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Dubai has been a front-runner in creating innovative developments, adopting technological advancements and building skyscrapers that have made the global headlines. The latest feather in Dubai's cap is the upcoming World Expo 2020. As the city prepares to receive 25 million visitors for the event, His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, is also laying the foundation to establish the emirate as the world's smartest city.
The government aims to create 100 initiatives in transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services and urban planning, and to integrate around 1,000 government services into the smart city platform in the next three years.
Effective partnership between the private and public sectors is vital to achieve this.
Information and communications technology (ICT) forms the backbone of the emirate's smart city vision. Dr Amina Al Rustamani, Group CEO, Tecom Investments, explains, ''The objective is to increase everyone's happiness by ensuring Dubai's built environment and social infrastructure are accessible and easy to use in the digital era, where most people use smart devices.''
Dubai's smart city vision will be built on strong foundations that include high penetration of internet and smart devices (Dubai already has a 200 per cent mobile penetration rate) and high IT literacy rate. Furthermore, the city's broadband infrastructure, 4G network and fibre optic readiness is the best in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena).
GB Kumar, VP and Geo Head for Mena and Turkey at Tech Mahindra, says a young greenfield city such as Dubai bas a clear advantage in adopting and implementing smart technology initiatives when compared to other brownfield cities that are already built.
''Adopting smarter infrastructure in built places will require retrofitting that is lot more expensive and takes more time,'' says Kumar. ''For Dubai, [its newer infrastructure] makes smart implementation a very swift move.''
The three core components of a smart city are smart life, smart economy and smart tourism. Smart life focuses on services that enrich individual lives, smart economy aims to boost the national economy and smart tourism seeks to offer a comfortable environment for the emirate's visitors, says Mohammed Amin, Senior Vice-President and Regional Manager - Turkey, Eastern Europe, Africa and the Middle East at technology company EMC Corporation.
''Smart cities are built on an ongoing flow of structured and unstructured data that comes from sensors, social networking and telemetry that are built into every imaginable product,'' says Amin. ''These sensors generate massive amounts of data at incredibly rapid rates that need to be analysed and acted upon in real time to create new experiences.''
The overall picture
Every city has its own set of smart city goals. Based on this, experts highlight a few changes one can expect as Dubai transitions to a city of the future.
• Transit-oriented development
Transit-oriented development (TOD) defines a walking radius from a transit stop. Developments are then planned within this space, explains Michael Fowler, Managing Director-Middle East at Aedas, an architectural and design firm. Easy accessibility encourages people to use public transport.
Some communities that have adopted the TOD concept in the emirate are Downtown Dubai and Dubai Marina.
• Mobile connectivity
Dubai will see an increase in Wi-Fi accessibility across the city, with internet-enabled taxis, intercity buses, bus shelters and other public spaces. Louay Dahmash, Head of Middle East at Autodesk, a 3D design and engineering software firm, believes this move will help improve the efficiency of the city.
• Smarter economy
A smart economy is linked to the development of smart companies and services related to ports, airports and smart jobs, says Amin. Convenient, hassle-free networks are being created with smart set-ups to access critical information and engage in relevant services such as customs, logistics, licence registration, etc. This will attract new businesses to Dubai, contribute to economic growth and boost the standard of living.
• Smart mobility
Intelligent systems being implemented will improve road safety, streamline traffic flow and address parking issues. The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) will deploy taxis that offer broadband or Wi-Fi services, allowing passengers to stay connected in any trip. The Nol card payment scheme already allows a single card to be used in the Dubai Metro, buses and even some taxis, and to pay parking fees.
Raghav Sadana, Vice Chairman of Orion Holdings, says traffic will be monitored and managed by an integrated, centralized system. The RTA plans to introduce more than 200 mobile services soon to further control traffic congestion and communication between traffic lights.
Measures are also being taken to address parking issues, which is one of the biggest challenges in Dubai. An automated service that guides a motorist to the nearest available parking spot is already being put in place.
''Information is collected from traffic cameras, street security cameras, social networks, sensor networks, in car devices, location-based smartphone apps, radio-frequency identification tags and smart parking metres across the city,'' says Amin.
''The information gathered will help identify traffic blocks, road works, municipal construction sites, etc., and disseminate alternative routes through GPS and smartphone-based location apps and services.''
• Smart government
Thousands of government services will be converted into smart services that can be accessed from anywhere. A number of government-related entities are driving this initiative, including the RTA, Dubai Police, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Department of Economic Development and Dubai Municipality.
''Their involvement represents some of the most obvious areas where government intersects with society, such as transportation, security and safety, utilities, the economy and recreation,'' says Al Rustamani. ''It's these areas that need to become smart.''
• Sustainable communities
A smart community allows better control of resources. Sadana explains a smart community is developed at two levels - the building and interiors. At the building level, sensors connect with the main control room to enable machine-to machine communication, which manages the resource consumption in common areas such as the corridors, elevators and car parks.
Within the interiors, smart appliances that communicate with sensors optimize the consumption of resources such as water and electricity, based on the preferences of the residents.
The Dubai Design District (d3), for instance, is a Greenfield pilot development for the smart city initiative. The first phase of the project will be delivered next year.
''It will offer digital connectivity throughout the area and will use smart solutions to enhance people's experience during events and to ensure accessibility and safety for everyone,'' says Al Rustamani. ''Intelligent green solutions will also be applied to the buildings, so they are more sustainable and reduce energy wastage.''
• Environmental sustainability
Sustainable measures revolve around the principle of sharing, optimisation of existing resources and using renewables.
''Dubai's smart city vision puts special emphasis on the energy sector and the use of natural resources such as water and electricity through the development of smart grids,'' says Amin. ''It encourages property owners in Dubai to use smart metres to rationalise the consumption of electricity and water, and generate, store and leverage solar energy to minimise the strain on natural resources.''
He adds that maximizing the use of physical space is another step towards sustainable living. The Dubai Government has initiated Design Hubs to help businesses and homeowners make intelligent use of spaces and reduce electricity consumption and carbon emission of expansive buildings.
Furthermore, efficient traffic flow, through real time traffic condition reporting, will also result in lower carbon emission and energy usage and a cleaner, greener environment.
Living in a smart city
Living in a digitally advanced and connected society will enrich people's lives and significantly reduce the city's carbon emissions, thus promoting sustainable living practices.
Benoit Dubarle, Country President - UAE, Oman and Pakistan at Schneider Electric, explains, ''Electric grids, gas distribution systems, water distribution systems, public and private transportation systems, commercial buildings, hospitals and homes all form the backbone of a city's efficiency, liveability and sustainability. Hence, improvement and integration of these critical systems, in a step-by-step manner, will become the cornerstone to making a smart city a reality.''
Adopting smart technologies will help save up to 30 per cent in energy usage and up to 20 per cent in water wastage, according to Dubarle. Street crime will be reduced by up to 30 per cent because of CCTV security cameras and travel time and traffic delays will drop by up to 20 per cent, he says.
Smart cities can also save people's lives by helping improve the response time to medical emergencies. Dubarle says the smart city concept opens new possibilities to reduce the response time of ambulances from the current standard of l4 minutes to five minutes, which will double the chance of survival of victims.
A smart city will boost economic growth since it brings in more investment, create jobs and attract talent.
On the other hand, Dubai may also face challenges related to integrated IT-information overload, data security, and privacy issues and dependence on arcane technology.
''There needs to be adequate safeguards against identity theft, misinformation and erroneous profiling,'' says Dubarle.
The Dubai Smart Cities Forum was held earlier this year at the Mohammad Bin Rashid School of Government (MBRSG), a research and teaching institution focusing on public policy in the Arab world. The conference underlined the importance of engaging people from an early stage of a smart city project.
''Smart city projects, in general, revolve around people more than anything,'' says Ahmad Bin Byat, CEO of Dubai Holding and Vice Chairman of the Board of Trustees of MBRSG. '''We measure the smartness of a city by what it offers in terms of improving efficiency and productivity or enriching the quality of life.
''Our goal is not just to make Dubai a smart city, but to make it the smartest city.''
Rashik Parmar, President of the IBM Academy of Technology, echoes this sentiment: ''A smart city is not just about being high-tech, it's about engaging people and responding to their needs. The city should be able to talk to its residents through seamlessly interconnecting systems to facilitate their lives in the best manner possible, while making optimum use of resources.''
Parmar tells Property Weekly engaging people entails finding out what matters to them. ''Defining the outcome in the way that matters to the individual is the biggest challenge we are facing,'' he says.
Another speaker, Dr Hichem Maya, Head of Business Transformation Services at SAP, says, ''A smart city improves living standards, transforms governments and boosts economic prosperity. If we are to achieve this objective, we need to ensure that the public and private sector is flexible, agile, innovative and capable of engaging individuals and communities.''
GIS key to modern smart services
Geographic information systems (GIS) will play a key role in fuelling the growth of smart cities in the region, according to data scientists. Drawing location data from devices such as smartphones, GIS makes planning, resource management and even investigations in science and crime more efficient.
GIS systems will be important in modernizing government services, says Khawla Al Fahim, Executive Manager of the Abu Dhabi Spatial Infrastructure Centre (Adsic). ''Adding a spatial component to government services not only modernizes e-government, but it also improves service and communications channels for residents.
''When GIS and workflows are integrated, relationships, patterns and trends are revealed in the form of maps, globes, reports and charts. At Adsic, we believe that these visualizations help solve problems by allowing us to access data in a way that is quickly understood and easily shared.''
Khalid A. Hameed Al Hammadi, Acting Director of the GIS Directorate in Bahrain, agrees, adding that the maturity of GIS has enabled better planning, decision making and governance in Bahrain.
Click on Abu Dhabi and read on its proposal to build a $25b smart city in UAE
Source: Hina Navin, Special to Property Weekly