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Insights What is a smart city and how are they emerging in the UAE?

Technology is advancing at an incredibly fast rate, changing the way we as humans go about our daily lives. However, technology is only as useful as the data it provides. The Internet of Things (IoT), refers to the global network of ‘smart’ physical objects or things that constantly collect and share data across the internet. It is shaping modern engineering, and paving way for smart cities, capturing how we live, work, and move through urban areas. Modern methods of construction (MMC) are constantly improved by advancements in data and technology, helping to develop the industry.

At AtkinsRéalis , and our brands Atkins and Faithful+Gould, we are committed to building truly smart cities, because we know data and real-time connectivity help us plan for long-term management. But what is a smart city, and why are they becoming so prominent in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)?

graphic image of skyscrapers

What is a smart city?

As McKinsey put it, a smart city is one that puts data and digital technology to work to make better decisions and improve the quality of life. For example, with a smart city, it is possible to use technology to improve traffic safety, optimised emergency responses, dynamic mobility options, air quality monitoring and energy-use optimisation, amongst other benefits.

The United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) go a step further, defining them as smart sustainable cities which not only improve quality of life but also ensure the needs of present and future generations are met, with respect to economic, social, environmental as well as cultural aspects.

At AtkinsRéalis , our vision for smart cities utilises technologies to improve services for local communities. We want to enhance efficiency, safety, wellbeing, and access to information, harnessing the power of data and technology to optimise asset design, construction, and management. As a country that exhibits some of the most creative and architectural feats, our architects in the UAE are using their expertise to tackle climate change and the growing population. They ensure their designs are not only smart and innovative but also capable of withstanding the effects of the transforming world.

The emergence of smart cities in the UAE

In the UAE, the government are aiming to deliver sustainable development whilst preserving the environment, in an effort to provide for future generations. Large cities like Abu Dhabi and Dubai are planning and developing smart sustainable cities which will address economic and social challenges, whilst also unlocking potential long-term benefits.

As set out in Abu Dhabi’s Economic Vision 2030, efforts are being made to shift the core of its economy to knowledge, innovation, and the export of cutting-edge technologies, and finding new economic alternatives such as smart cities. Masdar City is one example of this, following its launch in 2008 as the worlds first sustainable smart district. As the ‘greenprint’ for future cities, it offers the region a template for sustainable urban development. Buildings consume 40% less energy in Masdar City, and power demand is offset by the use of rooftop solar panels and an on-site solar power plant, an impressive feat.

However, it’s important to remember that cities are built for people, and for them to be able to interact and connect with other people, places, and things. With this in mind, it raises the question of what is it that people actually want from a smart city?

Mastercard, Smart Dubai and Expo 2020 Dubai jointly launched the Building the cities of the future report, in which a survey revealed that the top three resident expectations of a smart city were ‘environmentally friendly business practices, paperless government services, and fast, affordable, city-wide internet connectivity'.

The UAE still has some way to go before classifying all their cities as ‘smart’, but innovative architects, engineers and project managers have created a solid foundation to build upon.

Establish a smart career at AtkinsRéalis

At AtkinsRéalis , we factor sustainability into everything we do. As cities and development is one of our core markets, the rise of smart cities in the UAE represents a significant growth opportunity for our diversified engineering and design service offering, in conjunction with our drive to Net Zero Carbon.

We’re excited about where our future is heading, so join us for an exciting journey. Browse available job opportunities in the Middle East and help us provide for a sustainable future.