Cre­at­ing A Bet­ter To­mor­row: Can We Em­brace Sus­tain­abil­ity Through Smart Cities?


“Two mil­lion peo­ple move to cities ev­ery week. That’s build­ing a city for two mil­lion. We must change how we build them. They must be smarter, more in­tel­li­gent, but most im­por­tantly sus­tain­able,” said Mar­wan Aboudib, CEO and founder of Tekuma French­man, as he be­gan the day’s se­cond panel.

So how do sus­tain­abil­ity and smart cities over­lap to cre­ate a bet­ter fu­ture for gen­er­a­tions to come? Ac­cord­ing to Steve Sev­er­ance, Head of Pro­gram and Mar­ket­ing at Mas­dar, just be­cause a city is sus­tain­able, doesn’t mean that it is smart. “We start with smart as the ic­ing on the cake, not the cake it­self,” Sev­er­ance said. “We started with the master plan and said how would we build this city if there were no air-con­di­tion­ing?”

The panel dis­cussed how sus­tain­abil­ity needs to start with the de­sign of a city, such as build­ing thicker walls or smaller win­dows to help man­age the tem­per­a­ture. Once the foun­da­tion is ori­ented to­wards be­ing sus­tain­able, then tech­nol­ogy can be added to cre­ate a smart city.

This might work for new de­vel­op­ments, but what about ex­ist­ing cities? Tech­nol­ogy can play a key role in turn­ing these older build­ings into sus­tain­able ones, but as with most new things, ed­u­cat­ing res­i­dents is im­por­tant. “En­gi­neers are not of­ten good at com­mu­ni­cat­ing to the gen­eral pub­lic what a kilo­watt-hour is, or what their con­sump­tion looks like, or how they can be in­volved in the sus­tain­abil­ity jour­ney. That’s the next step that we need to take with our part­ners to en­gage the com­mu­nity dig­i­tally as well as in the phys­i­cal way that we are do­ing it now,” said Sev­er­ance.

As so­ci­ety shifts to­wards be­com­ing more sus­tain­able, smart cities are be­com­ing more com­mon. Ac­cord­ing to Cas­par Herzberg, Pres­i­dent of the Mid­dle East and Africa for Sch­nei­der Elec­tric, sen­sor prices are also com­ing down, mean­ing it is more avail­able to more peo­ple and eas­ier to add more sen­sors into a sin­gle room. “One of the rev­o­lu­tions of the last year, one we will be ac­cel­er­at­ing in the next cou­ple of years, are mi­crosen­sors,” said Herzberg. “The fact is that you don’t have two, three, four sen­sors in a room but 50, 100, 200, and the price of these sen­sors are com­ing down to the point that you can put them into af­ford­able hous­ing.”

Smart cities also gen­er­ate data and data pro­vides in­sight into how we can im­prove in the fu­ture. The new tech­nol­ogy that smart cities are made up of also re­quires some form of con­nec­tiv­ity to be able to com­mu­ni­cate with each other.

The com­mon thread in all the def­i­ni­tions of smart cities ac­cord­ing to Fadi Shaanah, Se­nior Di­rec­tor, Head of Con­struc­tion In­fra­struc­ture and Hos­pi­tal­ity at Eti­salat are sens­ing, con­nect­ing sen­sors, trans­fer­ring data to do some­thing use­ful with it and even­tu­ally make de­ci­sions with this data. “Con­nec­tiv­ity is at the core of smart cities. There is no smart city if there is no con­nec­tiv­ity. With that, tele­coms have a huge role to play in this sec­tor,” said Shaanah.

While some tele­com op­er­a­tors limit their role to just pro­vid­ing con­nec­tiv­ity, oth­ers have evolved to pro­vide plat­forms that en­able smart city solutions like cloud com­put­ing, oper­a­tions plat­forms, an­a­lyt­ics, and big data. Al­though this is a step in the right di­rec­tion, smart cities are only vi­able if they are part of an ecosys­tem of part­ners.

“Dubai Real Es­tate Blockchain is a so­lu­tion that has the own­er­ship data and the ti­tle deeds where I can al­low each part­ner, whether it is com­ing from the pri­vate sec­tor or the gov­ern­ment sec­tor, to uti­lize the right data so that they can con­duct their ser­vices in an easy way,” ex­plained Khalifa Al­suwaidi, CEO and Board Mem­ber of ERES, Dubai Land Depart­ment.

“If there is one area where Dubai is re­ally pi­o­neer­ing glob­ally, it is the way the city is able to re­act very quickly to tech­no­log­i­cal ad­vances and quan­tify that into fairly easy fol­low­able in­struc­tions for peo­ple who want to do busi­ness here. That is why it is do­ing so well,” said Herzberg.

“Con­nec­tiv­ity is at the core of smart cities. There is no smart city if there is no con­nec­tiv­ity. With that, tele­coms have a huge role to play in this sec­tor.” - Fadi Shaanah

Se­nior Di­rec­tor, Head of Con­struc­tion In­fra­struc­ture & Hos­pi­tal­ity Eti­salat


Head of Pro­gram Man­age­ment & Mar­ket­ing Mas­dar


CEO and Board Mem­ber of ERES Dubai Land Depart­ment


Pres­i­dent Mid­dle East and Africa Sch­nei­der Elec­tric


CEO & Founder Tekuma French­man

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