Through its embrace of all things tech and innovation, Dubai is well on its way to achieving its vision of becoming ‘Smartest City in the World’ by 2021. There was no better way to get to grips with their plans than by visiting the Smart Cities area of GITEX 2019. We went on a wander through trailblazing initiatives and groundbreaking pieces of tech, highlighting how Dubai is destined to become a city of the future.

Here, we’ll share with you the stands that really impressed us and the tech to be on the lookout for in the future of smart cities. But, before jumping into that, let’s take a look at what Dubai is doing to set the tone for the smart cities of the world.

Dubai Smart City Pavilion
Dubai Smart City Pavilion

Dubai’s Smart City Strategy

Dubai’s government launched a plan to make the city truly “smart” through innovation, digital tools, and technologically focussed policies. Worth $7-8billion, Dubai Plan 2021 facilitates a complete overhaul of the economic and social services offered to the city’s citizens, uses data-based, smart solutions to transform government services, and implements systems such as AI to help develop infrastructure. There are over 100 initiatives in the Dubai smart city strategy, including overhauling 1000 government services to make them truly  “smart”. Collaboration between the private and public sectors is encouraged in the scheme, with the aim to achieve six prime targets:

  • Smart life
  • Smart transportation
  • Smart society
  • Smart economy
  • Smart governance
  • Smart environment

Partnerships with tech companies like IBM are driving the changes, along with other strategic government and private sector deals. With AI being one of the big targets for Dubai, they are working hard on building these relationships to develop market support for the structures demanded by the city. By 2030, Dubai plans on having the first smart police station (SPS), with a quarter of the workforce being robocops! It leads from the first robot officer having been introduced to the streets of Dubai in 2017. 

Dubay Smart City Strategy at GITEX 2019

Another pillar in the strategy to revolutionise Dubai is their aim to go paperless by 2021. The billion or so sheets of paper used by the government each year should be eliminated by finding technology to replace systems. 

Blockchain technology is also coming to the city by 2020. The launch of emCash last year began the development of crypto-based ewallets being rolled out and the start of the normalisation of digital currency for Dubai citizens. Proving their commitment to the technology, Dubai was the founder of the 46-member Global Blockchain Council, which brings together companies like IBM, Microsoft, and Cisco, who are leading the charge in the initiatives needed to embed blockchain into the city.

As a way to ensure all of these efforts aren’t in vain, the city has also introduced the Happiness Agenda. It’s a systematic and science-based approach to ensuring the basic needs of everyone are met and everyone is happy in the short- and long-term. By being able to accurately measure the impact of changes on visitor and resident happiness, the city aims to create sustainable policies to continue the upward trends.  

Sounds like a cool, cutting edge city, right? Knowing how forward-thinking Dubai is, let’s get into the details of the best and most interesting stands at one of the most important tech events on the planet, GITEX Technology Week and it’s Smart Cities Pavilion in particular.

Government becomes paperless. Sounds good, right?

The Highlights of GITEX 2019 Smart City Pavillion

Dubai Now App streamlining your life

The first thing that caught our eye was the Dubai Now App – your go-to place for all the smart services the city has to offer. Smart Dubai has a bank of 27 new services across major sectors so the DubaiNow application has been released to make accessing these services easier, and get them out to as many people as possible.  

Services included in the well designed app include: the facilitation of charitable donations; residency and visa procedures; education access; housing support; and mobility services, all in collaboration with Dubai’s Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation, General Directorate of Residency and Foreign Affairs – Dubai, Knowledge and Human Development Authority, the Dubai Land Department, and the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA). It’s one of the key tools in the plan to make Dubai a smart city; by making daily transactions by community members easier and sleeker by bringing them all into one place.

The user experience was the driver in the development of the app, namely the residents and visitors to the emirate. Users can now update and cancel residency for family members, sign their tenancy agreement to rent a home, and complete the schooling contract for their children at the start of the academic year. The team behind the app, that’s already available city-wide, reckon its services will save the average citizen 28 hours per year and cut out 14 visits to governmental service centres.

Dubai Now App

Cisco Smart Cameras catching fare dodgers

Our team loved the new facial recognition cameras from Cisco, readying to be installed across the city’s public transport network to catch people bunking a ride. A prototype of the innovative system was available to test throughout the week at the Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) pavilion.

If a passenger doesn’t tap their NoI card, the cameras will be able to detect their face; as soon as passengers hop on to a bus the camera gets to work mapping their face and checks if their card has been tapped for the journey. It’s also capable of checking that there’s enough credit on the cards for each passenger to complete their journey. It even goes as far as tracking people not swiping their cards at an NoI counter and follow said passenger’s journey on the bus they take. 

Cisco’s ML camera hooks up directly to the RTA’s Enterprise Command and Control Center, which will notify an inspector to find the fare dodger and hand out the standard fine of Dh200, or $54.40. This is going to cut down on the number of inspectors needed since they will know exactly who to target rather than having to sweep a busload of people. 

Cisco Smart Camera (Model)

Dubai’s Paperless Strategy – the lowdown

Probably the most astounding innovation we came across in the Smart Cities Pavilion was the Dubai Paperless Strategy – the results knocked us speechless. The information was presented at the Smart Dubai stand, representing the government office charged with the city’s smart transformation, delivering efficient, seamless, and safe schemes that empower city residents and visitors. 

Presented at the stand were the finer points of the strategy, highlighting the collaboration between Smart Dubai, government, and the private sector to make a reality of the vision put forward by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan Bin Mohammed Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and Chairman of the Dubai Executive Council: to create a paperless Dubai with full digitalization by the end of 2021.

The Dubai Paperless Strategy is a first on the international stage, aiming to put every government process into digital form by 2021. The moves are pushing Dubai in the direction of becoming one of the most sustainable cities in the world, with a three-year countdown to get the city ready. The mission is to make everything within the remit of the government join up seamlessly without the use for paper forms, with the bigger aim to increase the happiness of everyone in the city’s community by making everything easier. Over 1 billion pieces of paper are going to be eliminated each year, reducing the waste and recycling needs of the government.  

Dubai Smart City Pavilion

Wrapping Up

By getting rid of paper and moving over to the blockchain, Dubai has lofty ambitions to be the smartest, cleanest, and happiest city in the world. This isn’t some long-off pipe dream, it’s becoming a daily reality for citizens of one of the major cities of the United Arab Emirates (UAE). Making the metropolis a hive of innovation and dynamism, the local government wants to give everyone an impactful, happy, seamless, and, importantly, efficient experience whilst living, working, and visiting there.

We got to really delve into how they’re making it work on the ground and how the technological changes can have a positive, real-world effect on normal people at the GITEX 2019 Exhibition. The smart app that brings all of the city’s services to your smartphone was a standout, as was the facial recognition of transport fare dodgers by Cisco. What really caught our eye was the impressive results being delivered by the Dubai Paperless Strategy, bringing tech and environmental concerns together to make long-lasting impacts. 

The 2020 event can’t come quickly enough; we’re eager to see what the current programs can achieve in another year, as well as see what else this fast-paced city can come up with. Make sure you follow our updates to know about the latest tech innovations and news! ‘Til next time, folks!