kitchens, working with Emaar, Rotana, Majid Al Futtaim, AccorHotels and Hilton. Results have been encouraging, with most kitchens reporting that food waste has been cut in half. The Hilton Dubai Jumeriah was able to cut food waste by 70%.

The UAE has taken a leadership position in the global fight against food waste. Recently the Ministry of Climate Change and Environment (MOCCAE) announced that UAE-based hospitality companies are ready to take on the challenge to reduce food waste, pledging to save one million meals by the end of 2018. This target will be increased to two million meals in 2019 and three million meals in 2020.

The UAE is leading the way where technology and sustainability are concerned. Savvy operators in the hospitality space are already reaping the rewards from using new digital tools to cut food waste and costs. We would challenge the rest of the sector to follow their lead and do the right thing for both their businesses and the planet.

Marc Zornes is CEO and co-founder of Winnow. Prior to launching Winnow, he was a top-ranked sustainability expert at the McKinsey Global Institute. Watch his TEDx talk on the opportunity food waste presents here.

By Marc Zornes / CEO, Winnow


27 NOV 2018

Three words to address the world

Just over five years ago I was working in the music events industry. It was my job to make sure that bands, equipment and guests all ended up in the right place, but that turned out to be far more difficult than I expected. With musicians getting lost all over the English countryside, I realised street addresses just weren’t reliable enough, and latitude and longitude coordinates were too long and easy to mistake. There had to be a better way.

I sat down with a couple of friends to tackle this problem, and what3words was born. We divided the entire world into 3m x 3m squares, and gave each square a unique 3 word address. recoil.itself.electrics for example, identifies the exact front entrance of the Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. We had a created a location reference solution that was very, very precise but also simple, and easy to remember, use and share with others. I had solved my problem of directing musicians to festival fields, but soon realised that 3 word addresses could have a far greater impact on the world. Four billion people don’t have a reliable address for where they live. They struggle to stake a property claim, register births, open a bank account, access health services, run a business or be found in an emergency. It hampers the growth and progress of nations and puts lives at risk. And even in the best-addressed parts of the world, street addresses aren’t accurate enough for services such as on-demand delivery, and certainly not for a future of autonomous vehicles and delivery drones.

what3words offers people a really simple way to talk about location. It can currently be used in 26 languages, including Arabic, and is optimised for speech recognition. The technology is used by businesses, governments and NGOs to operate more efficiently, and by individuals to find and share places reliably using the free app for iOS or Android.

Our system is being used by humanitarian organisations and NGOs around the world to give people access to essential services. In rural India, for example Pollinate Energy use 3 word addresses to deliver solar lanterns to communities without electricity, and in Mongolia and Liberia, people can now access microfinance for the first time thanks to having an address to give on their application form.

In South Africa, NGO Gateway Health provides vulnerable pregnant women with their 3 word address, and has trained the local ambulance drivers to find places quickly in an emergency using what3words. The technology has also been used by the UN, Infinitum Humanitarian Systems and the Philippine Red Cross for faster and more effective response in the aftermath of natural disasters.

As well as enabling access to basic services, what3words is working with innovative companies to build the cities, transport systems and mobility solutions of the future. Mercedes-Benz already offers what3words voice navigation in several of its vehicles, enabling drivers to input any precise destination simply by saying three words to their car. The technology has also been integrated into autonomous shuttles such as IBM’s #AccessibleOlli and modular vehicles created by Next Future Transportation in Dubai.

As we move towards increasingly fluid and flexible transport systems and the sharing economy grows in importance, being able easily to communicate precise location is essential. what3words has been built into ride-hailing apps such as Cabify, a key player in Spanish and Portuguese markets, and can be used to locate charging points for electric vehicles, as well as specific parking spots for car-sharing projects. By making these new mobility services efficient and easy to use, we can cut carbon emissions and enjoy cleaner, healthier cities.

By Chris Sheldrick / Chris Sheldrick, CEO and co-founder of what3words


28 OCT 2018

The challenges of water scarcity

Water scarcity is a global challenge with rapid population growth around the world placing extreme pressure on finite water resources.

The United Nations (UN) forecasts the world’s population to increase from 7 billion today to 9.7 billion by 2050 leading to a 55% increase in the demand for water. As a result more than 40% of people will be living in areas of severe water stress – defined as when demand for water regularly exceeds supply.

To feed a growing population, food supply must rise by 60% across the globe, meaning agriculture, which already uses 70% of all water taken from rivers and groundwater for livestock to drink and irrigate crops, will need an even bigger share of the world’s water supply.
The strain on a diminishing water supply will be felt most acutely in cities as rapid urbanisation continues unabated. Cape Town in South Africa is already experiencing severe water usage restrictions after narrowly avoiding running completely out of water earlier this year following a prolonged period of drought. 
Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking before he became South Africa’s president, said the city faced “real, total disaster”. It was the world’s first metropolis to face such a fate.
The UN expects 66% of the global population to be living in cities by 2050 and this increase from the current 55% could cause major disruption if suitable water technologies are not in place to serve demand.
Here in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) - one of the most arid parts of the world with little rainfall - groundwater levels are low and in steady decline. For the UAE and about 150 other counties on the coastline with minimal rainfall and little freshwater, there is currently little choice but to rely on desalination technology.
Desalination is already widely used, with more than 300 million people relying on desalinated water for some or all their daily needs, according to the International Desalination Association.
Desalination has been vital for the UAE’s rapid growth and development with the country getting 96% of its domestic water through this method.  
Two of the big disadvantages of desalination technology are closely linked to each other – firstly, desalination is energy intensive, and secondly these energy needs have historically been met by fossil fuels. In the UAE, seawater desalination needs about 10 times more energy than surface, freshwater production. 
In the Gulf region alone, desalination plants account for 0.2% of the entire world’s electricity consumption. However, these challenges are now being addressed and desalination technology is expected to play a key role in serving growing demand for fresh water. 
Energy accounts for around 70% of the cost of desalination. By reducing energy intensity and running desalination plants on renewable energy, operators could both reduce their operating costs and minimise their carbon footprint. 
In the UAE, Abu Dhabi Future Energy Company (Masdar) - has piloted five energy-efficient seawater desalination projects at a testing facility at Ghantoot. The long-term goal is to implement renewable energy-powered desalination plants in the country, as well as the wider region, and to have a commercial scale facility operating by 2020. Once rolled out, this project is likely to have implications well beyond the Middle East. 
Desalination technology has played a key role in helping the UAE and other countries in water scarce regions grow their cities and industries. Over the next decades, it will also be vital in helping emerging economies develop, although how these countries power their plants will be different. 
Desalination, when combined with renewable energy and potentially energy storage, will significantly improve the economic viability of processing sea water and make it more environmentally sustainable. This will play a critical role in responding to the growing global challenge of water scarcity.  
Of course, diversifying supplies of water and reducing energy demand from water production, is only part of the solution to water scarcity. Making better use of water – such as re-using wastewater for irrigating crops (after it has been filtered), or for industry (for heating and cooling), is another challenge.
Re-using wastewater is now common. Recent advances in technology and purification methods mean that it could have a bigger role in alleviating water scarcity.
Finding solutions to water scarcity will require governments to work closely with business. Companies are increasingly concerned about the shortage of water because it could increase the cost of producing their products and services and increase their energy costs. Over the coming decades, access to a reliable and clean supply of water could become as important to companies as access to skilled labour, capital and technology.
Cape Town narrowly avoided Day Zero this year when the taps to the city finally ran dry. Lasting solutions need to be developed and implemented before scores of other cities around the world face a similar crisis.

By Khaled Abdulla Al Qubaisi / CEO Aerospace, Renewables and ICT for Mubadala


28 OCT 2018

Data to drive new levels of efficiency in healthcare facilities

It’s no secret that healthcare facilities are among the most energy intensive building environments. They operate 24/7 all through the year and must follow strict regulations. Today’s hospitals are under tremendous pressure to serve growing patient populations despite shrinking budgets, and facilities staff are responsible for the daunting task of maintaining facility health while ensuring patient safety and regulatory compliance.

There has never been a greater need for hospitals to improve efficiency, productivity and effectiveness. Unfortunately, many healthcare facilities are still in the slow lane when it comes to implementing new technologies that can help them achieve these goals.

A number of factors complicate the adoption of certain technologies in the healthcare arena. Facility managers need immediate access to infrastructure information to ensure the comfort and safety of patients, staff and visitors. But hospital building systems are far more complex than in other types of facilities, with exponentially more moving parts. Often maintenance personnel are not even aware of a system issue or malfunction until someone enters a work order. This not only delays response time, but frustrates facility staff by placing them in perpetual “catch-up” mode.

Additionally, many facility managers are aware of the significant energy waste that happens every day in patient rooms and operating theaters, but they remain powerless to meticulously and manually adjust every area within their sprawling campuses. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day or members on the facilities staff to ensure temperatures aren’t set too high and lights are turned off in unoccupied rooms.

So how can hospital facility managers address these challenges? The answer lies in data that’s already right in front of them.

Leveraging Building and Patient Data for Improved Savings and Satisfaction

The building management system (BMS) is like the respiratory system of a hospital. It breathes air in and out of the hospital and filters out contaminants that could threaten patients, staff and equipment. The BMS also provides enormous value as it aggregates what is usually disparate building data to uncover inefficiencies and alert facilities staff to equipment problems. But the BMS typically lacks insight into a critical component of the healthcare environment – its ever-evolving patient population. Admission, discharge and transfer (ADT) systems are the keeper of patient comings and goings and can be used by facilities staff to deliver new opportunities for energy savings, staff productivity and patient satisfaction.

Today’s technology enables facility managers to leverage critical room occupancy data that previously hadn’t been used to its full potential. The key is sharing information through a Health Level-7 (HL7) interface that ensures compliance with international healthcare security and patient privacy standards.

Using HL7, facilities staff can create interoperability between a hospital’s BMS and its clinical scheduling, housekeeping and ADT systems. For example, a clinical environment optimisation solution can share the occupancy status of patient rooms and operating theatres with the BMS, which then sets rooms to predetermined set points for HVAC and lighting during vacancy to achieve energy savings during unoccupied times. The BMS puts the room back into normal operation when it receives a notification that the patient will be returning, or when a room has been assigned to maintain the optimal environment for patient healing and satisfaction.

This level of integration leads to a number of benefits including:

  • Energy savings – Facility managers can reduce energy use in rooms that are vacant or unoccupied for long periods of time and make more informed decisions about how to best manage room conditions.
  • Improved staff productivity – Maintenance and cleaning staff gain productivity by knowing when they can schedule work in patient rooms conveniently and efficiently when rooms are unoccupied.
  • Enhanced patient satisfaction – Patients have the ability to specify their preferred room temperature during the admission process or control it themselves from their room via a mobile app.

A small change can make a big impact on how much energy a facility consumes, and on the operating budget. In fact, just a 20 per cent energy saving can save up to US$1.8 million a year for a 250-bed hospital. Those savings can be reinvested in a variety of ways, from new clinical services to attract patients, to additional savings opportunities through infrastructure retrofits or green initiatives.

More than half (54 per cent) of healthcare executives rank patient experience and satisfaction among their top three priorities.[1] For healthcare providers, there is value in delivering a high-quality, positive and engaging patient experience. For instance, a hospital with US$120 million annual revenues can improve patient satisfaction and realize an estimated US$2.2 million to US$5.4 million in additional revenue annually.[2]

But as hospitals struggle to manage limited budgets, some are forced to consider staff cuts. This measure only creates more problems because staff shortages will ultimately impact the overall patient experience and drive down satisfaction scores.

By implementing energy efficiency measures, hospitals can reduce their operating costs while also improving the quality of care they deliver to patients. The added level of control and choice patients have over their environment during their hospital stay has been proven to improve patient satisfaction.

Today’s healthcare facility managers can make smarter decisions about their energy use by integrating the clinical and facilities sides of their organization.The end result is a win for patients, hospital staff and the bottom line.

[1] “2013 Industry Survey Data,” HealthLeadersMedia, (2013).

[2] Hall, Melvin F. “Looking to Improve Financial Results? Start by Listening to Patients,” Healthcare Financial Management, (October 2008).

By Manoj Soni / Vice President of EcoBuilding Business - Gulf Countries and Pakistan, Schneider Electric