Could Dubai Become the Smartest City?

By Enrique Pavlioglou

We have come a long way from the flip phone and dial up Internet. Our modern "smart" age has advanced us from connecting our coffee machines to make mornings easier to connecting entire cities to make our morning commutes more efficient. There are a several cities that are on the right track to becoming intelligent, but there isn’t a definite winner—yet. Dubai is looking to change all that with its smart city initiative that could make it the smartest city on Earth in only 3 years.

Its aim is to not only connect parking lots and streetlights, and to give out free Wi-Fi; instead, Dubai has shown in recent years that the city either goes big or it doesn’t go at all. The city’s goal is to get every single person in Dubai to participate by connecting every house, work place, clinic, park, bus, train, etc., and give them IoT tools to make their lives easier.

This week, Sheik Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Emir of Dubai, announced the strategy that will convert his city into the smartest city thus far. Some of the issues discussed include transportation, energy, trade, and law enforcement. The transportation plan is to create a traffic system via IoT and cellular connections in order to deliver the smartest transportation system in the world. In the energy sector, the city plans to create a smart electrical grid where houses can actually sell back excess solar energy to companies, as well as putting smart meters in every home to reduce water consumption—which is handy considering Dubai’s climate. And, even though crime is not a big issue in Dubai, police officers will be equipped with IoT technology such as cameras and GPS location devices to better aid the population.

The only bump in the road with Dubai’s strategy is how well it will be able to increase the network capacity necessary to manage all of the devices required for a truly smart city. According to Etisalat CEO, Ahmad Zulfar, in the Mena region alone there will be a 500 percent spike in connections. Zulfar firmly believes that there will need to be a consolidation within the operator community if smart cities are to become a reality: “[The] Telecom sector has to restructure. In the future, a market with 5, 6 or 7 operators will not be sustainable…[Instead] There will be a rise of 5 to 10 global operators, 20 to 50 regional operators and 50 to 100 local operators.”(Emirates247).

There are many astonishing things to see in and do in Dubai, like strolling the man-made islands around the Burj Al Arab or sight seeing the largest tower in the world, the Burj Khalifa, but the most exciting aspects of the city will be its hidden, connected infrastructures. Utilizing the IoT to connect so many different elements of the environment together will surely put Dubai at the forefront of what is possible and serve as a roadmap for other cities to follow.