13/02/2020 – News / GCC / Smart Cities / Technology / 5G / Dhabi / WFES / Transportation

Middle East to help boost ‘smart cities’ technology market to US$1.7 trillion by 2023


Increased adoption of automation will play a crucial role in boosting the global smart cities market to US$1.7 trillion by 2023, according to industry experts – and developments in the Middle East are helping to drive smart city innovation – from the UAE’s Masdar City, Bee’ah headquarters, and hyperloop connecting Abu Dhabi to Dubai, to Saudi Arabia’s NEOM smart city, and Egypt’s New Administrative Capital in East Cairo.

Among the top 102 smart cities in the IMD Smart City 2019 Index, Dubai (#45) and Abu Dhabi (#56) lead the Arab World. However, the Middle East and Africa’s smart cities market is set to more than double by 2022, according to KPMG. And globally, Navigant Research predicts the smart cities market will reach US$1.7 trillion by 2023.


Event explores Smart City potential


Promoting smart cities innovation in both Middle East and globally, the Smart Cities Expo & Forum this week at World Future Energy Summit (WFES) in Abu Dhabi brought together governments, corporates, solution providers, and futurists to explore how emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, and the Internet of Things can accelerate smart city development.


Senior speakers hailed from Abu Dhabi Department of Energy, Aurecon, ekar, Etisalat, EVERA, GSMA, HSBC, and Killa Architectural Design. They explored smart city progress, innovation and potential across six verticals: smart and autonomous transportation; cybersecurity and public safety in smart cities; green buildings; energy efficiency; and urban planning.


Panel discussions covered topics such as the technologies that underpin smart cities, along with sustainable urban planning, the role of 5G mobile networks in enabling connected smart cities, mitigating cyber-attacks, reducing carbon footprints, integrating water and energy efficiency, and the Expo 2020 Dubai site’s legacy.


 5G roll-out across the GCC


“As the world rapidly urbanises, cities and businesses must leverage investment and technology to overcome challenges in air quality, traffic congestion, carbon usage, and infrastructure stress,” said Prof Greg Clark, Senior Advisor – Future Cities and New Industries, HSBC, who was on the panel on Built Environment 2050. “HSBC is helping businesses to re-think the opportunities of urbanisation, and to boost internal and external return for society and the planet as a whole.”


The GCC and Arab World are showing global best practices for governments rolling out ultra-fast 5G mobile networks, accounting for 16 per cent of GCC mobile connections by 2025, according to the GSMA report ‘5G in MENA: GCC Operations Seat for Global Leadership’.


Jawad Abbassi, Head of MENA at GSMA – a trade body that represents the interests of mobile network operators worldwide – sat on the panel ‘5G: The True Enabler for Connected Smart Cities?’ and asserted: “Smart cities that leverage 5G’s real-time decision-making can drive digital transformation of industry verticals and deliver new levels of urban safety, sustainability, and efficiency.” 


Transportation and mobility


Transportation and mobility were also key themes at WFES, with panels such as ‘Maximising City Connectivity Through Smart Mobility’ and ‘Why the Sharing Economy Matters for Smart, More Sustainable Cities’. 


Dubai-based ekar, the first and largest carshare operator in the Middle East, expects 10,000 pay-per-minute ekars and one million members in the GCC by 2021. “Smart and shared transport platforms are the future for sustainable mobility in the GCC, and worldwide – reducing traffic congestion, providing affordable mobility options, and enhancing traffic safety,” said Vilhelm Hedberg, CEO of ekar. 


Held in the UAE, the Smart Cities Expo & Forum served to highlight some of the country’s smart mobility innovations, including aerial vehicles, autonomous pods, and the hyperloop.


Nadeem Shakir, Technical Director – Middle East Transport Planning and Future Mobility Leader, Aurecon, said: “Artificial intelligence is an integral and dominant technology in Smart Mobility, especially in driverless transportation predicting demand patterns, planning more efficient journeys, and enhancing safety with automated transportation network detection and interacting with connected vehicles.”


The next step: Deploying solutions at scale


“Smart cities are gradually instrumenting the urban fabric at every layer, and cross-sector benefits are starting to be realized,” said Eric Woods, research director at Navigant. “This trend is reinforced by the growing importance that cities place on data analytics and creative approaches to delivering efficient, effective, and sustainable services.” 


According to Navigant Research’s new report, the emphasis is now on deploying smart city solutions at scale. The challenge is to show how citywide deployments of new technologies can have a meaningful impact on urban challenges and improve outcomes in critical areas. It is also important to demonstrate how successful approaches can be replicated across cities to address common problems.

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