The ur­ban fab­ric is chang­ing rapidly be­fore our eyes as smart city ideas – from fly­ing taxis to voice-ac­ti­vated tech­nol­ogy – per­me­ate place-mak­ing in the Arab world


Re­cent data from Dubai Mu­nic­i­pal­ity – which re­vealed how the gov­ern­ment en­tity’s use of tech­nol­ogy has re­duced the num­ber of visi­tors to its of ces – 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 of ces 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.

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 mixe­duse 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.

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 (page 72).

What all of these schemes will need, though, is a clear gov­ern­ment man­date to de ne the rules of the game for smart city devel­op­ment (page 68). 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, ying taxis, and a host of au­to­mated trans­port sys­tems un­der con­sid­er­a­tion (page 70).

“What all smart city sce­hems will need, though, is a clear gov­ern­ment man­date to de­fine the rules of the game for smart city devel­op­ment. ”

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