Innovators find solutions for the future at KAUST

Updated 16 September 2019

Innovators find solutions for the future at KAUST

Hundreds of developers, designers, programmers and entrepreneurs from around Saudi Arabia came together recently to design next-generation technologies in food, water and energy for implementation in Saudi Arabia’s $500 billion global model for future living NEOM, the event’s challenge partner. 

The JUNCTIONxKAUST hackathon took place Sept. 12-14 on campus at King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST). The winning team eFarmers will be attending the global Junction hackathon in Helsinki, Finland, taking place in November later this year. 

Out of 1,200 applications, only 200 participants were selected to compete in this year’s hackathon. The attendees were supported by over 25 mentors from the Saudi Data Community, including: Developer Circles Jeddah, GDG Jeddah, Geeks Valley, Udacity and KAUST Core Labs. 

This is the second Junction hackathon hosted by KAUST. Each year, KAUST works with a network of partners to design innovative solutions to shared global challenges. “At KAUST our mission is to create solutions for the future of food, water, energy and the environment,” said Kevin Cullen, vice president for innovation and economic development at KAUST. 

“We do this through advanced research and working with partners to develop new products and technology. This hackathon was an incredible opportunity to partner with NEOM to solve real challenges facing the Kingdom and for students and innovators to work together in creating a shared sustainable future.”

During the hackathon, participants were asked to solve three challenges regarding the future of water, energy, and food technology products and services in NEOM. Mark Tester, head of the future of food sector at NEOM and professor of plant science at KAUST, said: “NEOM is the land of the future. We are looking for the most innovative and cutting-edge solutions to challenges in generating energy, growing food and sourcing water. The Junction hackathon with KAUST showed the unlimited potential of young people from around Saudi Arabia in answering these challenges.”

Technology partners Microsoft and UnitX offered additional technical solutions, including Microsoft’s Azure and UnitX’s Sentient, a cloud-based supercomputing platform. Saleh Al-Zaid, intelligent cloud business group lead at Microsoft, said: “Our mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. Hence, we at Microsoft support innovators and entrepreneurs all over the world to achieve more. This hackathon at KAUST brought top talent from all over Saudi Arabia to put Microsoft technology to the test.”

The winners of JUNCTIONxKAUST included:

•1st place: eFarmers, a sensor technology that accurately detects ground humidity for plants.

•2nd place: Arks, a machine learning technology that detects water leakage in homes.

•3rd place: Nutrax, a food scanning app that accurately identifies all nutritional information.


Russia’s cultural capital beckons GCC travelers

Updated 17 October 2019

Russia’s cultural capital beckons GCC travelers

  • Citizens of Oman, Kuwait and Saudi Arabia can now benefit from fast and convenient 
eVisa portal when arranging their next visit to the city of St. Petersburg.
Guarded by two marble lions at the entrance, the Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg sits within the walls of a 19th-century royal palace in the beautifully preserved imperial city of St. Petersburg. Celebrated globally for its history and architecture, Russia’s cultural capital recently became an even more attractive destination for GCC travelers thanks to the introduction of a convenient new online eVisa process.
Launched at the beginning of October, the St. Petersburg eVisa portal enables citizens from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Oman to enjoy the benefits of fast and simple online visa applications. Travelers can simply fill in the online form, upload a photograph, and can complete the entire process in just a few clicks. Applications can be made within 20 days of traveling, and up to four days before arrival. The visa is valid for stays of up to eight days in St. Petersburg and the surrounding Leningrad Region.
Felix Murillo, general manager of Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg, said: “The introduction of the eVisa portal offers a new level of convenience for international travelers, making it easier than ever for GCC citizens to arrange a trip to our wonderful city. Our concierge team takes great pleasure in highlighting St. Petersburg’s historical and cultural visitor attractions, and will be happy to arrange anything our guests may require to turn every trip into an unforgettable experience. We look forward to welcoming visitors from the Middle East to our beautiful hotel to share cherished moments and create memories that will last a lifetime.”
The Four Seasons Hotel Lion Palace St. Petersburg is located in the upmarket Admiralteysky district and was originally constructed in the early 19th century for Prince Alexander Yakovlevich Lobanov-Rostovsky.
Since first opening its doors to guests in 2013, the property offers 183 rooms, including 26 sumptuously decorated suites.
Perhaps the most stunning of the hotel’s accommodations is the one-of-a-kind Lobanov Presidential Suite, where guests can gather by the living room fireplace for a night of intimate conversation, host an al fresco dinner party on the expansive private terrace with stunning views of the Admiralty building and the surrounding park, or retreat to the grand master bedroom for a quiet and cosy evening.
The hotel is inviting guests to embark on a range of culinary adventures across its three restaurants. Diners can experience pan-asian fusion flavors at Sintoho, authentic Italian dishes at Percorso and modern Russian cuisine at The Tea Lounge.
Catering to the needs of visitors from the Middle East, halal meat is available on request.