Last Updated on February 1, 2024 by Ameer Hamza
Many things in the world have gotten “smart” in the past decade. We now have smartphones, smartwatches, and even smart homes. However, smart cities are arguably the most remarkable concept of all. There is no general definition of a smart city since it is still a relatively new concept. Nevertheless, one can reason that a smart city is one that incorporates ultra-modern technology to be more efficient and sustainable.
In essence, smart cities aren’t just about technologically advanced infrastructure. Instead, the main goal of such cities is the improvement of operational efficiency, sustainability, and economy. No region has explored the concept of smart cities more than the Middle East. Thus, let’s consider the top smart cities in the area.
3 Leading Smart Cities in the Middle East
Masdar city is located just outside of Abu Dhabi. The government built the city from scratch, which allowed for a lot of flexibility and control. Masdar city is a product of forward-looking collaborations between government, private companies, institutions, and individuals. As a result, the city has been touted as a showpiece of compact, energy-efficient urban development.
Masdar city has been a testing ground for various green-tech solutions. It is currently home to a growing clean-tech cluster. Similarly, the city features a business-free zone and a residential neighborhood with restaurants and shops. Notably, Masdar city has also been a breeding ground for innovation. For instance, the city recently signed an MoU with DANA to develop a beta site for innovative agritech pilot projects in the UAE.
One other notable feature of Masdar city is that it is developed to be pedestrian-friendly. Thus, its streets are lined with various walkways and paths for cyclists. In addition, the city is entirely reliant on renewable energy.
Although Dubai is not a planned smart city that the government built from scratch like Masdar city, the city has nonetheless incorporated several smart city solutions that make it one of the top smart cities in the world. A big part of Dubai’s transformation into a fully smart city is hinged on emerging technologies. Thus, the city is working towards harnessing technologies like Blockchain, artificial intelligence, and data science capabilities for better efficiency.
Currently, residents of Dubai have a digital identity that enables them to access government services. Similarly, the city has invested significantly in developing a smart digital and physical infrastructure. For instance, Dubai has developed its own payment infrastructure, which already processes over 7.5 million transactions and is on the smartphones of more than 500,000 citizens.
These measures are part of the Smart Dubai 2021 Strategy, which was launched in 2017 and sought to transform Dubai into a seamless, efficient, safe, and personalized city.
The city of Abu Dhabi is also getting increasingly smart. The Abu Dhani Department of Urban Planning and Municipalities is almost near completing the Zayed Smart City Project – a five-year pilot. This initiative has been leveraged to upgrade the city’s existing infrastructure through information technology and the Internet of Things.
Abu Dhabi is also leading the drive towards sustainability as the city has already constructed the largest single-site solar in the world at Sweihan. This is the Noor Abu Dhabi, which can produce up to 1.78 GW. In addition, the city is also poised to launch another solar project to build Al Dhafre, which would have a capacity of 2 GW.
In addition to the cities listed, there are several other upcoming smart projects, such as Saudi’s NEOM, Amaala, and Qiddiya. This proliferation of smart cities in the Middle East hints at a consistent shift towards sustainability.