The Middle East is getting seriously smart about its smart cities

The first half of 2019 has seen something of an acceleration of the Middle East’s smart city ambitions and investments as new initiatives and programmes get underway in much of the GCC. From the look of July, the second half of this year promises more of the same as a widening range of new strategies and investments got off the ground this month, with smart city developers in the region turning their attention to finding better ways to plan, build, protect and power their visions for the future.

 

Saudi Arabia: NEOM considers 100% renewable energy operations

At a predicted development cost of $500 billion, Saudi Arabia’s NEOM project has been vastly ambitious in design and scale since its inception. Once complete, it aims to break a number of ‘world firsts’, to which another was added this month as the project’s owners consider the implementation of a 100% renewable energy O&M (operations and management) system.  As Claus Cleinfeld, Chief Executive Officer of the megaproject announced, Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince, HRH Mohammad Bin Salman, met more than 40 international business leaders in the US to outline the potential of implementing such a breakthrough system in Saudi-based smart city projects such as NEOM.

While the outcome of such talks remains to be seen, this can clearly be viewed as another sign of Saudi Arabia’s commitment to thinking big when it comes to their smart city vision.

Dubai: 3D-Printing moves from the office into the home

Dubai has already served up the world’s first fully 3D-printed office and the first 3D-printed laboratory, but now the time has come to put the technology to another test – can it create a home that’s both liveable and inviting?

Developer Emaar certainly thinks so, as it aims to create the first fully 3D-printed house as a model home later this year, both as a proof of concept and as a springboard for larger 3D-printed residential projects which will service actual UAE residents. Within a few short years, the UAE Government believes that we will see pilot projects evolve into mainstream construction developments that can give customers highly desirable, customisable and affordable homes to live in.

Current predictions cite the potential for 3D-printing to reduce real estate labour costs by 50-80% and construction times by 50-70%, representing massive savings for construction firms quick and flexible enough to embrace the technology on a sufficiently large scale.

Abu Dhabi: UAE National Cybersecurity Strategy launched to secure smart cities

The entirely interconnected nature of the smart city is the foundation of its strength, yet it also continues to pose worrying questions about potential vulnerabilities should malicious actors manage to breach the city’s security and carry out attacks on its infrastructure. Globally, cybercrime continues to rise in frequency and severity, with reported data security breaches increasing by 42% from 2018 and the annual cost of cybercrime reaching $608 billion globally between 2014 and 2017.

This present and evolving threat has been carefully considered by the UAE Government for years and the end of June saw the launch of its National Cybersecurity Strategy as a means to keep its growing smart city infrastructure safe. This comprehensive strategy has been developed in collaboration a team of international experts drawn from 10 leading countries in cybersecurity systems. It aims to deliver no less than 60 separate yet mutually reinforcing cybersecurity initiatives, whose aims include: enhancing cybersecurity laws and regulations, securing existing and emerging technologies, mandating cybersecurity implementation certification for government suppliers and protecting SMEs by developing essential cybersecurity standards.

Dubai: Introducing Li-Fi

Get ready for a true paradigm shift in the delivery of internet connectivity, as the essential ‘fifth utility’ can now be LED-powered rather than using radio waves. This month, CEO Marc Fleschen of Zero.1, a UAE-based technology company, demonstrated proof of concept of Light Fidelity (LiFi) technology which has a phenomenal data transmitting potential of up to 224GB per second.

With simple LED lights serving as powerful wireless routers, this has the potential to vastly improve the way in which we connect our devices to the internet, and to one another.

Smarter, safer, better – ME Smart Cities are evolving fast

With such an array of new innovations and government-backed initiatives behind them, the evolution of the smart city in the Middle East is accelerating thanks to the willingness of the private and public sectors to pool their resources and work together. While the true smart city envisaged by the industry’s most ambitious thinkers may be some way off yet, new developments are driving its arrival forward at a rapidly increasing pace.