Dubai, the City of Tomorrow

Rita Makhoul, Jun 14 2016

As smart technology propagate around the globe, the movement within modern cities to apply these innovations to the most pressing problems has given rise to the concept of a smart city. Dubai, primarily known for architectural marvels and luxury living, is an inspiring alchemy of profound traditions has ambitiously adopted a distinctive approach to evolve into a smart city and set the standard for smart cities worldwide.

The Smart Dubai initiative was introduced in 2014 to establish Dubai as the smartest city in the world by 2017, and has chosen happiness as the measure of success of its smart city endeavors. Dubai was already ranked seventh on the Happiness Index in 2014, and the impact the city can create with the goal of driving happiness is immense. Aligned with His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s vision, technology plays a vital role as an enabler to achieve this goal.

The initiative aims to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors to achieve targets in six strategic pillars: smart life, smart transportation, smart society, smart economy, smart governance, and smart environment, each of which will leverage the strong ICT infrastructure the city is currently developing. Supporting the smart city initiative is the commitment to open data and a governance system that will enable cross-functional collaboration in the pursuit of seamless urban services.

Within these six dimensions, the strategy includes the implementation of over 100 initiatives in areas such as transport, communications, infrastructure, electricity, economic services and urban planning, and a plan of 1,000 services to transform the government and the private sector to get “smart.” Smart Dubai is collaborating with 11 strategic partners to achieve the vision: The Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA), The Executive Council, The Dubai Health Authority (DHA), The Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), The Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM), Dubai Police Force, Dubai Municipality, Dubai Smart Government (DSG), The Department of Economic Development (DED), The Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), and Dubai Design District (d3).

Strategic Advisor to the Smart Dubai Office, Xische & Co.  introduced us to some of the very ambitious initiatives:

Smart Dubai Initiatives:

Happiness Meter 
The Happiness Meter was one of the very first initiatives that Smart Dubai announced in October 2014. The Happiness Meter documents the users' experience at the end of using a particular service. Since this initiative was introduced, the Happiness Meter has been rolled out to over 30 government entities and in use at service counters, websites, and kiosks wherever customers interact with these entities. Over 2 million votes have been received so far, and every vote is captured in the Happiness Meter Index, a powerful dashboard that can show participating entities the happiness score at every single touchpoint. The Happiness Meter is currently also offered completely free of charge to the private sector as well to provide a greater insight into happiness levels across the city and various industries.

Dubai Data Initiative 
Dubai has recognized the need to share data and has developed a legislative framework to support its smart-city strategy. The Dubai Data initiative is led by the Dubai Data Establishment and decreed by the Dubai Data Law of 2015. The initiative does not aim to collect the most extensive amount of data, but to drive the greatest value from data, empowering all data stakeholders. This particular initiative is where all kinds of data is accumulated and create value from it, be it Open Data which provides unrestricted data to everyone, Shared Data which provides only restricted data to restricted organizations or individuals, Big Data which are extremely large data sets that are analyzed to reveal patterns, trends, etc.,  or Rich Data that combines data from different systems to analyze. Dubai Data will stimulate a new data economy for the city, unlocking opportunities and ultimately enriching quality of life for all Dubai stakeholders, including government departments, private organizations, investors, residents and visitors. By sharing all data, residents and visitors of Dubai can make smarter decisions, be it when deciding something small as which road will have the least traffic to go to Dubai Mall, or which business sector has potential and that is where one should invest in.  Open Data also allows developers to create apps that also provide solutions.

Smart Dubai Platform
Recently, the Smart Dubai platform was announced, which will be developed in partnership with du. The platform will be the engine of Dubai’s smart city transformation. It will unite infrastructure, data, city services and applications for the first time. Electronic data sensors will be installed in everything from Dubai streets and parking lots to building entrances and public parks to create a digital mosaic of human activity from which trends can be identified to help plan for the future. The platform will facilitate the exchange of open and shared data between the public sector, private sector and individuals, creating new opportunities for engagement, contributing to the smart city future of Dubai. Meaning that whoever you are, you can benefit hugely from the data, insights and services that the platform is providing and enabling. Smart Dubai is the first city to have designed its own platform from the ground up, rather just take a solution ‘off the shelf’ from a provider.

Partner Initiatives:

Dubai Health Authority - Salama and NABIDHA 
Salama, will establish a unified electronic medical record system for patients across all public hospitals, primary care facilities and other medical facilities. Its sister initiative, NABIDH, will extend this medical record across all private hospitals, creating the first fully integrated patient record system. Shared patient data between public and private hospitals, primary care facilities and emergency services will lead to dramatic improvements in patient care as doctors and first responders benefit from instant access to patient records, meaning correct diagnosis and treatment plans will be delivered in record time informed by patient’s medical histories. 

Dubai Electricity & Water Authority - Shams Dubai 
Shams Dubai allows households to install solar photovoltaic panels and generate electricity for their own consumption. DEWA will connect the system to its network. The electricity will be used onsite and the surplus is exported to DEWA’s gridBy installing solar panels, residents can contribute to diversifying Dubai's energy sources and supporting a green economy and the sustainable development of Dubai.

Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority - Smart Streetlights 
Dubai Silicon Oasis (DSO) is the first location within the UAE illuminating itself through smart streetlights. The smart streetlights are based on sensors which were provided and programmed for their functionality through DSO’s telecom partner du. When it gets dark outside, the smart LEDs will run at 25% of their full illumination power until an object approaches. Once a sensor detects the object, the streetlight will react by increasing local illumination. In using a network of smart streetlights DSO will become a pioneer within the UAE in smart lighting infrastructure and energy efficiency. Further benefits of these smart lights lie within the collection of data on energy use, and other parameters of the streetlights and their direct surroundings. By having a centralized command center to supervise the lights and other infrastructure pieces through the Internet of Things sensors, DSO is able to tune, control and manage the overall consumption within the district, resulting in improved cost-efficiency compared to any other street illumination in Dubai.

Roads & Transport Authority - Virtual Grocery 
RTA in partnership with Etisalat is introducing a virtual supermarket service at the key metro stations. The first of which is currently live at the Mall of Emirates Metro Station which is also in partnership with, an online grocery shopping service. Buyers can choose products from their chosen store through interactive screens placed at the stations, and complete transaction using a secure payment method. The user can select the optimal delivery time for them and location. The items will then be delivered to their homes via a service provider and RTA partner. This will not only save travelers a lot of time but will also reduce traffic on the roads, and also is great when users don’t want to carry heavy groceries on the metro.

See related:
Dubai Smartpreneur Competition at ArabNet Digital Summit 2016
Smart Dubai Special Interview Series:
Interview with Her Excellency, Dr. Aisha Bin Bishr, Director General of the Smart Dubai office
Interview with COO of Dubai Design District, Mohammad Saeed Al Shehhi
Interview with IT Director of Dubai Health Authority, Amani Mahmoud Al-Jassmi
Interview with Colonel Khalid Nasser Al Razooqi, General Director of Smart Services at Dubai Police



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