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South Korean’s Naver to build digital platform for Saudi cities

ANN/THE KOREA HERALD – South Korean Internet powerhouse Naver announced that it had successfully clinched a significant agreement in Saudi Arabia, pertaining to the development of a cutting-edge, cloud-based digital twin platform for Saudi Arabia’s ambitious smart city initiative.

The signing ceremony for the deal took place on Monday in the Saudi capital Riyadh, during the state visit of President Yoon Suk Yeol.

While the precise financial details of the agreement remain undisclosed by Naver, the presidential office has suggested that it may be in the ballpark of USD100 million.

Under the agreement signed with Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing, key Naver affiliates including Naver Labs and Naver Cloud will set up and operate a 3D platform for five cities – Riyadh, Medina, Jeddah, Dammam and Mecca – over the next five years.

South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol and government officials of Korea and Saudi Arabia attend the signing event of a memorandum of understanding between Naver and Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Municipal and Rural Affairs and Housing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. PHOTO: JOINT PRESS CORPS/THE KOREA HERALD

The Saudi government plans to use the platform to advance public services such as urban planning, monitoring and flood forecasting.

This is the first time that Naver has secured such a big deal in the Middle East. It is also the first export case of a Korean-made digital government platform, a private-public joint project launched by the Yoon government.

“It is meaningful that Saudi Arabia has recognised our world-class technology,” Naver said. “After comparing Naver’s technology with those of other global tech giants, the Saudi government agreed that we could create a highly scalable digital twin platform in the shortest period.”

Naver said it has developed technologies that can replicate the whole city with only a 10-centimetre margin of error, along with mapping robots and data processing infrastructure. The company touted its large-scale interior mapping technology and stable cloud system that have experienced zero accidents or shutdowns so far.

“The nation- and city-scale digital twin platform requires long-term operation and management. With updated cutting-edge technologies including AI, robots and cloud since the construction of ‘1784’, we plan to introduce the top-class platform,” said Naver, referring to the company’s futuristic smart office building located in Gyeonggi Province.

The IT giant vowed to work together with startups in Saudi Arabia and Korea by allowing them access to the platform where they can launch new services ranging from smart city development and urban water management to virtual real estate, service robots, autonomous mobility and AI mapping. Naver has already forged a partnership with Korea-based LX and Korea Water Resources Corp.

It also plans to set up a local subsidiary and cloud locations in Saudi Arabia. Adding to that, Naver and the Saudi ministry will discuss using Naver’s hyperscale AI and cloud system to tackle the nation’s pending issues.

“I will keep in mind our predecessors’ hard work in exporting construction plant projects (to the Middle East),” said Naver’s president of ESG and external policy Chae Seon-ju in a statement. “Based on our advanced IT technologies, we will take the lead in the second wave of Middle East exports.”