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Inside the smart city plans of Dubai's under-construction Silicon Park

DSOA's Eng Muammar Al Katheeri explains how the 15-hectare park, now "in its final stretch", will operate when it opens in H1

Silicon Park is a mixed-used development, with homes, offices, and conference areas.
DSOA
Silicon Park is a mixed-used development, with homes, offices, and conference areas.

Dubai is striving to build a reputation as one of the smartest cities in the world, and the emirate will take another step in its journey later this year with the opening of Silicon Park.

Construction is due to complete on the project in the first half of 2019, and the 15-hectare development at Dubai Silicon Oasis is set to be the first purpose-built smart city in the emirate. Combining residential, office, and retail buildings, Silicon Park will also include many of the latest concepts when it comes to smart services, smart infrastructure, and sustainability.

We are closing off most of the buildings for handover, and we have already started letting customers to go in to do their fit-outs.

The park comprises 71,000m2 of office space, 25,000m2 of commercial space, and 46,000m2 of residential space, along with a 112-room business hotel, and 59 furnished apartments in a self-contained development, complete with a conference centre, plaza, and open spaces.

The park, which is expected to become home to about 20,000 workers and residents once at full capacity, will be managed by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), and occupies a site in the centre of the existing Dubai Silicon Oasis development, located to the east of the DSOA headquarters.

Executive vice president of engineering and the smart city unit at DSOA, Eng Muammar Al Katheeri, says the park is “in the final stretch” as it heads towards completion, with anchor partners already signed up and preparing their buildings.

“We are closing off most of the buildings for handover, and we have already started letting customers to go in to do their fit-outs,” he says.

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority’s Muammar Al Katheeri [ITP Media Group].

Once all of the buildings have been handed over, the park will open in two main phases, Al Katheeri explains. The first phase will involve the opening of 20 buildings, and the second phase will include the opening of the conference centre, furnished apartments, and the hotel, which will be the first Radisson Red-branded property in the region.

A three-month testing and commissioning phase will be carried out  across the whole project, to ensure that not only is the physical infrastructure up and running correctly, but the smart services are also working properly.

The master systems integrator, Du, was appointed for the project to look at a holistic view of Silicon Park. We are also working with Orange Business Services as the technical partner, and NXN is the consultant that designed the platform.

All of the buildings at Silicon Park will be connected to integrated building management systems, and smart sensors will monitor every aspect of the park, feeding data back to a central command and control centre and a centralised smart city platform.

The platform will enable DSOA to manage all aspects of the operations, including power consumption, traffic, and CCTV systems. The platform was developed specifically for Silicon Park, to cater to all aspects of the project, and to enable integration with legacy systems from Dubai Silicon Oasis.

The master development was established under DSOA in 2004, as an integrated community and free trade zone with a focus on technology. Dubai Silicon Oasis already has an advanced telecoms infrastructure, including a fibre optic network and tier 3 data centre, as well as some pilot smart services. Silicon Park will share several elements of the infrastructure with Dubai Silicon Oasis.

“Most of the smart city solutions that we have seen in different cities are only tackling two or three aspects – for example, traffic and energy. But here, we have a holistic view of the city and all of these systems require a tailor-made architecture,” says Al Katheeri. 

“The master systems integrator, Du, was appointed for the project to look at a holistic view of Silicon Park. We are also working with Orange Business Services as the technical partner, and NXN is the consultant that designed the platform.

“In Silicon Park, we have 28 systems that are running the project, through a centralised command and control centre, with sensors all around the project. These systems will operate the intelligent integrated building management system, the security systems, all the systems that are related to the operations of the project, plus energy consumption, cooling, and solar power.”

Al Katheeri adds: “We will also have 60 smart services, [underscoring] the smart experience that you will get in Silicon Park.”

Silicon Park will be a smart hub in Dubai [CW Archives].

It is with its planned smart city services that Al Katheeri says Silicon Park will set itself apart from other smart developments in the region. Residents and office workers at the park will have access to various services.

For example, drivers will be able to register their car so that, as they drive into the park, access control systems will be alerted, and an elevator will be summoned in their parking garage, so that they can go directly from the car park into their office, Al Katheeri explains.

Parents will be able to define boundary areas for their children, and geofencing will provide alerts to the parents – or to the park’s security team – if the child goes beyond the virtual boundary. In addition, health pods will enable residents to check their basic bio-signs on the spot, and consult with a doctor via a teleconference, rather than having to book an appointment.

Other smart functions will include smart signage for wayfinding, and charging points and WiFi across the development, to ensure that users can keep their smart devices connected. DSOA is also trialling robotic lawn tending machines and robotic garbage collection services.

The services will be available on a standalone basis, but will also be used in an orchestrated fashion, says Al Katheeri. For example, smart parking and signage can be used to direct people to events held at the central plaza, where smart building façades will broadcast event coverage. This will open up new revenue streams for DSOA, and create new and better experiences for residents and business partners, Al Katheeri notes.

In Silicon Park, we have 28 systems that are running the project, through a centralised command and control centre, with sensors all around the project.

To connect the different services, DSOA has deployed different network technologies, including WiFi, a long-range wireless communication protocol, and narrowband Internet of Things, and is supporting the development of 5G. “We have established a 5G lab with our partners Du and Nokia, and some universities, to look at different use cases, and how we can utilise the 5G network. 5G will accelerate the way we do business,” says Al Katheeri.

Sustainability is another key feature of Silicon Park. Smart metering for building energy and cooling systems will be provided by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa). Many of the building roofs will house solar panels and rooftop gardens, making the most of the space.

The development uses LED lighting throughout and, coupled with the building management systems, this will enable improved control and automation of lighting, minimising wastage. Businesses based at Silicon Park will be able to deploy smart metering at their offices, to encourage more efficient energy usage.

DSOA is also taking steps to improve sustainability, and buildings within the development are built to high standards of eco-friendliness, Al Katheeri says. Dubai Silicon Oasis is already home to several Leed Platinum-standard buildings, and he explains that the aim is for buildings within Silicon Park to achieve similar levels of Leed certification.

Silicon Park will have more than 60 smart services [supplied].

Silicon Park is not a standalone development, but rather plugs in to a wider ecosystem of smart city developments that is being driven by the government of Dubai, Al Katheeri notes.

As part of Dubai Silicon Oasis, which is more established as a residential and work environment, Silicon Park has a wider community surrounding it – one that is already active in providing feedback on various community initiatives via social media. Silicon Park will build on this, according to Al Katheeri.

Silicon Park will also be able to plug in to Smart Dubai initiatives, such as the Dubai Data Initiative, he adds, explaining that data created by Silicon Park will be “ingested” into the Dubai Data Platform, to benefit the wider smart city ecosystem.

DSOA is also working with its partner, the Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai, which is providing support on data skills and services, and which has also launched a Master’s programme in data science that aims to train skilled personnel for Dubai’s smart projects.

When it comes to transport, DSOA is a strategic partner of Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) in its smart mobility initiative. Testing of the RTA’s autonomous taxi was carried out at Dubai Silicon Oasis, and the two entities are working together on other autonomous transport solutions.

Silicon Park will also benefit from DSOA’s involvement with startup businesses, through its Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus, and from other programmes with technology companies and government entities. The aim is to bring together public- and private-sector partners to share ideas and knowledge, as Al Katheeri explains.

“We are not just hosting companies to do sales; we are hosting companies and partnering with them, securing the business for them, and sustaining continuous growth by aligning them with government initiatives, whether these are about solar energy, blockchain, or digital transformation,” he says.

“We are something of a test lab in which companies can conduct a live demonstration of their products, which will encourage the private and public sectors to engage with them.”

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