Smart cities - a drive to improve quality of life

Smart cities - a drive to improve quality of life
Dubai's smart city vision today is aligned with, if not ahead of, some of the leading cities in the world - including Singapore, Barcelona and London.

Dubai aspires to be a pivotal hub in the global economy, a smart and sustainable city by 2021

By Dnyanesh Nirwan

Published: Thu 1 Oct 2015, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 2 Oct 2015, 11:02 AM

Cities are rapidly evolving into global centres of excellence. The UN predicts that 66 per cent of the world's population will be urban by 2050. Cities bring together technological innovation, sustainable infrastructure development and entrepreneurship to create smarter living.
A recently-released white paper by KPMG illustrates how Dubai has adopted a unique approach to evolve into a smart city underpinned by three themes: communication, integration and cooperation. Dubai's smart city vision today is aligned with, if not ahead of, some of the leading cities in the world - including Singapore, Barcelona and London.
According to His Highness Shaikh Mohammad bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the goal is for the entire city's services and facilities to be available on smartphones which will ultimately provide a better quality of life for all.
Smart cities across the world are developing new technology and adapting older technology to transform themselves, attracting new businesses, residents and tourists who are convinced by the promise of a better way of life. In Dubai, we live in a city with world-class infrastructure. However, as we move into the next phase of growth, the government has realised that there are a number of challenges that lie ahead. The Dubai smart city project aims to encourage collaboration between the private and public sector in six smart focus areas: life, transportation, society, economy, governance and environment. Dubai's 2021 plan envisages a city of happy, creative and empowered people which is the preferred place to live, work and visit. By 2021, Dubai aspires to be a pivotal hub in the global economy, a smart and sustainable city with an inclusive and cohesive society and a pioneering and excellent government.
As a smart, integrated and connected city, Dubai will sustainably use all of its resources. It will foster clean, healthy and sustainable environments which are safe and resilient. And communication, integration and cooperation, underpinned by technology, will underpin this change.
Smart cities use ICT to become more efficient, sustainable, liveable and safe. Smart cities depend on the widespread deployment of all the components of ICT. Governance must be transparent, efficient and customer-centric. Residents - nationals and non-nationals - should be informed, engaged and connected. Smart cities, encompassing technology, people and processes, depend on a process that captures, communicates and analyses data, before using that data to make decisions or influence behaviour. Smart devices at ground level collect data, as far as possible in real time. Sensors along roads collect information about traffic congestion and road conditions. Smart metres in houses and offices track electricity consumption dynamically. Recent technological advancements and the decreasing cost of devices have made it feasible to install millions of these devices across cities, forming a smart city's basic infrastructure backbone. The data from smart devices is then transmitted between servers and control centres. An integrated communication layer facilitates this interaction and connects various devices while ensuring interoperability, integrity, scalability and privacy. Algorithms and computers process the data and transform it into intelligence - data from traffic sensors might indicate congestion, leading the smart city to suggest alternative routes. The final step is to use this intelligence to make decisions or influence behaviour. A comprehensive electronic database of patients' medical records could be used to make strategic healthcare infrastructure decisions based on demand for medical services.
Dubai's smart city project involves eight key pillars - telecoms, tourism, utilities, education, buildings, public safety, transportation and healthcare - all of which are based on, and facilitated by, technology. Telecom connectivity lies at the core - and forms the backbone - of every smart city and seamless, end-to-end connectivity is a key enabler.
New policies and technologies are making buildings more energy-efficient and environmentally-friendly. Smart cities are developing, adapting and implementing new technologies that better manage water and waste water while smart meters monitor energy consumption in real-time and give consumers information on their usage patterns. Smart grids collect and act on real-time information, monitoring, anticipating and reacting in real-time, and so increasing reliability. Smart tourism brings together a variety of smart city concepts, enabled by the innovative use of ICT. Dubai was the fifth most visited city in the world in 2014 with 11.95 million visitors. The city aims to welcome 20 million tourists annually by 2020. A smart education system based on technology helps open the door to richer learning tools and encourages more engaging teaching techniques. Finally, technology enables better public safety, preventing and protecting the general public from anything that might endanger their safety.
Technology enables smart cities. There are other critical success factors - leadership and vision, policies and regulations, integration, innovation and agility, phasing and private sector partnerships - but without technology, the drive to improve infrastructure, sustainability, governance and quality of life may not achieve its full potential.
The writer is director for consulting at KPMG. Views expressed are his own and do not reflect the newspaper's policy.

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