How technology is changing the UAE

Cities are getting smarter, but what does that actually mean?

Digitalizing government services and automated traffic light systems are barely significant in the grand scheme of ‘smart cities’. The smartest are creating technology to do everything from improving security and remotely monitoring infrastructure, such as power grids, to designing entire cities based on 3D simulations that predict the future and – the assumption is – reduce the likelihood of unexpected problems.

The accepted definition of a ‘smart city’ is one that uses digital technology to improve the lives of its citizens and make everything from transport to health and education not only more efficient but also sustainable.

Simply, it is the way of the future.

“We’ve all been seeing the evolution of a definition of smart cities; a lot of governments have been putting together frameworks, and I think that’s a good and a bad thing,” says Suhail Arfath, the Middle East head of Autodesk Consulting, one of the oldest software companies globally. Further he added – “The bad thing is that the definition is still evolving and everyone is trying to ask the same question. The good thing is that each government is getting an opportunity to use this framework to…define what is important to them. What is important for the UAE might not be important for the US or an Asian country.”

Dubai is among those governments crafting smart city plans and has boldly declared it will become one of the smartest cities in the world by 2020. The emirate’s unique definition sets residents’ happiness as key criteria, using the Dubai Happiness Agenda and the Dubai Happiness Index, launched this year, to measure residents’ and visitors’ experiences with government services.

The Dubai Government already has saved $1.17bn through shared smart services since 2003, according to a six-month study conducted by an international third party commissioned by Smart Dubai Government (SDG), the technology arm of Smart Dubai, the organization charged with making Dubai the world’s smartest and happiest city.

Dubai’s leading role as a smart city already has been recognized by multiple cities that have engaged it to help them build their own dedicated smart city. They include in South Korea, Kerala and Lagos.

With new innovations and ideas cropping up monthly, where will the world be in 10 years’ time, let alone 50 years?

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