Cities around the globe have embraced integration of technology in making their daily operations as smooth as possible. But some cities have managed to turn the idea of impactful innovation, in the form of the smart city model, into a reality. Here, the UAE serves as a prime example of this dedication to real-world sustainability and innovation.
When it comes to smart cities, Dubai and Abu Dhabi are using technology such as smart city surveillance systems in combination with video analytics that use artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse, prioritise, make decisions and use resources as efficiently and sustainably as possible.
But, before we look at how Dubai and Abu Dhabi approach smart city living and how Dubai has cemented its reputation as a global technology leader, it is worth revisiting what the Smart City Index 2021 revealed.
Smart, smarter, smartest
Developed by the IMD’s Smart City Observatory, in partnership with the Singapore University of Technology and Design (SUTD), the Smart City Index (SCI) shines a spotlight on the economic and technological aspects of the cities of tomorrow. Importantly, it also addresses the ‘humane dimensions’ of urban areas in the context of people’s quality of life, their environment, and how inclusive the area is.
The findings of the third edition of the IMD-SUTD SCI affirmed that people’s perceptions of how technology is used to deal with challenges presented by city living have been affected dramatically by COVID-19 and the acceleration of digital transformation. In fact, Bruno Lanvin, president of IMD’s Smart City Observatory, refers to “tectonic shifts” that have been responsible for disrupting logistical chains globally as a result.
The SCI ranked 118 cities worldwide by collecting perceptions of randomly chosen residents in each city and asking them for their perceptions surrounding two pertinent pillars; namely, the Structures pillar, which refers to the existing infrastructure of the cities, and the Technology pillar, which looks at the technological provisions and services available within these spaces. Broadly speaking, the idea is to rank cities to assess smart infrastructure and services covering health and safety, mobility, activities, opportunities and governance. Singapore (AAA SCI rating) took first place as per the SCI 2021, with Zurich (AA SCI rating) and Oslo (AA SCI rating) coming in second and third, respectively.
Abu Dhabi and Dubai ranked as the smartest cities in the Middle East and North Africa region, with Abu Dhabi (BB SCI rating) claiming the 28th spot and Dubai (BB SCI rating) following close behind in 29th place. Both cities have climbed 14 places since 2020.
In 2017, the UAE launched its Energy Strategy 2050, the first unified energy strategy in the country based on supply and demand, and is committed to achieving a balance between energy production and consumption by 2050. The strategy aims to increase the contribution of clean energy in the total energy mix from 25% to 50% by 2050 and reduce the carbon footprint of power generation by 70%, saving a whopping AED700 billion by 2050. On top of this, the strategy also aims to increase the consumption efficiency of individuals and corporates by 40%.
The strategy targets an energy mix that combines renewable, nuclear and clean energy sources to meet the UAE’s economic requirements and environmental goals as follows: 44% clean energy; 38% gas; 12% clean coal; and 6% nuclear. The UAE government aims to invest AED600 billion by 2050 to meet the growing energy demand and ensure sustainable growth for the country’s economy.
Dubai’s digital transformation is happening right now
With its mandate to become a global leader in the smart economy, Dubai is one of the most ambitious cities globally and certainly has a long tradition of developing leading digital innovation in the form of state-of-the-art smart tech systems that range from public safety to urban mobility and environmental monitoring. To see this in action, think back to 2017 when the first robot officer was launched to patrol Dubai’s streets.
From the outset, Dubai’s government has made significant investments in smart technology and formulated a crystal-clear mission: to be the smartest, cleanest and happiest city in the world. Transformation has been the name of the game for this futuristic capital, with its dedication to offering an efficient, seamless and impactful experience to both citizens and tourists.
A practical example of how this transformation process has been implemented in day-to-day life is Dubai’s AI Labwhere the power of machine learning is harnessed to make the city and its offices work more efficiently and safely. According to the Road Transit Authority’s data, AI constantly monitors the level of fatigue and stress of bus drivers who travel around the city, significantly reducing the number of accidents in the process. The most exciting aspect is that, at its core, Dubai is infusing AI into every aspect of city living, including its operating system, and will be repurposing these discoveries and lessons to create a blueprint that will benefit future endeavours.
Providing a platform for impactful partnerships
Another example of this immersive application of smart technology is Dubai’s efforts to go completely paperless. In a bold move to eliminate more than one billion sheets of paper used annually for government transactions, Dubai’s government has implemented all the necessary technology to enable smooth, paperless transactions. Based on three strategic pillars, namely government efficiency, industry creation and international leadership, Dubai is becoming the world’s first city to use blockchain technology on a large scale by adopting the Dubai Blockchain Strategy (DBS).
This pioneering plan includes all of Dubai’s government services. In document processing alone, Dubai can potentially save more than AED5,5 billion annually by adopting blockchain technology. And this is in addition to the impact this measure will have on environmental protection. The DBS ensures the availability of real, impactful economic opportunities for all sectors in the city and cements Dubai’s reputation as a global technology leader.
With its strategic partnerships in place across governmental and private sectors, it is indisputable that Dubai and Abu Dhabi are well equipped in providing self-efficient, sustainable activity loops that ensure resources and assets are continually recycled and re-applied in support of rapid growth. This next-level approach to development can only be achieved by implementing cost-effective, data-driven improvements built on open industry standards that make mobility more efficient, improve citizen safety and enhance the city’s reputation.
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