Dubai has been chosen among the world's top 3 model smart cities, pioneering in different public and private services for the betterment of its residents. This thanks to a host of initiatives adopted by the government which are aimed at not just robotising the public services but also to make the emirate the happiest city on Earth.
As part of smart city initiatives, Dubai has been taking a pioneering role in self-driving cars, automated ports, testing of delivery robots and drones and social robots among others.
Mateja Kovacic, visiting research fellow, University of Sheffield, has picked Tokyo, Singapore and Dubai as model smart cities.
She said Dubai is an emerging prototype of a smart city.
"Rather than seeing robotisation simply as a way to improve the running of systems, Dubai is intensively robotising public services with the aim of creating the 'happiest city on Earth'," she said in the note.
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She pointed out that national governments are in competition to position themselves on the global politico-economic landscape through robotics, and they are also striving to position themselves as regional leaders.
"This was the thinking behind the city's September 2017 test flight of a flying taxi developed by the German drone firm Volocopter - staged to 'lead the Arab world in innovation'. Dubai's objective is to automate 25 per cent of its transport system by 2030," she noted.
Though the emirate has been crowned the regional leader in the smart city, however, analysts believe that there is still a long road ahead for the city to become global leader despite major advances and achievements acquired by it over the past few years.
Frederic Paquay, senior consultant, MEA, public sector and government, Frost & Sullivan, said Dubai has the ambition to become the smartest city in the world and the emirate announced the launch of the Dubai Smart City Project in 2013.
"In this context several initiatives have been planned and some are already implemented or conducted: establishment of Smart Dubai and Dubai Future Foundation as the government agencies leading the revolution, the world's first blockchain-powered government by 2020, the world's 3D-printing hub, 25 per cent of all rides in Dubai to be driverless by 2025, etc. However, the city still faces some challenges with regard to regulations, infrastructure, the entire approach of the government, homegrown tech innovation, etc. It is therefore our opinion that Dubai still has to work on various action items to meet its futuristic vision," opined Paquay.
Citing examples, he said Dubai ranks 37 in Easy Park's 2017 Smart City Index, 28 in 2thinknow's 2016-2017 Innovation Cities Index and 29 in the Startup Cities Index. "If the city remains first in the region, it can still improve various parameters to take over the lead from Western and Asian competition."
According to a Frost & Sullivan report, global smart cities to raise a market of more than $2 trillion by 2025 with artificial intelligence, personalised healthcare, robotics and distributed energy generation among technologies that will drive growth, efficiency, connectivity and urbanisation.
By 2050, over 80 per cent of the population in developed countries is expected to live in cities and 60 per cent from the developing world. The Asia-Pacific region is anticipated to be the fastest-growing region in the smart technology space by 2025.
In Asia, more than 50 per cent of smart cities will be in China, with smart city projects generating $320 billion for China's economy by 2025.
"Currently most smart city models provide solutions in silos and are not interconnected. The future is moving towards integrated solutions that connect all verticals within a single platform. Internet of Things is already paving the way to allow for such solutions," said Vijay Narayanan, visionary innovation senior research analyst at Frost & Sullivan.
Paquay noted that Dubai is a young city and the smart city initiatives are still recent. However, Dubai has been evolving quite rapidly compared to the rest of the world and is today leading the way in the GCC and Mena region. The vision developed by Dubai government is, in this case, an important enabling parameter and most of international experts today see Dubai as a leading actor in the smart economy.
"Nevertheless, Dubai still remains at an emerging stage and we believe it should undertake a comprehensive future economy strategic plan involving all government and private stakeholders to become one of the smartest cities in the world. Several initiatives must be developed today to prepare the future in the next 15-30 years, some of them being, educating and training the human capital to improve access to the right talents, developing R&D programmes and incentives to create homegrown tech innovations, preparing the market ecosystem and the business community to the future smart economy, creating a holistic regulatory framework towards sustainable acceleration, etc."
Today, Dubai is not the smartest city in the world, but with the work conducted by all government agencies including Smart Dubai and Dubai Future Foundation to build the right blocks for the future, there is no doubt that the emirate will become one of the smartest of all cities in the world in the years to come, he concluded.
By Waheed Abbas
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