10 signs you are living in a smart city

Source: Gulf News

The UAE leads the Arab Region on the digital readiness front, when considering variables like greater digital connectivity, mobile government, adoption of cloud and investments into other upcoming technologies, says Benoit Dubarle, President – Gulf Countries, Pakistan, East Mediterranean, Schneider Electric. Moreover, the World Economic Forum’s Global Information Technology Report 2016 list states that UAE is excelling at generating economic impact from investments in information and communications (ICT) technologies. And according to a 2016 KMPG Change Readiness Index – the UAE comes in at number five after Singapore, Switzerland, Hong Kong and Norway and ahead of developing economies such as US, UK and Japan, regarding its adaptability and response to change, be it economic, political, tech-based, and demographic.

“The UAE’s smart city ambitions call the need for technology that can link future infrastructure. The machine-to-machine communication platform now dubbed the ‘Internet of Things’ answers that need,” Dubarle says, while noting that IoT is powering smart meter and smart grid sensors and analytics, and helping enterprises save costs and make more informed operational decision.

But smart infrastructure is just part of the story. A smart city also needs an evolved mindset, both from its citizens and the government. So here are 10 signs that indicate you are living in a smart city.

The city is run like a startup
When there are accelerators and incubators for not just startups, but also government initiatives. Currently, there are at least seven accelerators in Dubai, including the recently inaugurated Dubai Future Accelerators. As Dany El-Eid, Founder and CEO of pixelbug, a startup focusing on Augmented and Virtual Reality, told Gulf News, the UAE has a relatively young government and the country can be run like a lab — it is more receptive to change than even countries like the US that are bogged down by tedious processes. “Essentially, the UAE will be run like a startup, continuously re-inventing and improving itself more rapidly than any other country in the world,” he insists.

There is an app for it
Almost every government department is accessible through an app. Utilities and services are just a tap away on your mobile phone. You can even tell the government what you think about its initiatives and offer suggestions. An example is the MBRMajlis app and website that was launched in October 2015 by His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, The app provides a platform for citizens to take part in smart city initiatives, provide feedback and attend brainstorming sessions.

IoT and sensors watch the roads
The city is networked with cameras, sensors and smart apps that not only monitor the traffic, but also offer suggestion on how to optimise your route and get to your destination faster. And safer. And yes, the system is also smart enough to track and fine those who break traffic rules.

Smart deployment of drones
Drones are not just for cute dronies — selfies taken with a drone! A smart city deploys drones to aid various departments and initiatives. The Dubai Police, for example, has Sanad drones to watch the coastline, as also for search and rescue operations.

Faster emergency response
You would have seen simulators that train pilots to fly airplanes. But how about a simulator to train paramedics to drive an ambulance safely? You will find these in the UAE. You will also find civil defence teams using smart technology to control alert systems and emergency response. In a smart city, the first responders get to the scene faster than elsewhere.

Smart power grids
DEWA’s Shams Dubai Distributed Renewable Resources Generation Programme is a great example of how citizens can tap into renewable solar energy to not just power homes, but also feed the excess electricity back into the power grid. DEWA is also investing heavily in making its infrastructure intelligent and energy efficient — including upgrading data centre networks and installing smart energy storage systems.

Green charging points
Smart cities of the future will see green vehicles zipping on its roads. And keeping these running will be smart charging points dotting the city. DEWA notes that it opened the first electric charging station in February 2015, by installing 12 stations at its offices, capable of charging 24 vehicles simultaneously. And in Q4, 2015, it installed 100 electric charging stations across Dubai, as part of the Green Charger initiative. DEWA adds it will install more charging stations based to the number of electric vehicles, usage of already existing stations in Dubai, and as per number of applications submitted to install electric vehicle charging stations in residential areas in Dubai.

Smart streetlights and buildings
In October, a smart building index was launched across the UAE, to encourage the use of technologies like 3D printing to speed up constructions. These buildings also leverage sensors and monitors energy use, save water and recycle waste. These technologies spill out onto the streets, too — the Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA) has installed UAE’s first smart street lights and smart building technologies that leverage IoT. A motion sensor keeps track of approaching vehicles and switches to full power. When there are no vehicles, the lights operate at 25 per cent power.

Smart transport
Fast and efficient mass transit systems form the backbone of a smart city, transporting millions on time, every single day. Dubai is at the forefront of a cutting edge transit system, and among the first to implement a fully automated, driverless metro rail system. The UAE government will also be spending around $1.9 billion a year on transportation infrastructure and services. And oh, you get free Wifi on the metro!
Also, in a smart city, parking woes is a thing of the past. In Dubai, you will find solar-powered smart parking meters and apps keep track of the parking situation around the city.

Smart healthcare
Abdulelah Abdulrahman AlMayman, CIO and Vice President – Information Technology, Dr Sulaiman Al Habib Medical Group, notes we have “reached to a level where machines are talking to each other with live feeds to the electronic medical record to improve efficiency and healthcare quality”. Moreover, the hospital’s seamless connectivity with the group’s other facilities will also provide timely access to clinical expertise and a competitive range of treatment options across the entire patient care pathway. AlMayman adds that HMG has been one of the first hospitals in the region to follow IoT concept and continues to adopt the new era of tele-medicine in various domains such as in tele-radiology and operating tele-ICU using virtual care centres. “It’s a new experience which begin to make real the dream of care anywhere, anytime, changing patient’s expectations and fuelling innovation,” he asserts.