Why Dubai Might Be The World’s Smartest City By 2017

Having just come back from the Internet of Things (IoT) World Forum and Cisco Systems’s C-Scape in Dubai, I must say I’m impressed – both with Cisco Systems and Dubai. As someone who lives and breathes Internet of Things applications on a daily basis I was skeptical about what exactly I was going to see in terms of real world systems actually being designed, deployed and used. I should have known better.

Launched in 2014, Dubai’s Smart City initiative, Smart Dubai, is driven by the vision of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, to make Dubai the world’s smartest and happiest city. The Smart Dubai initiative is comprised of six focus areas: smart life, smart transportation, smart society, smart economy, smart governance and smart environment. The project is designed to encourage collaboration between the public and private sectors to achieve all the targets in each of the six focus areas, and they expect 1000 government services to go smart over the next few years.

Will they succeed in this BHAG (Big Hairy Audacious Goal)? Only time will tell, but they certainly have a great start. I was privileged enough to attend the IoT World Forum and get perspectives from both the Dubai Smart City executives as well as Cisco’s team on how they are progressing—and it’s quite impressive. Not only did I see demos of real world systems in action on the show floor, but we took a tour of d3, the Dubai Design District, a smart and connected community being built from the ground up  and smart from start.

A few of the key applications I actually saw that were fully functional were:


Dubai Police Dashboard: Cisco Systems, Davra Networks, TCS, Hexoskin (Photo credit: Mike Krell)

  • Connected Law Enforcement – Connected police cars (multi-radio including Wi-Fi) and officers are the center of this initiative with technology in the cars and dashboards feeding a police operations center. Real-time information is available on the status of personnel (heart rate, location, and horizontal/vertical position) as well as video and GPS feeds for the vehicles themselves.


Parking and Waste Management Dashboard (Photo credit: MIke Krell)

  • Connected Lighting and Parking – A network that lets you locate and reserve parking spots, along with providing directions to get there. The lighting system has adaptive lighting control, dimming, power consumption and fault detection among other features.
  • Connected Waste Management – Functions include current capacity of bins, route optimization, emergency requests for empty.
  • Connected Bus and Bus Shelters – Real-time information on bus routes, current bus location, occupancy numbers and when they will arrive at your location. All of this information is available from mobile applications or at kiosks located physically in bus shelters (Note: because of the heat bus shelters are enclosed in Dubai).


Remote Expert for Government Systems: Cisco Systems (Photo credit: Mike Krell)

  • Remote Expert Centers for Government Services – One of the more useful applications I saw, these small, remote centers have audio and video connections to a manned government operations center as well as printers and scanners to allow you to transact normal government business from within the remote center applications for business licenses, driver’s license renewal, etc.).

In addition to these IoT applications that are really government-centric, I also saw a Smart City Dashboard that showed a comprehensive display of key city performance indicators including status of business license applications, school and higher education opportunities and an employment portal. The solution actually aggregates three personalized sets of views including a citizen dashboard, business dashboard and a government dashboard.

Based on what I observed, it’s not “for sure” that Dubai will be the world’s smartest city by 2017. However, it’s certainly not clear that they won’t be, and regardless, they will certainly be One of the Worlds Smartest Cities by 2017.

If you are interested in video demonstrations of the Dubai Smart City implementations, they can be found here: