Predictive waste control, energy efficiency in buildings, environmental monitoring and adaptive traffic control. It’s all on the way with The Internet of Things, (IoT)
Dubai’s love affair with digital technology could culminate in its urban life being transformed by the Internet of Things, the next phase in the digital revolution.
The IoT is an emerging way of managing the physical environment through sensors and networks whose impact could be worth between US$3.9 trillion and $11.1 trillion a year by 2025, according to a new report by McKinsey&Company.
Through its Smart Government and Smart City projects, Dubai is exploring the potential of the Internet of Things, and the world’s leading technology companies are coming to Dubai’s Free Zones to help them do it.
Dubai already has the world’s highest rate of mobile phone coverage in terms of population, one of the highest rates for smartphone penetration and an excellent telecommunications system.
As a basic symbol of the Smart City, free Wi-Fi zones have popped up in more than 200 locations around Dubai — and even at the beach people can get access to the Internet as well as government services and information.
The World Economic Forum placed Dubai 24th on the forum’s Network Readiness Index out of 148 countries. The index measures usage of ICT, the regulatory environment, and the impact on the economy of digital technology.
Already an ICT hub for the Middle East, the IoT venture makes Dubai a centre for digital experimentation for major IT companies interested in new uses for their products and ideas.
The Internet of Things is an emerging way of managing and controlling the physical environment through sensors that are connected to networks and computer systems.
These sensors capture extraordinary quantities of data that can be analysed and put to use in a multitude of ways for individuals, homes, retail shops and offices, factories and cities.
Smart watches, energy management in buildings, environmental monitoring and adaptive traffic control are just some of the applications of IoT that are made possible by the proliferation of smart devices and wireless connectivity.
“The ability to monitor and manage objects in the physical world electronically makes it possible to bring data-driven decision making to new realms of human activity,” the McKinsey report said.
Since the turn of the century, Dubai’s Smart Government project has been digitising government services to create smoother communication with its citizens.
Anyone who has experienced the hassles of moving to the UK or Europe, for example, would appreciate the 2,000 services which are now integrated through the Smart Government project using online services and smartphone messaging.
And in areas such as trade and exporting, the application of digital technology has magnified Dubai’s performance as an export hub so that it now has the most efficient port in the world.
Now this original vision is evolving beyond systems that rely on human input using touchscreens or keyboards, to one where sensors collect data that can be analysed to improve urban services, such as health, traffic congestion, energy usage, waste management and pollution.
Enter Dubai’s Smart City initiative.
These two digital projects have the potential to make Dubai more liveable and safer; to make business more efficient; government more responsive; and to create more sustainable consumption of energy and water.
They also require major investments in ICT infrastructure, especially the networking hardware to coordinate smart devices or sensors with computers.
Some of the world’s biggest technology companies, such as Microsoft, Cisco, Oracle and MasterCard have set up in Dubai’s Free Zones, where they benefit from corporate and personal taxes exemptions and full capital and profit repatriation.
Their offices in Dubai Internet City, Silicon Oasis and the Dubai Outsource Zone engage in research and development and industrial production.
Their presence in Dubai also allows them to reach regional markets that have rising disposable income and growing consumer and business tastes for ICT products.
Dubai’s venture into the Internet of Things is creating a global Smart City that puts the emirate on the right side of technological history.