Dubai, Middle Eastern Smart City Reality or Promise

A year ago I started my blog in i-Ambiente. During 12 months I have been writing about challenges in smart cities and how the Internet of the Things will be a key enabler by providing solutions to keep safe and welcoming cities. In 2015 I am going to write a monthly post about the top 12 smart cities on the Planet by crunching a list of variables about innovation and sustainability.

If in 12/03/2009, Joel Kotkin, a Forbes contributor, published The World’s Smartest Cities that included the cities: Singapore, Hong Kong, Curitiba, Monterrey, Amsterdam, Seattle, Houston, Charleston, Huntsville and Calgary and in January 11, 2012, Boyd Cohen ranked the top 10 Smart Cities on the Planet, from New York to Hong Kong (and with an unexpected winner Vienna, followed by Toronto, Paris, New York, London, Tokyo, Berlin, Copenhagen, Hong Kong and Barcelona. The same Boyd Cohen updated the list in November 2014 , including categories : Pioneering Smart Cities, Emerging Smart Cities and Next Stage Cities.

For my classification, I consider Ovum recommendation of digital enablers in cities.

  • Digital-city strategies, are the formal/inside-out projects which provide new ways for public authorities and developers to architect and build more efficient infrastructure and services.
    • Digital-city strategies include such things as IP network infrastructure, e-government/gov2.0 services, and the digitization of processes and systems in urban planning, transport, healthcare, education, utilities, and buildings.
  • Digital-society initiatives, are more emergent/outside-in. They stimulate self-help and co-production behaviors in the community, strengthen social capital, and engender digital inclusion. These complement public services, but also hold them to account.

My Calendar of Smart Cities for 2015

Are you ready to discover which is the January 2015 smart city?.

January/2015 – Dubai: Middle Eastern Reality or Promise – Dubai

Within just decades Dubai has evolved from not much more than a strip of desert and sleepy fishing village into a bustling metropolis and one of the world’s most modern cities. Dubai’s smart city vision to become one of the smartest and most connected cities in the world by 2017 is close to become a reality.

Dubai has won the bid to host the World Expo 2020, with the theme of ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’. The emirate and the wider UAE pursue an ambitious smart-government agenda, initialized by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.

The strategic plan is based on three principles: communication, integration and   cooperation.

It has been estimated that $7-8 billion could be spent on smart city infrastructure within the pillars of life, society, mobility, economy, governance and environment.

The strategy features also 100 initiatives on transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services, urban planning. Under the strategy, 1000 government services will go smart in the next three years.

With the ultimate goal of being connected, Dubai announced some mega smart city projects across a number of industries. It is not by causality that Cisco, following the money will run its third annual Internet of Things World Forum (IoTWF) in Dubai in December 2015 (previous venues for the event have been Barcelona and Chicago).

Dubai smart city projects

  • The Desert Rose Housing Project will have recreational and sustainable features, where the roofs of homes and buildings will be covered with solar panels that will provide 200 megawatts of electricity. The city will also recycle over 40,000 cubic meters of waste water.
  • The Silicon Park Project comprises 97,000 square meters of office space, 25,000 square meters of commercial space and around 20,000 square meters of residential space along with a 115-room business hotel.
    • Electricity-powered vehicles and smart rechargeable bikes will be the primary means of transportation in the tech park.
    • A number of charging stations for electric vehicles will also be set up across the area and will be made easily accessible to visitors and residents.
    • The Silicon Park will use green building material and will apply measures to achieve efficiency in energy consumption. Silicon Park is characterized by its buildings topped with green roofs, which will include plants and trees that require minimal irrigation and utilize the direct sunlight on the buildings.
    • The smart street light poles will be equipped with digital signboards that can be remotely controlled through an application.
    • The project will implement advanced technologies to support controlling water consumption through recycling procedures at homes and offices for re-use in irrigation to minimize the ecological impact on the carbon footprint.
  • World Expo 2020 Masterplan   – With its mixture of education, innovation and entertainment, the plan reflects the wonderful qualities of Dubai to create a sustainable benchmark for events in the Middle East. An iconic photovoltaic fabric structure covers the main walkways, acting as a solar-powered sun shade and combining with photovoltaic panels on building facades to capture enough sunlight to generate at least half of the Expo’s energy requirements onsite. Other sustainable strategies include recycling wastewater, reusing materials and monitoring the Expo’s carbon footprint.
  • The Dubai Sustainable City will be the first residential community of its kind in Dubai and is expected to meet the highest environmental standards by adopting a sustainable approach in its quest to become a regional leader in eco-tourism and global environmental protection. The city will recycle 100% water and waste, will have 10,000 trees of 50 different types and a 10 MW peak solar production.
  • Free City Wi-Fi & Parking App Wi-Fi access in all parks, buses and taxis- Wi-Fi access in all parks, buses and taxis. All major bus stations will have screens that give live data to inform you when the next bus will arrive. An application will provide live traffic monitoring so that you may plan your journey before you even leave your home.
  • The Dubai mGovernment Initiative aims to harness the power of smartphones and make way for all possible services on mobile platforms. The goal is to integrate public agencies, systems and infrastructures into one holistic system. Dubai have a clear-cut vision about mGovernment services. They know that it will be vital more innovation and public-private partnership.

Challenges in the face of Dubai’s Smart City dreams

Dubai face unique challenges in:

  • Water and energy security, transportation and mobility, sustainable development and citizen engagement.
  • Create awareness among the citizens when launching smart city services in order they will be able to use them easily and effectively.
  • Get public participation in designing and organizing the transport network be it public transport or roads, in their area.
  • For foreign residents (property website ae recently gave a deeper insight into the type of things that bother them in Dubai. Its “Happiness Survey” asked almost 2,000 Dubai UK residents what annoys them most about living here and the results came back: Disruption and mess from on-going construction work, traffic congestion, and living too far from work were the top three, followed by “feelings of isolation” and living too far from shops, restaurants and Dubai Metro.
  • Dubai could face is how to oversee resources to implement the Free City Wi-Fi project, which would feature free Wi-Fi in all public places.
  • Connecting the Ultra-modern public transportation – Dubai International Airport and new Airports Al Maktoum International Airport, Metro network, Jebel Ali Port Port.
  • Tourism targets – The main challenge is to deliver to around 60 hotels per year for at least three years. Other looming challenges are the impact of demand on construction materials, labour and funding, which is likely to drive overall development costs higher. Additionally, high demand for quality sites will drive an increase in land prices, thereby reducing investor returns
  • Highly scalable supply chain management – Expo’s six-month duration will place greatly increased demands on Dubai’s food and beverage and retail sectors. The city is well served with many large shopping malls but these and other retail points will need to ensure that they are always well-stocked. Dubai is fortunate to have a number of professional supply chain management companies. The focus will therefore be on integrated and highly scalable Dubai logistics suppliers who can rapidly adapt themselves to support changing market conditions. Demand planning, stock availability and understanding of FMCG supply chains will become even more critical. Many multi-nationals such as McDonalds and Starwood already have scalable solutions in place. Many more will require specialist local assistance.
  • Ensure that the public and private sector are flexible, agile, innovative, and capable of engaging individuals and communities.


Host of the World Expo 2020, Dubai strives to position itself among the world’s top 10 sustainable cities, providing both residents and visitors with a highly connected, technology-centric environment committed to optimization of resources.

The city government want to be sure that all Smart City projects can provide a quality living and work environment and a wise management of natural resources. His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid wants a smart city, smart economy, smart education and smart environment; he wants to make a different life, not for upcoming generations, but a different life now.

Dubai is concern that hold be to look at easy gains. The key to making Dubai smart is being able to use the technology to its full potential, but they recognize that technology is only an enabler, not an endgame.

“There is no deadline when you look at Dubai. “It is not three years, 10 years or even 100 years. Dubai has been understood that smart is not a state, it is a journey.”

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