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By Fatima Mohammad Saleh, Smart Cities Committee Chair, FTTH Council MENA
‘Smartness’ is not a measure of how advanced or complex the technology being adopted is, but how well a society uses technology to solve its problems and address existential challenges.

Across the Middle East and North Africa, fiber-based smart city developments are on the rise. According to market research firm Statista, driven by smart city growth, regional datacenter spend is expected to reach a record high of US$ 5 bn by 2020, up by 8.5 percent from 2017.

Examples of critical smart city applications in MENA include:

  • Intelligent adaptive traffic lights managing traffic.
  • Embedded sensors and cameras, identifying areas for bike-sharing slots or routing self-driving vehicles.
  • Smart building management linked energy systems for energy conservation.
  • VSAAS digital layer measuring movements of people, energy, traffic and goods throughout districts.
  • WiFi and internet access along with smart advertising screens.
  • Smart garbage collection system supported by robots to handle transportation.
  • Smart street lighting.

Many countries have recently developed strategies to build smart cities, with the aim of realizing energy-efficient neighborhoods, clean mobility and integration of current infrastructures, working with local administrations, businesses, knowledge institutes and citizens while capitalizing on the potential of urban data and ICT.

One success story is the “Hassantuk for Homes” program, an end-to-end wireless fire safety solution designed for homes in the UAE. Hassantuk optimizes response to fire and emergency alerts through a 24x7 connected fire alarm system. It harnesses the power and advantages of smart technology to transfer real-time data to a dedicated Civil Defense Command Control Center of the Ministry of Interior. The initiative is part of plans by the UAE government to enhance safety in residential villas across the country. This is a good example of how technologies are being rolled out to enrich citizens’ daily lives in the UAE.

Rolling out smart infrastructure and fiber in MENA presents a number of challenges. CAPEX needs to be aligned between multiple entities that require this infrastructure. Close communication and strict compliance with prerequisites are imperative. Developers need to ensure adaptation of the smart infrastructure for which they are responsible. End users need to be educated about the benefits of utilizing this type of infrastructure.

Dubai Future Accelerators initiative, focusing on identification and deployment of futuristic prototypes and products at a city-wide scale is a classic example of successful strategic partnership between government and telco operator. The approach incorporates the application of cutting-edge technologies such as AI and robotics, genomics, 3D printing, distributed ledgers, biomimicry and biotechnology, as well as new business models and ways of working. This type of initiative aims to connect the world’s most innovative companies with leading government representatives to create breakthrough solutions for the world’s most exciting opportunities and pressing challenges.

Property developers are introducing advanced fiber connectivity and intelligent services in order to market. The value of the real estate increases and the facilities become significantly more attractive to the customers.
Once fiber infrastructure is in place, advanced smart services are possible thus paving the way for transition to a futuristic and sustainable smart city.

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