Smart is the New Green: How UAE Smart Cities Will Change The Way You Live

Published January 13th, 2020 - 12:20 GMT
Smart is the New Green: How UAE Smart Cities Will Change The Way You Live
Sustainable cities aim to build safer and more resilient societies and to create more efficient public services (Shutterstock)

Cities around the world are moving towards sustainability, utilizing technological advancements to build better-connected and more eco-friendly infrastructure. The trend towards smart cities emerges from efforts to build safer and more resilient societies with more lucrative businesses opportunities, as well as to increase cultural and economic activities.

In addition to hosting a global platform dedicated to sustainable development during the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, the United Arab Emirates has announced a number of promising plans to integrate AI applications into managing different sectors like transportation, air quality, food sustainability, and energy sources. It is also planning to build a number of smart cities, parks, and spaces within the next few years, including the Dubai Silicon Park and the Sharjah Sustainable City.

The Dubai Silicon Park project which should be ready by the first quarter of 2020, encompasses residential, office and retail buildings that are all connected through several control systems and platforms, enabling 20,000 residents to monitor and control energy consumption, traffic flow, and security systems, all through cooperation with the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa).

Additionally, the project aims to ensure maximum use of resources to protect the environment and limit the use of fossil-fuel based energy. For example, building rooftops will house solar panels and gardens that help to eliminate carbon dioxide.

Not very far from Dubai, the Emirate of Sharjah has also announced plans to finish building the Sharjah Sustainable City by the end of 2021 at a cost of about AED 2 billion. Sharjah Sustainable City will be powered entirely on renewable energy produced through solar panels, and it will be equipped with recycling plants capable of treating the city's water and waste.

Not to mention, residential buildings will be saving 100% on electric bills and 50% on water bills. The city will also include a sustainability experience center with a mission to spread awareness about environmental issues and sustainable living practices.

Besides these innovative and promising plans, the UAE can benefit from the successful experiences of other countries to tackle some pressing issues that are still challenging to the leading Gulf state, like transportation and the threat of climate change.


Emirati transportation infrastructure could stand to benefit from the example Singapore set when it became the World’s Best Mobility Hub for 2019. As a country that enjoys abundant sunshine all year long, there's massive opportunity for the UAE to lead the way in the realm of electric vehicles as the country builds more solar-powered charging stations. 

The same can be said for powering the metro system particularly as the UAE adds new routes to serve a greater population of residents. Perhaps most notably, the integration of driverless transit services would not only reduce private car ownership but also alleviate the UAE's painful traffic congestion. 

Smart parking systems could be another sustainability milestone in the Gulf state. These can help drivers locate the nearest available parking more easily as well as lift a burden off cities that struggle with traffic. Smart parking tools could also support efforts to save fuel and the environment.

Tackling Climate Change 

The Middle East can make the most out of its year-long sunshine to limit its use of fuel-based energy and to easily convert to solar energy, and many such projects are already in the pipeline in the region.

To build the smartest smart cities, sustainable innovations need to integrate with one another. With clean energy sources, cities can produce electricity, conserve water and even create food security. 

The UAE would be an ideal urban hub to experiment with smart agricultural systems through which residents can establish biodome communities that grow organic fruit and vegetables, planted on high-rise rooftops.

Thanks to high humidity all year long, the UAE could also follow in the footsteps of an experiment by Lima’s University of Engineering and Technology to produce drinking water by using a system of condensers and filters to trap the humidity in the air and extract water vapor. 

But the real challenge is waste management. There has been no shortage of innovative solutions globally for reducing and recycling, but as lifespans of consumer goods get shorter, the larger and faster our waste piles grow.

That's not say a fix is impossible. One option, for example, could be install recycling bins that sort through waste, and connect with smart systems to alert waste collection companies when bins are full and need to be emptied.

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