The Roadmap to Smart Dubai

Dubai Paves the Way for the Pri­vate Sec­tor to Build the Com­po­nents of a Smart City

Arabnet - The Quarterly - - Content - By Alexis Bagh­dadi | @Guer­ril­lawriter

Dubai has ini­ti­ated an am­bi­tious plan to be­come a wide-scale “smart city.” While other gov­ern­ments are fo­cused on de­ploy­ing smart gov­ern­ment ser­vices, Dubai has taken a broader and more com­pre­hen­sive strat­egy to build not only the smartest city in the world, but also the hap­pi­est and most pro­duc­tive.

Dubbed “Smart Dubai,” the fu­ture city will be a 24/7 in­ter­ac­tive plat­form pro­vid­ing a com­pre­hen­sive frame­work for e-busi­nesses to op­er­ate in, as well as pro­vid­ing lean, in­te­grated gov­ern­ment ser­vices to fa­cil­i­tate both busi­ness and pri­vate pro­ce­dures. The stated pur­pose of this is to im­prove the qual­ity of life for con­sumers and make do­ing busi­ness eas­ier for the pri­vate sec­tor in the dig­i­tal age.

But first things first:

What Is a Smart City?

Dubai is not the only city im­ple­ment­ing smart so­lu­tions. The global smart cities mar­ket is ex­pected to reach $1.2 tril­lion by 2019, ac­cord­ing to Trans­parency Mar­ket Re­search. The US holds the largest share of this mar­ket, mostly in the form of smart grids and up­grades in the wa­ter and trans­port in­fra­struc­ture.

How­ever, Dubai is cer­tainly the first to im­ple­ment smart so­lu­tions on such a scale. The city al­ready boasts hav­ing the smartest rail­way sys­tem (with Wi-fi ac­cess and a sup­port­ing app), and not only the world’s tallest build­ing, but also the smartest one: Burj Khal­ifa (in ad­di­tion to HVAC au­to­mated sys­tems, in­clud­ing power-gen­er­at­ing el­e­va­tors, it fea­tures bio­met­rics, touch-pad home au­to­ma­tion sys­tems, in­tel­li­gent park­ing, web-based pro­cure­ment, and more). But a smart city is more than just the sum of smart ser­vices in one lo­ca­tion. It is a fully-in­te­grated ur­ban and so­cial ecosys­tem gath­er­ing all as­pects of daily life. By def­i­ni­tion, a smart city should ac­com­mo­date smart homes, smart build­ings, en­ergy man­age­ment, in­tel­li­gent trans­porta­tion, sus­tain­abil­ity, and se­cu­rity. It is sup­posed to pro­vide a stream­lined in­fra­struc­ture and new-gen­er­a­tion ser­vices sup­ported by ICT. Fi­nally, smart cities should help re­duce CO2 emis­sions, save en­ergy costs, and uti­lize nat­u­ral re­sources with ef­fi­ciency. Th­ese are all en­com­passed in Smart Dubai’s 6 pil­lars: econ­omy, liv­ing, gov­ern­ment, trans­porta­tion, en­vi­ron­ment, and en­ergy.

Won’t You Take Me to Smart City?

Fast-for­ward to 2017, when the Dubai smart city will be un­der­way. The Dubai gov­ern­ment has set this as an­other mile­stone to­wards “Ini­tia­tive 2021,” a cam­paign to make Dubai the “most con­nected,” “smartest,” and “hap­pi­est” city.

“Smart Dubai works to foster cre­ativ­ity, in­no­va­tion and en­trepreneur­ship in the city. This is achieved by making gov­ern­ment ser­vices more ef­fi­cient, cre­at­ing plat­forms for col­lab­o­ra­tion and fa­cil­i­tat­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties for in­vest­ment,” said Aisha Butti Bin Bishr, As­sis­tant Di­rec­tor­Gen­eral the Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fice in the Gov­ern­ment of Dubai.

A smart city does sound like a great place to live in, but what does it in­volve in con­crete terms? The next mile­stone

in the Smart Dubai roadmap is a “smart city plat­form” from which the smart city will take off by mid-2016. The plat­form is not an end by it­self, but aims at putting in place the nec­es­sary tools and in­fras­truc­tures from which to de­sign more ef­fi­cient, seam­less, and safe smart so­lu­tions that carry the max­i­mum im­pact and de­liver the best ex­pe­ri­ence.

“The pur­pose of a smart city plat­form is de­signed with the pub­lic’s in­ter­est in mind, es­pe­cially where it con­cerns ser­vices and dis­tri­bu­tion of re­sources,” said Bin Bishr. She ex­plained that the Smart City Plat­form op­er­ates un­der 4 dis­trict lay­ers: an ap­pli­ca­tion layer, ser­vices en­able­ment, data or­ches­tra­tion, and in­fra­struc­ture. The ap­pli­ca­tion layer in­volves a city dash­board and user dash­boards giv­ing ac­cess to data wells via por­tals and APIS. At the end-user level, this means ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion, as well as the abil­ity to con­duct trans­ac­tions such as re­new­ing busi­ness li­censes. The ser­vices en­able­ment layer is ef­fec­tively a form of Plat­form as a Ser­vice (Paas) that guar­an­tees data rec­ol­lec­tion and trans­ac­tional ac­tiv­i­ties are con­ducted safely and ef­fi­ciently. This pri­mar­ily re­quires a strong se­cu­rity gov­er­nance, as well as iden­tity man­age­ment for users, pay­ment pro­to­cols, and lo­ca­tion track­ing. Data or­ches­tra­tion in­volves the stor­age and in­ges­tion of data in a cen­tral­ized source, as well as its pre­sen­ta­tion in a mean­ing­ful way to stake­hold­ers. Fi­nally, the right in­fra­struc­ture needs to be put in place. This in­volves cloud stor­age to en­able smart ap­pli­ca­tions, and a com­mon in­fra­struc­ture for the In­ter­net of Things (IOT) to en­sure the com­pat­i­bil­ity and ef­fec­tive­ness of all con­nected de­vices, with the sup­port of a com­mon com­mu­ni­ca­tion chan­nel. “Each of th­ese lay­ers looks at the frame­works, man­age­ment, dis­tri­bu­tion,

fa­cil­i­tat­ing the de­vel­op­ment and im­ple­men­ta­tion of ad­di­tional smart ser­vices by the pri­vate sec­tor. cus­tomer for tech and dig­i­tal star­tups to pro­pose prod­ucts, ser­vices, and so­lu­tions on the city-wide level. Ac­cord­ing to Al Saadi, the Dubai gov­ern­ment is ex­pected to is­sue RFPS (re­quest for pro­pos­als) start­ing mid-2016. Any idea that helps make Dubai a smarter, hap­pier city will be most wel­come. The pri­vate sec­tor is even­tu­ally ex­pected to pro­vide up to 80% of smart ser­vices. The Smart Dubai roadmap has out­lined around 1,000 ser­vices to­wards its goal of a smart city. So far, all ef­forts have been fo­cused around 545 cur­rent and planned smart ser­vices and ini­tia­tives by strate­gic part­ners.

“The avail­abil­ity of data will en­able col­lab­o­ra­tion and in­no­va­tion be­tween the pub­lic and pri­vate sec­tors. This will em­power the gov­ern­ment and other city lead­ers to make im­pact­ful de­ci­sions that pri­or­i­tize the sat­is­fac­tion and hap­pi­ness for all res­i­dents and visi­tors of the city,” said Bin Bishr. In other words, Smart Dubai will of­fer de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors its own big data tai­lored to its mar­ket and clearly defin­ing con­sumer trends and be­hav­iors.

“We en­vi­sion the fu­ture of Dubai to be a seam­less city en­abled by an in­te­grated ecosys­tem that fos­ters in­no­va­tion. The in­tent is to at­tract long-term strate­gic in­vestors and cre­ate a world-class eco­nom­i­cally pro­duc­tive en­vi­ron­ment that makes it the most com­pet­i­tive des­ti­na­tion,” said Bin Bishr.

The Is­lamic econ­omy is one of the fastest grow­ing mar­kets world­wide, with a pop­u­la­tion of 1.7 bil­lion, grow­ing at twice the rate of the global pop­u­la­tion. In 2014, the global Is­lamic econ­omy was worth $1.8 tril­lion (of which $704 bil­lion in MENA), and is ex­pected to rise to $2.6 tril­lion by 2020. This dis­tinct econ­omy en­com­passes a com­pre­hen­sive range of prod­ucts and ser­vices re­lated to a pri­mar­ily Mus­lim life­style: Ha­lal food; Is­lamic fi­nance; Ha­lal travel; mod­est fash­ion; me­dia and recre­ation; phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals; and cos­met­ics.

The two largest sec­tors in the global Is­lamic econ­omy are Ha­lal food and Is­lamic fi­nance. In 2014 alone, Mus­lim con­sumers spent close to $1.2 tril­lion on Ha­lal food and non-al­co­holic bev­er­ages glob­ally. This rep­re­sented 16.7% of global F&B


Thom­son Reuters’ Dig­i­tal Is­lamic Econ­omy re­port showed strong growth in the global dig­i­tal Is­lamic con­sumer ser­vices based on the dig­i­tal econ­omy’s key com­po­nents: dig­i­tal ad­ver­tis­ing spend­ing, re­tail e-commerce, and travel e-commerce. In 2014, the Is­lamic dig­i­tal econ­omy was worth $107.2 bil­lion ($101 bil­lion in e-commerce spend­ing by con­sumers, and $6 bil­lion in dig­i­tal ad spend­ing by providers). This fig­ure rep­re­sented 5.8% of the global dig­i­tal econ­omy es­ti­mated at $1.9 tril­lion that year. How­ever, the Is­lamic dig­i­tal econ­omy is pro­jected to grow by a CAGR of 17% un­til 2020, reach­ing $277 bil­lion. By com­par­i­son, the global dig­i­tal econ­omy will grow by a CAGR of only 15% over the same pe­riod, reach­ing $4.3 tril­lion. If the Mus­lim mar­ket were a coun­try, it would be the 4th largest con­trib­u­tor to the global dig­i­tal econ­omy. ex­pen­di­ture ($6.8 tril­lion), and sur­passed F&B spend­ing in both China ($798 bil­lion), and the US ($741 bil­lion). The Is­lamic fi­nance sec­tor in the same year was worth $1.4 tril­lion (com­mer­cial bank­ing) – al­though this only rep­re­sented 1.3% of global bank­ing as­sets. Other top per­form­ing sec­tors in­clude: Ha­lal travel; mod­est fash­ion; phar­ma­ceu­ti­cals; cos­met­ics; and me­dia and recre­ation.

It is a huge mar­ket with a lot of op­por­tu­ni­ties to tap into. As ad­vances in tech­nol­ogy and dig­i­tal in­no­va­tions are chang­ing con­sumer habits, prod­ucts and ser­vices in dif­fer­ent sec­tors of the Is­lamic econ­omy are be­ing re­vis­ited to adapt to a mod­ern con­text, giv­ing birth to the Global Is­lamic Dig­i­tal Econ­omy.


When look­ing at the top spend­ing coun­tries in terms of Is­lamic dig­i­tal spend­ing, it ap­pears the mar­ket is quite frag­mented. The size of the Is­lamic e-commerce mar­ket is also sig­nif­i­cant in coun­tries where Mus­lims are mi­nori­ties. Col­lec­tive Is­lamic e-commerce spend­ing in Western Europe and North Amer­ica col­lec­tively was es­ti­mated at $18.7 bil­lion in 2014 – more than twice the size of the 2 largest in­di­vid­ual Mus­lim mar­kets (Tur­key and the US).


E-commerce busi­nesses – par­tic­u­larly e-tail­ers of mod­est cloth­ing – are among the most suc­cess­ful dig­i­tal Is­lamic con­sumer ser­vices, re­port­ing the high­est in­vest­ments, as well as the strong­est rev­enue and growth num­bers. As for apps, the freemium model ap­pears to be the most fa­vored among users. Among the least fi­nan­cially vi­able busi­ness mod­els for Dig­i­tal Is­lamic Con­sumer Ser­vices ob­served are Dig­i­tal Is­lamic The “News & In­sights” sub-seg­ment was among the least suc­cess­ful dig­i­tal Is­lamic ser­vices; be­cause they rely pri­mar­ily on ad rev­enue, such ser­vices re­quire a world­wide scale – which very few have achieved. Other notso-suc­cess­ful ser­vices in­clude so­cial me­dia ser­vices ex­clu­sively for Mus­lims; while some have re­ceived large in­vest­ments, they have had the least fi­nan­cial suc­cess (e.g. Salam­world and The top-per­form­ing web­sites shown here were se­lected based on global traf­fic rank­ings cal­cu­lated by Alexa and Sim­i­larweb. Apps were se­lected based on the num­ber of down­loads.

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