GCC powers tech adoption to build smart cities

With flying taxis and voice-activated technology, smart cities are coming to the GCC

The adoption of smart city technology is rapidly growing in the GCC [representational image].
The adoption of smart city technology is rapidly growing in the GCC [representational image].

Recent data from Dubai Municipality – which revealed how the government entity’s use of technology has reduced the number of visitors to its offices – highlights the emirate’s speed in smart transformation.

The municipality says its initiatives encouraging customers to use smart services, such as apps and electronic payment, helped reduce the total number of visits to its offices by 60% between January and October 2018, as compared to the same 10-month period a year earlier. This shows how the emirate is on track with the Dubai 2021 Strategy to become one of the world’s smartest cities within the next three years, with smart and digitised transformation of government services driving such plans forward. It is also one of the many examples that demonstrate how – and more importantly why – GCC countries are ramping up smart city schemes.

READ: MEA smart city spending to double in next four years

Plans are gathering pace across the region to construct smarter cities with technology and sustainability at their core. Just this month, a joint venture between the government-owned Oman Tourism Development Authority and Majid Al Futtaim laid the foundation stone for Madinat Al Irfan in Muscat, a 45ha mixed-use metropolis, which has been described as the sultanate’s city of the future. Details about its smart city credentials have yet to be disclosed, but the development is a signal of intent from Oman to develop suitable housing and modern infrastructure to establish smart cities in the sultanate (p66).

Oman, of course, is not alone. While Dubai may take many of the plaudits for smart city schemes, its northerly neighbour Sharjah is pacing ahead as well, with details recently unveiled of the tech-driven gadgets that will be used for Arada’s affordable housing megaproject Aljada. The developer will equip some of the homes in the 2.2km2 development with voice-activation technology that will allow homeowners to control lights and set room temperature by voice or through a mobile device. Arada is also in talks with tech multinationals for smart city technologies.

Software giant SAP is similarly in discussions with unnamed government authorities to employ smart technology at the $500bn (SAR1.9tn) Neom gigaproject across Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Egypt.

READ: Dubai's RTA approves $160m smart traffic infrastructure project

This CW Special Report sheds light on the region’s future cities. With more driverless cars expected on the road in the future, Rob Kennedy, technical director of engineering consultancy Cundall’s regional operation, explains how blockchain can support autonomous vehicles.

What all of these schemes will need, though, is a clear government mandate to define the rules of the game for smart city development. Experts from consultancies such as Mott MacDonald and Aecom say greater participation from the government would be a good thing for the market. Of course, Dubai’s public sector is already shaping the future with its ambitious plans: just look at the emirate’s schemes for driverless cars, flying taxis, and a host of automated transport systems under consideration.

LEADERS KUWAIT 2018: New Kuwait 2035 needs smart city-led contracts

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