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There is no stopping it. Dubai is moving forward with its plan to become the smartest city in the world within the next three years. “This project touches everyone’s life,” says Dr Mansoor Al Awar, Chancellor of the Hamdan Bin Mohammad Smart University (HBMSU), referring to Dubai’s Smart City initiative. “It is not just about developing services, but about changing the way of life in Dubai. The goal is to bring about happiness for all.”
His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, announced the Smart City project in October, aiming to take advantage of smart devices and high-speed wireless internet connection to enhance government services in the emirate.
Several initiatives are underway to support the project, including a Smart Living City exhibition and conference in September, under the patronage of Shaikh Hamdan Bin Rashid Bin Mohammad Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai.
To achieve the goals of the project, six pillars have been outlined: smart life, smart transportation, smart society, smart economy, smart governance and smart environment. In March, the government announced more details about the initiative, including a 5-D control room that will monitor the weather, traffic and the smart city conversion process among others.
Many other initiatives are in place as part of the transformation towards a smart city. For instance, motorists can now pay parking fees through SMS, while the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) is working on a smart electrical grid, as part of efforts to encourage the use of renewable energy sources.
“We would be able to connect to the grid, supplying extra energy generated during the day to Dewa and receiving their supply in return at night, making our city a zero-net energy user,” says Faris Saeed, CEO of Diamond Developers, explaining how the smart grid works. Diamond Developers is developing Dubai Sustainable City (DSC), where solar panels are installed on the roof of homes to generate electricity.
DSC, located near the Arabian Ranches, is expected to complete handover by September next year. Although it does not brand itself as a smart city, it will be the first residential development to incorporate the smart environment pillar of Dubai’s Smart City project.
Dubai Municipality (DM) also launched last month Desert Rose, a sustainable community development for UAE nationals. Designed in the shape of a rose, the project on Emirates Road will feature similar components to DSC, such as renewable energy, recycling facilities and a green belt for agricultural purposes. It is also planned to have air-conditioned pedestrian pathways.
DSC and Desert Rose comply with the pillars for sustainable development set by the Dubai Land Department. HBMSU was part of the jury that validated their compliance with the pillars, taking into account their ecological, economic, cultural and social impact.
“Yes, the sustainable development pillars are certainly valid for smart cities as well, but you will have to look at these criteria once more, as today we’re adding the element of technology,” says Al Awar.
The first project focused entirely on supporting Dubai’s Smart City initiative is Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority’s (DSOA) Silicon Park, which takes up 150,000 sq m of the Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) development.
Around Dh1.1 billion is being invested to build the mini city, which adheres to the UAE Green Building Regulations and the international LEED standards.
To reduce Silicon Park’s carbon footprint and optimize energy use, various schemes are being deployed, including the use of green building and recycled materials, doubleglazing, solar panels, green roofs, heat-resistant plants, smart street lighting, recycling and technologies that regulate water consumption.
The smart community will also feature intelligent solutions that will make life easier for residents. Parks will have charging bays for smart devices, while charging stations will be available in strategic locations, as the community will only allow electric-powered vehicles and bikes.
Virtual maps will make finding one’s way around simple. Facilities will be equipped with sensors to ensure that everything works as planned. The entire DSO development will also soon be Wi-Fi-enabled.
“We are currently working on achieving free Wi-Fi access around the clock over the entire expanse of DSO, which covers 7.2 sq km. It is an initiative we launched in December,” says Dr Mohammed Alzarooni, Vice-Chairman and CEO of DSOA.
The close to 100,000 sq m of office space will be equipped with smart applications, including see-through billboards protecting the glass façades. Conference centres, restaurants, cafés, a shopping centre and a business hotel will take up 25,000 sq m, with an underground parking for around 2,500 cars. Around 20,000 sq m have been allocated for the residential district, where homes will be equipped with smart systems. Furthermore, DSOA recently signed an agreement to support Dewa’s smart initiatives.
"The Silicon Park project is a true example of what the future will be in live-work environments connected to the internet and smart applications,” says Alzarooni. “Our primary goal is to provide a contemporary model in the development of integrated smart projects that provide all the elements of modern life.
“Most notably, the project supports the principles of sustainable design, which reflects the strategic directions of DSOA and its efforts to ensuring a sustainable future for all.
“It also reflects the readiness of Dubai to adopt the latest innovative technological solutions. Development projects can be described as smart when they can provide a quality living and work environment and a wise management of natural resources.”
Private sector support
While the government is leading the way, it may take some time to convince more private developers to jump on board, although Masood Al Awar, CEO of Tasweek, which is co-hosting the Smart Living City event, believes there are already quite a few who have embraced the concept.
“We need to show to other developers there is a lot more they can do,” he says. “It is not an option any more for developers to think smart technologies are too expensive to implement.
“Once they see how they can work with spaces in their developments or buildings more intelligently, I think they will make the smart choice.”
Event: Smart Living City Dubai
Venue: Emirates Towers
Date: September 15-16
The event aims to accelerate smart business programmes in Dubai. It will gather representatives from start-ups, investors, corporations, foundations, researchers and cities, and will feature workshops, competitions and presentations by practitioners across continents.
Source: Nicole Walter, Special to Property Weekly