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Prospect of smart cities using Internet of Things (IoT) - UAE

by: Johnny Pan, SPI


Why should I read this document?

This document gives an overview of smart cities development in UAE, describes the opportunity and challenges of IoT applied in smart cities and provides the best practices and projects of the Smart Cities in UAE. 


The Internet of Things (IoT) has been part of the United Arab Emirates (UAE)' everyday life in the past decade and the concept of everything connected is present in most aspects of life, especially in Dubai, the city is key driver of IoT growth.
With the rapid development of the Smart City industry, the UAE has adopted a number of smart city initiatives such as 5G, hyper-loop and smart government services like the UAE pass. In fact, it has been forecasted that by 2024, the Middle East and Africa (MEA) region’s market for smart city technologies will be worth $2.7 billion. While for UAE, according to market intelligence firm IDC, the smart city industry was valued at $100 billion (Dh367.2 billion) in 2019, and it is predicted to reach $2.5 trillion by 2025.
The UAE has been working towards the smart city and there are currently a number of government initiatives underway such as the UAE Energy Strategy 2050, Surface Transport Master Plan, Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030, Dubai Smart City Project, Dubai Plan 2021.
For instance, Dubai has adopted a unique approach to evolve into a smart city. The city has launched its smart city strategy, aiming to transform itself into the smartest city in the world over the next few years. The government launched The Dubai Plan 2021 in 2014, aiming to position Dubai as a global centre and leader across various fields including tourism, economy, and finance. The Dubai Plan 2021 envisions the holistic future of the emirate, ensuring a sustainable quality of life, and an empowered and happy community.
The UAE government is also holding many Smart City conferences that aim to bring the ideas together from around the world to boost IoT implementation. The most prominent "smart" Emirate in the UAE is Dubai. Within its IoT Strategy, the government of Dubai has three focus markets for the smart device implementation:
  • Smart Life - health, education, transport, public utilities;
  • Smart Economy - smart post services, smart stock exchanges;
  • Smart Tourism - different hotel and smart recreational services;
In terms of Smart Life, city residents will be able to monitor their resource consumptions, such as water and electricity, on the spot and will be provided with the right information to make choices for reducing their consumptions to save city resources consciously.
In terms of Smart Economy, the strategy is to harness digital transformation to further boost the city economy and sustain its global competitiveness. This will allow the private sector organizations to enhance their processes, products and services by capitalizing on global digital innovation trends. 
In terms of tourism, one of the fastest-growing IoT sectors in the UAE is fleet management, cantered around GPS tracking and transport. With an integrated transport system, transportation alternatives will be available to city residents along with timely information for seamless connections among them. Furthermore, Smart parking, smart tolls and smart traffic lights among others will all contribute to enhancing mobility experience in the city and to ensure fast flow of people.
On Level 2 you can find information about the current situation of IoT applied in UAE: the main challenges and opportunities, while Level 3 will tell you more about the best practice of smart cities business in UAE.


This page will provide information and allow deeper understanding of the IoT applied Smart City in UAE: the opportunities and challenges:
The concept of a smart and sustainable city is based on leveraging the power of data and the use of technology to minimize energy, waste and resource consumption; and to attain a higher quality of life by engaging more effectively and actively with residents. In this regard, the government has designed a number of technologies applied in the smart city in the following:
  • The AI Lab: Dubai is developing its first Artificial Intelligence (AI) Lab in partnership with IBM to support Dubai’s AI roadmap. The AI Lab’s first strategy is to transform citizen engagement by infusing AI into services and operations, and disrupting business processes. In terms of the smart city in-house R&D, Dubai already has several innovation centers.
  • UAE Pass: it is the first National Digital Identity, UAE Pass provides a single mobile identity, giving residents and visitors of the UAE access to all local and federal government services, and an opportunity to authenticate and sign documents digitally.
  • Paperless Government: The Paperless Strategy is a concerted government-wide effort to leverage technology - blockchain, IoT, data and artificial intelligence - to remove paperwork from all government processes within the next three years.
  • Smart Cities Global Network: it is the largest international network of smart city stakeholders, aiming to bring together partners that share the passion for advanced technology, Fourth Industrial Revolution breakthroughs, smart living, and spreading happiness in the community with tech-enabled, humancentric services. Network members include representatives from the government, the private sector, research centers, academic institutes, subject matter experts and the media.
Above all, the Dubai electricity and water authority has accelerated the green charger action, as a bid to transform Dubai not only to one of the smartest cities but also to become a global hub in sustainable energy that can propel green businesses and economy. Definitely, this kind of actions will offer tremendous opportunities for investors to operate business in the most developing automobile, construction and electronic sectors to serve out new types of demand.    
When applying the IoT in the smart city, some challenges may occur as presented below:
Driven by a rising global population, it is expected that an additional 2.5 billion people and an urbanisation rate of 70% would be increased by 2050. Smart city developers would expect to face the growing challenge of rapid urbanization. The inevitable increase in global energy demand is predicted to rise by 35% between 2008 and 2035. The cities already account for around 80% of greenhouse gases, and water shortages are affecting around one third of people worldwide.
In addition, smart cities have the potential to unlock considerable business potential for the UAE, but it also warns of the considerable cyber-security threat brought by the IoT and connected devices. The highly networked environment that UAE companies operate within offers opportunities to release prolific malware that can have catastrophic ramifications or stimulate lucrative criminal enterprises. 


This page will showcase the best practice of Smart City projects in UAE. 
To ensure sustainable development while preserving the environment and to achieve a perfect balance between economic and social development, the UAE Government has launched the projects and signed several agreements with countries and companies in order to benefit from the sharing of knowledge and expertise in the areas of new technologies that will help it achieve its smart transformation goal. 

Smart Dubai 

The Smart Dubai 2021 strategy was a response to the forces of change that continue to shape the city. Smart Dubai initiative structures its end-goals across a set of strategic pillars: Efficient, Seamless, Safe and Personalised. Within the initiative, the Smart Dubai Internet of Things Strategy is comprehensively designed to leverage a citywide partner network to secure and promote Dubai's digital wealth and deliver efficiency benefits and peace of mind to all city residents, visitors, business owners and public officials.

Zayed Smart City Project

In 2018, the Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities in Abu Dhabi has launched the pilot phase of the five-year plan for Smart Cities and Artificial Intelligence (2018 – 2022) named Zayed Smart City Project. The project managed the infrastructure by using information technology and the IoT, aiming to envision the future, drive innovation and provide infrastructure at world-class standards.
This project stems from the vision of Abu Dhabi, and the implementation of the municipal system’s policies aimed at achieving sustainability, and improving the quality of living in Abu Dhabi emirate. The municipality has actually embarked on the implementation of the five-year plan for Smart Cities and AI.

Public-private partnerships for smart digital transformation

In June 2020, the Abu Dhabi Digital Authority (ADDA) signed an MoU with Intel technology company to accelerate digital transformation in Abu Dhabi. The objective is to benefit from Intel's expertise in the field of innovative technology, especially in blockchain technologies, augmented reality, video analytics, Internet of Things, AI and workplace transformation. New initiatives and projects associated with innovation and future technologies will be implemented, propelling Abu Dhabi to become a smart city.
Smart Dubai signed an agreement with Huawei in 2019, working towards the development of Dubai Municipality’s digital capabilities by providing the support required to launch unique smart services and incorporating the latest innovative technologies in the field of ICT. A Center of the Future is also planned for development, also known as “Smart center” will be powered by Huawei’s Wi-Fi 6 technology and AI solutions, enabling Dubai Municipality to deliver a superior level of automated experience to its citizens and customers.



Last updated: 26.04.2021 - 15:46
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