The GCC's top smart city projects of 2018

Saudi’s Neom and the tech-driven Aljada in Sharjah are some of the Gulf's under-construction smart city schemes

Voice-activated technology will be among the smart city features at the 2.2km2 Aljada megaproject in Sharjah [image: Arada].
Voice-activated technology will be among the smart city features at the 2.2km2 Aljada megaproject in Sharjah [image: Arada].

Smart city construction has progressed in the GCC this November after the foundation stone for a new tech-driven city near Muscat was laid by a UAE-Oman joint venture.

The 45ha mixed-use metropolis called Madinat Al Irfan will be built by the Omani government-backed Oman Tourism Development Company (Omran) and Dubai’s Majid Al Futtaim with the two parties inaugurating construction activity for a project dubbed Muscat’s ‘city of the future’ on 14 November.

Omran and Majid Al Futtaim have created a joint venture business called Madinat Al Irfan Development Company to lead the long-term development of the project, which will be built in phases, starting with a mixed-use community development built across a stretch of land covering 2ha. Majid Al Futtaim is already working on a masterplan that will include serviced plots available for commercial, residential, education, healthcare, entertainment, and hospitality development.

The scale of the project has been described as “unprecedented” by HE Talal Al Rahbi, deputy secretary general of Oman’s Supreme Council for Planning, who said Madinat Al Irfan “will transform Oman’s economy with significant socio-economic benefits”. Majid Al Futtaim’s chief executive officer for communities, Hawazen Esber, has claimed the project will “become a catalyst for economic diversification” in Oman and help to set standards in the Sultanate for sustainability and urban design. While Madinat Al Irfan has been described as the country’s city of the future, it is not yet clear what technology will be used to make it smart.

In Sharjah, UAE, meanwhile, details about the smart city technology for the $6.5bn (AED24bn) Aljada megaproject being developed by Arada have been revealed. The developer said that it had a team in place working on the early stages of the Aljada Smart City Project, which focuses on five areas: mobility, utilities, circular economy initiatives,  telecommunications, and waste management.

These areas will be supported by digitised infrastructure managed centrally from within the 2.2km² city. Arada has said it is in talks with “several multinational companies” who are familiar with smart city technology and how it can be used.

This comes after developer revealed that its unbuilt Aljada-based Misk Apartments will be equipped with voice-activated technology allowing homeowners to alter lighting, activate motion sensors, and control blinds, temperature, and utilities at the touch of a button or through voice activation.

READ: Dubai's Gitex 2018 shows why construction needs smart city tech

Residents of Misk Apartments will have remote door access and a 24-hour video surveillance system, which is accessible through a mobile phone. The technology is called Arada Smart Home and will be offered free of charge to every unit in the Misk Apartments complex.

In Saudi Arabia, software giant SAP has confirmed it is in talks with unnamed government authorities to support smart city infrastructure for the kingdom’s $500bn (SAR1.9tn) Neom gigaproject, financed by the Public Investment Fund.

“We have many examples on the table that could enable and help smart cities across the region, such as Neom, to achieve their goals,” Ahmed Al-Faifi, senior vice president and managing director for Middle East North at SAP, told Construction Week last month.

Elsewhere in the Gulf, a consortium of South Korean construction companies are expected to start work on an eco-friendly smart city in Kuwait in 2019. Called Saad Al-Abdullah City, the project is valued at approximately $4bn (KWD1.22bn) and is expected to accommodate between 25,000 to 40,000 households upon completion.

The consortium includes Posco A&C and Hyundai Architects and Engineers Associates Co, and is yet another example of South Korea’s presence in GCC construction.

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