Visionary Dubai Wants Smarter Interaction with its People

When it comes to technology and infrastructure development, Dubai thinks big. The rulers are forging public-private partnerships and collaborating with global service providers to blanket the city with network connections between data, sensors, embedded systems, people and processes – also known as the “Internet of Everything”.

The integrated high-tech approach is intended to increase cooperation between the government and its people by harnessing smart technologies to improve the quality of life in Dubai. The UAE emirate is home to 2.1 million people and a top 10 destination city for tourists with 9.9 million visitors last year.

Dubai rulers have signed partnerships with leading technology companies and local business tycoons to develop Dubai as a “smart city” in time for the massive World Expo 2020. This effort will be based on a new fibre-optic network and legions of sensors that will provide location-sensitive information to citizens to help them explore and interact with core government services.

Cisco, the worldwide leader in networking technologies, is pioneering the smart city agenda for Dubai, as it has done for 90 of the smartest cities in the world, including, Barcelona, Nice and Hamburg. The benefits are obvious. Using sensors and data to capture how locals and visitors interacted with the city, Cisco’s efforts in developing a smart boulevard in Nice had a direct positive impact on commuters. The project, called Connected Boulevard, reduced congestion by 30%, cut air pollution by 25%, and increased parking revenue by 35%.

On the announcement of the smart city plan, Sheikh Muhammad Bin Rashid Al Makhtoum, the Ruler of Dubai said, “This generation of youth is lucky to witness such a transformation.”

The change process will indeed be remarkable, beyond what other top smart cities in the world have experienced. Cisco predicts over 50 billion network connections will be required to transform Dubai into a smart city, as per the agenda of Sheikh Muhammad, unlocking a market potential of over $14.4 trillion when the project is completed by the year 2020.

“Our goal is to improve the quality of life as we aim to harness technology for the establishment of a new reality in the city of Dubai, a different life, and a different development model. We want our services to reach every child, mother, youth, businessman and tourist to make a new quality of life for all,” said Sheikh Muhammad.

Local private telco giants Du and Etisalat have also penned deals with the Higher Committee overseeing the smart city project to develop a series of initiatives to support the project. The companies will work in partnership with mobile carrier group the GSMA to implement the concept in the fields of education, health and transport. In terms of scale, this is the largest public-private partnership applied for expanding cities, providing rich opportunities for local and foreign ICT expertise and technology vendors. The vast infrastructure for connectivity is intended to provide information and services to Dubai’s smartphone and computer users in real time.

The diverse expatriate and tourist community in Dubai has a strong need of technology solutions to overcome cultural and language barriers in accessing social and government services. Ahmed Adnan, a South Asian expat living in Dubai for over a decade, believes technology can help.

“Dubai needs long-term and comprehensive action plans based on the smart city concept to facilitate its increasingly diverse population,” says Adnan.

“A few decades ago, expats could find, and settle in, separate colonies established by their fellow nationals coming for the same employment reasons, before moving on to other locations upon getting accustomed to the system and learning the language. But now the expanding developed city offers a lot more reasons for a diverse global audience to visit. Language and cultural barriers will continue to exist and addressing these concerns is crucial for Dubai to enhance its position as an international destination for innovation.”

Sheikh Muhammad hopes the answers lie in technology — by far the most widely accepted and understood form of language in the modern era.


Ali Raza is a Pakistani business and technology consultant who covers consumer and enterprise technology issues for US and international publications. As a racing driver and a stunt master, only cars eclipse his love for technology.


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Ali Raza

Ali Raza is a business and technology consultant who covers consumer and enterprise technology issues for US and international publications. As a racing driver and a stunt master, only cars eclipse his love for technology.

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