Why is Dubai aiming to become a smarter city?

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Michael Dixon, IBM general manager, Smart Cities.

Michael Dixon, IBM general manager, Smart Cities.

Exiting Sheikh Zayed Road in Dubai, an alert chimes on your mobile phone, which is tapped into the citywide high-speed wi-fi network, directing you to the nearest parking space.

Stepping out of the car, which has been registered using an e-government smartphone application, the street lights suddenly switch on after detecting your presence against the fading daylight.

On the verge, the grass is lush and green thanks to in-ground sensors that direct water and nutrients when needed. The rubbish bins are clean, having been emptied as soon as sensors detect they are full.

Heading to a healthcare appointment, again booked via another smartphone app, you arrive on time with traffic conditions from home to the clinic at your fingertips the entire journey.

Welcome to Dubai as a ‘smart city’.

Announced as an official project in October last year, Dubai is one of several Middle Eastern cities surging towards a smarter future, with other notable projects taking place in parts of Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

According to IBM general manager, Smart Cities, Michael Dixon, smart cities as a concept is about using technology to create “efficient and cost-effective services”.

“The ubiquitous nature of the internet and mobile phones and their application for use in all manner of private services has increased the level of expectation of people, who expect their city activities and the important aspects of their lives to be managed just as effectively,” the New York-based Australian tells Arabian Business during a visit to Dubai.

“People want to see high level of services, economic efficiency, integration between government services, integration between public and private sector and an ability to manage aspects of your life — whether it’s the obligations to government or your participation in a set of community-related activities or whether it’s your use of a consumer-based service.”

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