Dubai to take Spanish lessons for smarter cities

Dubai Municipality will today sign an initial agreement with Barcelona City Council to share the best practices of creating smart cities.

The deal will be signed by Hussain Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, and Josep Pique, the chief executive of Barcelona City Council’s economic growth office, as part of a two-day bilateral meeting.

Dubai’s planners will visit Barcelona in November to learn from its experience.


Mr Pique yesterday said that Dubai should try to use Expo 2020 as a target for developing – and then showcasing – the most advanced smart-city technologies in the world.

“You are in the right moment, you are in the right place and you have the right momentum,” he said. “From that point of view, Expo 2020 must be a showroom of the smart city of Dubai. It needs to invite entrepreneurs and to invite companies to show the best solutions for the cities of the 21st century.”

He said that smart city technologies were important as they allowed for the collation and cross-examination of information from a variety of inputs including transport, energy, water use and waste streams. This allows city chiefs to interpret and even change behaviour to affect a smoother running of a city.

However, Mr Pique argued that smart-city technology only played a part of a city’s transformation, adding that the other two key elements were the creation of knowledge cities to bring in high-value jobs and attractive societies in which people wish to work.

“Infrastructure and human planning is the key element to be sure we are developing the right city for the right economy for the society,” he said.

“This is very important. We have to combine the three elements, and we have to be sure that we are understanding the challenge of top cities.

“Dubai, as well as Barcelona, is playing in the Champions League [for smart cities].”

Mr Pique, who is also the vice president of the International Association of Science Parks and Areas of Innovation, was the chief executive of an initiative known as 22@.

This transformed an area of abandoned and underused industrial properties into Barcelona’s own smart city.

About €200 million (Dh812m) was spent on below-ground infrastructure including a pneumatic waste collection system, district heating and cooling, and a smart lighting and security system.

Over the past 15 years, 4 million square metres of new property have been built in the district and 95,000 new jobs have been created – 45,000 of which are in the knowledge economy.

The city council also retained 30 per cent of the space developed for social housing.

Mr Pique said this element was important to ensure that everyone working in the area could live in it, thereby relieving pressure on transport networks. “We believe the best mobility system is no mobility. If you are working and living within walking distance, you don’t need public or private transport.”

Last year, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, Vice President of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a directive to make Dubai the “smartest city on earth” within three years.

The city-wide plan involves linking government services to smartphones and the introduction of fibre-optic cable and high-speed Wi Fi networks across the city.

Within the new Dubai Design District, Cisco and du are delivering a range of internet-enabled services that provide traffic and parking information, monitor building waste and integrate a series of safety, lighting and security functions.

mfahy@thenational.ae

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