How Dubai's Expo 2020 site will become future smart city

Mohammed Al Hashmi, senior VP, Information and Communication Technology at Expo 2020 outlines technology plans
We believe visitors will be surprised by the level of automation and digitisation across the Expo 2020 site – even if much of it will not be visible. “Smart site”’ technology should enhance the experience without the visitor being aware of it.
By Mohammed Al Hashmi
Sat 03 Mar 2018 12:56 AM

From tickets to tech-enabled volunteers, to smart food ordering, to dynamic crowd management and everything in between, Expo 2020 Dubai is finding smart solutions that will create one of the most efficient and engaging events in the world. The “smart site” will deliver a unique and memorable experience for visitors, while also enabling business and raising public awareness of sustainability.

We plan to optimise the visitor’s experience by digitally connecting them with their surrounding environment and enriching their interactions throughout the Expo journey. We will use technology to create awe-inspiring experiences, as well as ensuring a safe and secure environment, whether that’s providing seamless ticketing and access, a painless commute and smooth movement around the site or dynamic information on pavilions, F&B and other Expo destinations.

To achieve this, we are working with several stakeholders, including our Official Premier Partners Accenture, Etisalat, SAP and Siemens. The “smart site” will utilise collaborative technology to help Expo 2020 achieve its ambitions to create the future, connect people and sustain the environment. Together, our ideas are brighter.

We believe visitors will be surprised by the level of automation and digitisation across the Expo 2020 site – even if much of it will not be visible. “Smart site”’ technology should enhance the experience without the visitor being aware of it.

Our job is to ensure that we “future-proof” not only Expo 2020 but also its legacy, District 2020. The goal is for this to be one of the most connected and tech-enabled destinations for working, living and relaxing, so it is critical to our planning today. Here are some of the ways we’re doing it:

Ticketing

The Expo 2020 “smart site” will actually begin off-site. Visitors will have multiple channels to purchase their tickets, with options to upgrade and personalise their journey. Integrating our digital payment platform with a wearable device will bring additional opportunities to dramatically enhance the visitor experience through gamification, augmented and virtual reality features, VIP services and smoother crowd management and site navigation.

Based on the information visitors provide at the time of purchase, such as their preferred language, the pavilions and events they intend to visit, and their preferred mode of transport, Expo 2020 aims to offer a customised experience to make the journey more memorable.

Connected commute

Expo 2020 is located in one of the most connected places on the planet, so we are confident that getting to and from the Expo site will be smooth. By working with the RTA, Expo will enable visitors to plan their trips and customise their means of transport, which may even include some of the latest transport methods.

Smart car parking should allow barrier-free access, guidance to empty spaces, easy navigation to your car and “wayfinding” from the innermost venue of the site to your car door.

Wayfinding

The Expo 2020 site is 4.38 hectares and will have hundreds of pavilions, event spaces, F&B outlets and other enticing things to see and do. We will use the best navigation technology to help visitors, participants, volunteers and employees quickly find their way around so they can spend more time enjoying themselves. This could include digital maps, triangulation solutions, smartphone apps and crowd analysis.

Smart crowd-flow management

With an average of 150,000 visitors per day – and 300,000 on our busiest days – plus participants, volunteers and employees, Expo 2020 will collaborate with our partners to encourage a seamless flow of people. This includes the use of specialist simulation software to model crowd behaviour, video analytics to monitor crowd numbers, and anonymous tracking software to predict the number of people in an area – all of which means a safer and smoother experience for the visitor.

Cutting the queue

No one likes to wait, and Expo 2020 will use smart technology to get visitors through the gate and into pavilions as quickly as possible. Not only can sensors and video analytics help us detect and resolve bottlenecks, but communication technology can be used to inform visitors of any wait time, whether via digital signage, a smartphone app or our digitally enabled volunteers.

F&B order and delivery

More than 50 million meal occasions will be delivered at Expo 2020. Queues will be kept to a minimum by allowing customers to view, order and pay for their orders via a smartphone app. The software will also support F&B businesses and caterers to manage their inventory to ensure no one misses out.

Swift shopping

Expo 2020 aims to have at least 5,000 licensed products available for purchase through multiple channels, including selected outlets across the UAE, dedicated Expo retail stores and Expo 2020’s global online shopping channels. On site, The Superstore of the Future will be our 3,000 square-metre flagship store. It will be an unmissable experience in itself, featuring some of the latest retail technologies and trends, giving a glimpse into how people might shop in the future.

Smart sustainability

Sustainability is one of Expo 2020’s three sub-themes and our aim is to not only be the most sustainable World Expo ever but also to raise public awareness and inform and empower visitors on the benefits of living sustainable lives. To do this, we need to prove our own credentials.

At least 75 per cent of our buildings will be “smart”, with features that could include smart metering with digital feedback for energy and water consumption, and sensors that monitor the efficiency of utilities, climate conditioning and occupancy.

Just-in-time waste management systems will use sensors to detect when bins are nearly full and allow us to schedule collection to optimise resources, minimise costs and ensure waste remains under control.

Smartphone games can also be used to stimulate and incentivise visitors and participants to adapt their behaviour and encourage them to engage in Expo’s sustainability initiatives.

Smart future

In every aspect of planning for Expo 2020, what follows the event is a key consideration. From 2021, the Expo site will transform into District 2020 – designed to push the boundaries of smart technology. Its advanced technology, such as Internet of Things, high speed telecommunications links and resilient utilities, is expected to attract corporations, SMEs and entrepreneurs who want to be at the forefront of the future.

To minimise the need for additional investment, we are designing a flexible, scalable and future-proof network infrastructure. Smart buildings are being planned to become offices, educational facilities, a science museum and others, while built-in facilities such as sensors and smart car parking will be repurposed for District 2020.

Expo 2020 is also leading the way by integrating SMEs into our procurement processes and by building a digital platform to connect them to supply services and products via our soon-to-be-launched B2B online marketplace.

Through our “smart site”, Expo 2020 aspires to not only showcase the most innovative products, services and operations, but to immerse visitors, participants, partners and employees in a quality of life that we expect to become normal in the future.

Last Updated: GST

Subscribe to our Newsletter

Subscribe to Arabian Business' newsletter to receive the latest breaking news and business stories in Dubai,the UAE and the GCC straight to your inbox.