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The evolution of smart Dubai

Aisha Bin Bishr, director general at Smart Dubai Office, discusses how Dubai is evolving as a smart city with the support of local telecoms provider Du.

As the United Arab Emirates (UAE) paces towards a more digitised economy, where the physical and online worlds are merging, Smart Dubai Government is aiming to be at the forefront of pioneering and transforming the city into one of the smartest in the world.

Dubai has emerged as one of the few places in the Middle East to offer smart city benchmarks, and its evolution will be closely watched.

An important step was the recent announcement that Smart Dubai partnered with Dubai-based telecoms company Du to help it build the digital backbone for smart city services.

Aisha Bin Bishr, director general at Smart Dubai Office, says Du was selected as its partner for the Smart Dubai Platform following a long evaluation.

Bin Bishr says Smart Dubai Platform is so important that the Smart Dubai Office established a dedicated committee to oversee the partner selection process. From an initial field of 30 potential local and international suppliers and telco providers, 10 were invited to participate in the bidding process.

“Following a comprehensive process, seven candidates were shortlisted. The field was then reduced down to three final candidates before Du was selected,” she says.

There is a lot of ongoing work to prepare for the platform and ensure Dubai has the right foundations in place to operate across all city layers. The platform connects infrastructure and provides personal dashboards and applications, while ensuring security and privacy for the city and individuals. “Considering all of this, we are proud to say we expect to unveil the platform framework in early 2017.”

With the expectation that government agencies will host applications on the platform, it’s critical that these organisations contribute to the Smart Dubai Platform development. Bin Bishr says the Smart Dubai Office has been working closely with government entities to prepare for their contributions.

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Through the work of the Dubai Data Establishment, for example, government entities are already identifying and preparing their open data for incorporation into the Smart Dubai Platform.

“The first open datasets for the city will be available through the Smart Dubai Platform in early 2017,” says Bin Bishr. “The Smart Dubai Government establishment has already united digital services from 55 government, private sector and humanitarian organisations into the Dubai Now application.”

An application, known as Dubai Now, will be available for use by all residents as an interface for all applications and personal dashboards powered by the Smart Dubai Platform. “The application will evolve into different versions until it becomes mature. For us, Dubai Now is in its beta phase,” she says.

Encouraging collaboration

“If we consider the vision of the UAE leadership, the aim of the project is to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors,” says Osman Sultan, CEO at Du.

Sultan says there are six smart focus targets around better living for citizens: smart life, smart transportation, smart economy, smart governance, smart environment and smart society.

“These will be achieved by relying on the basic principles of communication, integration and cooperation, which are the key pillars of a public and private partnership. In a world where digitisation is going to be front and centre, whether we are recipients or creating and delivering services, every aspect of our lives will be transformed.”

A smart city agenda represents a world where everything that needs to be connected, will be connected. Du will provide the digital infrastructure for this, and host data from millions of sensors.

Aspects of the Smart Dubai project reach beyond its traditional business, and, such is the pioneering nature of the project, Du has had to develop new capabilities. “In addition, we have developed systems, and, more importantly, a new mindset within the company that is a collaborative responsibility and not just a single-player job,” says Sultan.

The platform is expected to evolve. “There will be an increase in the number of use cases,” he says. “Some of these applications and use cases will make the life of citizens, the users of this platform, safer, while in other instances it will make their lives more convenient. For some, it will make their lives more productive, whilst also having a positive impact on the environment.”

But he warns that having smart applications doesn’t necessarily make Dubai a smart city. “The aim of a smart city is to make all of these components talk to each other, and make this platform the central repository of information.”

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