Insight: 5 Ways Smart Cities Will Revolutionize the Middle East
The Middle East is home to some of the most advanced cities in the world, and further to that, its cities host many of the most ambitious future projects on earth too. This piece looks at how this is culminating in the futuristic 'smart city' and what that means for people, businesses, and the logistics sector.
To begin with, let's start with the big question: What is a smart city?
In essence, a smart city is a conurbation that is heavily steeped in technology, and uses said technology to communicate within key infrastructure, thereby creating a safer, more economically viable living area.
This has massive civic, business, and human potential, and this piece highlights 5 ways smart cities will revolutionize the Middle East.
1. Harmonious, Optimized Movement of People & Cargo
The smart city's main quality is in its ability to communicate digitally amongst key nodes in the supply chain.
For instance, a port can communicate with a trucking depot to optimise arrival and departure times, while the depot communicates in turn with the road networks to give an insight into travelling times.
This then allows city planners, governments, officials and the public to moderate their travelling times for ease of access and safe travel.
Yet this is just a tiny example from the massive network of nodes communicating across the logistical, civic and social arenas.
Henceforth, a smart city has the power to end bottlenecks in and around ports, while ceasing traffic jams for the everyday citizen.
The Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, has made Dubai becoming a smart city a key part of his vision.
Having invested massively into infrastructure, digitalisation, clean energy, sustainable transport, and rapid and accessible services, he aims to make Dubai a world-leading city.
His government has launched over 100 projects to be completed by 2028 in this regard.
2. Futuristic, Sustainable Cities
Sustainability is the biggest issue of our time, and one that smart cities have a large hand in improving.
Smart cities allow us to use big data and AI to plan for peak usage of energy, as well as to replace legacy technologies with green alternatives.
Yet perhaps most impressively, they allow us to reimagine what a city is.
Take Saudi Arabia's NEOM for instance. NEOM, at a predicted development cost of US$500 billion, aims to hit a 100% renewable energy operations and management system.
In this pursuit, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, HRH Mohammad Bin Salman, met more than 40 international business leaders in the US to outline the potential of implementing such a breakthrough system.
While the outcome of such talks remains to be seen, this can clearly be viewed as another sign of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to thinking big when it comes to their smart city vision.
3. Enhanced Public Safety
When it comes to public safety and facing social disorder, AI is a powerful ally.
In a smart city, AI can use the same network of sensors and cameras used for traffic monitoring for real-time monitoring, analytics, and decision-making, which can save lives and prevent crime.
Such technology allows for the immediate reading of number plates to track stolen vehicles, as well as allowing for predictive policing, that can track criminal movements and locations.
In smart cities, police use license plate reader technology to find stolen cars, expired registrations and other information against criminal databases.
One company that makes them, Leonardo, says that automated LPRs can be attached to the bottom of police cruisers and can scan up to 1,800 license plates per minute across four lanes of traffic.
If a plate is flagged for some kind of violation, the police are notified almost right away.
4. New Modes of Transport
Smart cities come with the promise of huge cohesion within a cityscape, and if this is the case, it opens the door for a host of new technologies to revolutionise our world.
Such technologies mean safer, faster, and better ways to move people and goods over increasingly large spans of land.
The Middle East is at the forefront of this with its Hyperloop technology. Hyperloop uses a suction system to fire pods through a barrel at eye-watering speeds (600kph for now, 900kph in the near future).
Virgin Hyperloop, which is chaired by Sultan Ahmed Bin Sulayem of DP World fame, is exploring the creation of a Hyperloop 'Center of Excellence', which it estimates will generate $4 billion in GDP and create 124,000 high-tech jobs.
5. Happier People
It is easy to forget in the talk of new technologies and visions of the future that the core aim of a smart city is to enhance people's lives.
The ways in which the smart city aims to do this are myriad, from improving public transport, reducing overcrowding, and giving citizens helpful updates to their smartphones, to improving urban design, cutting red tape and creating cleaner air quality, it's a big promise.
While utilmately individual happiness is arguably the result of the individual's personal actions, the smart city can go some way in producing a conducive environment for individuals to flourish.
This is done via a redesign of what the city is, and the notion of wellbeing placed above profit in social spaces.
Read more: Dubai Moves One Step Closer to a Smart City