Dubai Ruler Wants to Build the Super Connected Smart City of the Future
A general view of Burj Khalifa (C), the world's tallest tower, and Dubai mall April 12, 2013. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
Nothing can change a traveler’s experience today quite like Wi-Fi. And as more cities aim for city-wide connectivity, the way visitors engage with businesses and attractions will change as well.
Dubai will become one of the biggest technology “world laboratories”, with high-speed wireless to be rolled out across the entire city as part of a Smart City project announced by His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai.
Shaikh Mohammed said the new high-tech project, which will use cloud computing, and wireless and near field communication (NFC) technology, aimed to use the latest in technology to create a model to increase interactivity with the public.
“As a smart city, government departments will be inter-connected to provide faster services and information to all citizens and guests. We strive to create a new smart concept in running cities,” Shaikh Mohammed said, according to his website.
The project would involve installing remote sensor devices in vital areas around the city in order to communicate and centrally integrate information including data on weather, traffic, transport, emergency services, education, health, tourism and entertainment.
Information from state news agency Wam said residents and visitors would be able to hold their smartphones in the direction of certain stores in order to get information about special offers, or in the direction of key locations such as the Burj Khalifa to access the main details of the sites, like the identity, construction date and services available there.
While no details about the cost of such a project were outlined by authorities, Jacky’s Electronics chief operating officer Ashish Panjabi said the project — which would propel Dubai to the top of the list of high-tech cities — would be a multi-million dirham project.
“The project aims to provide all Dubai residents with high-speed Internet in public places and live services and information,” Shaikh Mohammed said on his Twitter feed, stating the project would improve the lifestyles of Dubai’s more than 2.1 million residents.
“Creating an international city model and a new bettered reality for our people is our purpose.”
He said the government strived to catalyse innovation “and push higher the limits of using technology to benefit people”.
Since 2001, Shaikh Mohammed has been pushing government services to become increasingly digital, with this year’s m-Government initiative aiming to make all services available on smartphones. Under the Smart City project people will be able to contact public departments using smart phones any time of the day, any day of the year. Dubai Crown Prince Shaikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum said Shaikh Mohammed had called for immediate implementation of the project.
All technological initiatives launched by Shaikh Mohammed over the past 10 years had ushered in a new way of life in Dubai, he said, and the city was about to become one of the biggest world laboratories for interactive and government applications.
Shaikh Hamdan said the emirate was “marching ahead into the digital future” — before issuing a request to exhibitors at this year’s Gitex, taking place this week.
“We call on experts and professionals joining us at Gitex this year to…be part of creating the next generation model for running cities as per the progressive vision of His Highness Shaikh Mohammed.”
Meanwhile, tech expert Panjabi welcomed the announcement as “the way forward”.
“I think there have been similar initiatives…that have been done in places like Korea and Finland…where basically they’ve said the whole city is one big WiFi area and you can literally connect up everything to anything. As we’re moving into an age where more and more devices are becoming agnostic..this is a step in the right direction.”
Dubai had a mobile penetration of more than 200 per cent, so it was ready to move to a more technological state.
“You’ve got extremely high rates of smart phone adoption…somewhere between 60 and 80 per cent…you’ve got extremely high quality mobile networks…you’re talking high speed Internet on the mobile…and this is something you don’t see in most other parts of the world. There maybe a handful of countries…(and) we’ve got a population that is fairly young, generally speaking, they are fairly tech-savvy and fond of new technology.”
Dubai, along with Korea, also has the best optic fibre network coverage. He expected such a move would lead to flow-on innovations by residents.
“Why would you need to look at a menu in front of you, when you have it on your own device.”
Dubai would likely be a model for the rest of the region, though international input would be required to roll the whole project out, he said. While Panjabi was unsure how long such a project may take to get up and running, he said: “If they want to put their mind to it they can do it exceedingly fast”.
(c)2013 the Khaleej Times (Dubai, United Arab Emirates). Distributed by MCT Information Services.