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AI World Conference & Expo · Boston, MA · December 11-13, 2017

This syndicated post originally appeared at No Jitter - Recent posts by Zeus Kerravala.

On a mission to become the smartest of all cities,
Dubai employs state-of-the-art Internet of Things
technology, real-time UC&C, and wireless networks.

In the UC&C industry, this week all eyes have been on San Francisco, where Cisco is wrapping up its eighth-annual Collaboration Summit. I, however, am writing from rather different corner of the world (Dubai, United Arab Emirates), where I’d been immersing myself in a complementary technology (IoT), at another Cisco event — its third-annual Internet of Things World Forum. And there I learned how organizations are using IoT to transform their businesses.

Dubai was a great host city for the three-day event, given its plans not just to become one of many smart cities, but the smartest of them all. This is fitting for a city that made a landmark statement by building the tallest building in the world and that has become a hot spot for tourism over the past several years.

Dubai cityscape

Dubai’s smart city vision begins with its ruler, Sheikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, who is vice president and prime minister of the United Arab Emirates. In 2013, he laid out his plans for Smart Dubai, a project intended to improve the quality of life for residents and enhance the tourist experience by using IoT technology to deliver education, healthcare, and other services.

A logical assumption is that most of Dubai’s revenue comes from oil production, but oil really only accounts for about 5% of the city’s income. Tourism, on the other hand, now accounts for more than 30% of income, so creating an unparalleled connected experience goes a long way into getting people to come back. Dubai will be hosting World Expo 2020, and with that as an additional impetus the goal is to make Dubai the world’s smartest city 2017.

You can find hundreds of smart city initiatives underway across the globe, but Dubai’s measures of success are unique. Most of the other smart city plans I have heard focus on efficiency, revenue generation, or safety. Dubai’s measure of success, however, will be the happiness of its citizens.

“Our ambition for this project is to touch the life of every individual in our country; every mother in her home, employee in his work, investor in his project, child in school, or doctor in his clinic. Our aim is a happier life for all,” said Sheikh Mohammad.

Dubai’s plans for the smart city project and improved happiness cuts across six dimensions: economic growth, governance and transparency of information; a culture of inclusion for the people of the city; improving quality of life; seamless mobility; and environmental resource efficiency. The number six certainly seems manageable, but in fact Dubai has more than 100 individual initiatives underway across segments like transportation, communications, public services, urban planning, and more.

I’m certainly not going to go through each initiative, but I’ve highlighted a few here to illustrate what “smart city” means to Dubai.

 

Connected Law Enforcement

The Dubai police have deployed wireless technology and edge servers throughout its fleet (including Porsches), effectively turning each car into a moving wireless hot spot. With ready access to a secure, wireless network, public safety personnel can communicate and collaborate quickly using a wide variety of devices, including PCs, laptops, mobile devices, and radios.

From a central operations center, law enforcement officials can have real-time information and map-based tracking on the location of each police car as well as historical data for analytic purposes. They can also centrally monitor the heart rates, stress levels, and other bodily functions via wearable technology used by police officers.

One of Dubai's connected police cars

 

Connected Lighting and Parking

The Dubai Roads and Transportation Authority (RTA) has rolled out citywide lighting and multi-sensory video with centralized management and real-time status reporting. The connected lighting not only enables dynamic lighting control to dim or brighten lights, but also provides fault detection, power consumption information, and advanced scheduling capabilities.

Connected parking provides information on the availability of parking spots, occupancy statistics, and policy-based parking. Through a mobile application, users can look for parking and then pay for it via their mobile devices.

Lastly, the RTA will now control all of the city’s traffic lights using the cellular network. This will cut costs by reducing the need for cables and overhead phone lines.

 

Connected Buses and Bus Shelters

Another element of the mobile agenda involves getting more people to use public transportation by making it more convenient and comfortable. In the summer months, temperatures in Dubai can reach 50 degrees Celsius (about 122 degrees Fahrenheit for you non-worldly people), which is far too hot to be sitting in a bus stop unsure of when your ride will arrive.

The RTA already has deployed more than 650 air-conditioned bus shelters, and plans to make about 100 of these smart bus stations. Additionally, in the comfort of air conditioning, users will be able to purchase or top-up transportation cards. These smart stations also will offer free Wi-Fi, plus power outlets, so people can charge their phones while waiting.

A mobile app gives users access to real-time location maps, estimated times of arrival, and seat availabilty for certain buses. For the city itself, each connected bus will provide real-time information on location, passenger information, historical tracking, and analytics. The RTA expects this to help it optimize the fleet through improved route planning and enhanced security and safety.

 

Connected Classroom

Along with other analysts, I was able to tour one of the connected classrooms — and it was, by far, the most modern classroom I have ever seen. The school had tricked out the classroom with high-definition video systems, interactive white boards, and unified communications to enhance the learning experience. Through the interactive technologies, the school can bring in experts, promote cross-cultural collaboration, and change the entire dynamics of learning. The school also will transition the classrooms to connected lighting to lower costs and help achieve environmental sustainability goals.

Other initiatives I won’t go into detail on are things like remote experts for government services, connected aviation, smart financial services, an IoT knowledge hub, and smart waste management. When this project is complete, Dubai will be a great showcase of all that’s possible with respect to smart cities. I’m hoping other cities take note of what Dubai is doing, and follow in its footsteps. IoT should be something that makes all of our lives better.

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Zeus Kerravala

Zeus Kerravala is the founder and principal analyst with ZK Research. Kerravala provides a mix of tactical advice to help his clients in the current business climate and long term strategic advice.
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