Comment: Dubai continues to drive the GCC's smart city ambitions

Jack Ball, senior reporter at Construction Week Online says that with major GCC projects featuring varying levels of smart city elements, the region is committed to achieving a smarter future
Jack Ball, ConstructionWeek, Smart cities, Transport, Mobility
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The idea of smart cities is never distant from the vernacular of the GCC’s construction sector – a point of interest stoked further over the past few years amid a string of high-profile project announcements, such as Saudi Arabia’s tech-powered $500bn (SAR1.9tn) Neom gigaproject or Egypt’s New Administrative Capital. These developments, among various other equally smart city-focused projects in the region, are continuing to draw interest from both engineering and business investors in the region and around the world.

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Dubai too is looking to build on its current reputation as one of the smartest cities in the world, with the emirate’s Gitex Technology Week – last held in October 2018 – providing a platform for construction companies to better understand how digitisation can improve their output.

Indeed, UAE government entities are leading the smart city movement, evidenced by the launch of numerous public sector-backed services at the tech mega-event, such as UAE Pass – a Smart Dubai- and Telecommunication Regulatory Authority-backed national digital identity and signature system that will allow users to access local and federal services through their smartphones, in turn eliminating the need for paper and office visits.

With such advancements becoming ever more apparent, the need for construction companies to better understand how they can take advantage of this ongoing march towards a smart city-defined future is becoming more critical than ever.

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Comment: Smart technology and mass transit

Mobility is a central pillar in the region’s smart city agenda, with poor transport infrastructure a sizeable detriment to investment around the world. Dubai – which boasts an autonomous metro line that began operations 10 years ago – already has as strategy to convert 25% of public transport services to driverless means by 2030, with the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) Autonomous Flying Taxi and driverless taxis – such as German firm Volocopter’s – remaining central to this plan.

Since its launch in 2009, Dubai Metro has seen a truly impressive rate of adoption and popularity. It is hard to imagine Dubai without the metro today, particularly given its critical importance in ferrying passengers to and from Expo 2020 Dubai under the Red Line extension.

With this in mind, it will be exciting to see how Saudi Arabia’s $22.5bn (SAR84.3bn) Riyadh Metro, featuring driverless technology, will redefine smart transport in Saudi Arabia’s high-profile capital city.

As I exit Construction Week, the lesson I will take with me is that when it comes to building a smart city future, few can challenge the GCC’s optimism, drive, and expertise in making this a reality.

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