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Three Innovations That Will Help Shape Smart Cities in 2020 (And Beyond) The decade ahead paints an intriguing picture of society's impending digital evolution.

By Marwan Bin Dalmook

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As we reflect on the transformations that have molded civilization into what it is today, the decade ahead paints an intriguing picture of society's impending digital evolution.

Throughout history, cities have been built around resources, and civilizations have emerged by making good use of those resources. Innovation used to be centered on natural resources like rivers, agriculture fields, mines, ports, or commercial routes, but today, we live a completely new reality where technology is another force that is deeply intertwined with the evolution of cities.

Looking at the year gone by, 2019 has involved a whirlwind expansion of new and emergent technologies as the impact of the fourth industrial revolution makes its presence felt across all sectors. Driven by the arrival of new technologies like 5G, this has laid the foundation for the next wave of innovation. In Middle Eastern countries like the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, national transformation agendas are driving change, as enterprises and societies converge the physical and digital world.

As more businesses seek to achieve economic prosperity and build an improved quality of life for citizens, breakthrough solutions in areas such as artificial intelligence (AI), blockchain, and disruptive internet of things (IoT) use cases, like drones as a service (DaaS), are coming to the fore as the emerging technologies that will define smart city ecosystems.

A smart city is considered to be a city that demonstrates cutting-edge master-planning and integrates this with data-generated insights, technological innovation, and thought leadership to deliver refined solutions for the urbanization of world-class living and business environments. At the forefront of bringing these areas to life, the UAE is growing as a hotbed for smart city success stories. By adopting technologies that will change the way we communicate and interact with the word around us, the smart city landscape is getting more intelligent and intuitive with the introduction of digital solutions on the pathway to establishing a knowledge-based economy.

According to the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, it is projected that almost 70% of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. This means that nations need to begin innovating now to convey impactful change in the cities of the future. The need for digital innovation momentum is in motion in the UAE, with the country ranking as the top country in the Arab region and 12th globally, according to the IMD World Digital Competitiveness Ranking 2019.

The formal smart city innovation goals in the UAE are well-cemented with initiatives like Dubai Vision 2021 and UAE AI Strategy 2031, as well as premier events like the recent Abu Dhabi Smart City Summit. While innovation is a broad term, du -the enterprise I work for- is playing an active role in enabling the UAE's enterprises and government entities to achieve innovative processes that will create truly seamless smart city experiences. With this in mind, here are three innovative areas marking the next chapter in the evolution of smart cities:

1. Disrupting IoT use cases – DaaS lifts off

Globally, the drone service market is expected to reach US$92.52 billion by 2026, growing at a CAGR of 53.8% from now to 2026. From an enterprise solutions point of view, DaaS presents a variety of uses for end users such as law enforcement, real estate and infrastructure, construction, logistics, agriculture, and security to name a few.

Moreover, solutions in these cases, could cover a range of smart city applications to enhance businesses capabilities in the fields of surveillance and remote monitoring, mapping, surveying, 3D modelling, data acquisition, and analytics, as well as environmental inspection.

The essence behind DaaS transformations centers on the emerging smart city need for drone-powered business solutions (DPBS) to enhance the UAE's industries. du has recently illustrated this through a drone traffic control centre platform. As drone solutions are rolled out on construction sites, and in the monitoring of commercial and non-commercial flights in Dubai, du's DaaS platform is powering a new variety of applications to ensure Dubai reaches the intended milestone of becoming the happiest and smartest city in the world.

2. Unlocking blockchain potential

Enriched, seamless, and convenient experiences in tomorrow's smart city landscape are also coming to fruition with big breakthroughs in blockchain. Supporting the UAE's Blockchain Strategy, du is powering the knowledge-based journey by innovating blockchain developments that will create efficiencies for industries and governments while enriching customer-centric outcomes for end users.

Related: Closing The Skills Gap Through Innovation

du's blockchain platform as a service (BPaaS) is a clear example of this, as a cloud native blockchain infrastructure that can provision private blockchain networks with a high level of customization, support multiple consensus algorithms, with monitoring, managing capabilities and smart contract capabilities. This gives its users the ability to create blockchain networks, deploy and run their use cases, using intuitive user interfaces (UI). It also allows our clients to develop multiple blockchain use cases without having prior knowledge of blockchain network configuration and devops, with the platform supporting multiple protocol including ethereum and hyperledger fabric.

du's blockchain-powered student passport digitizing certificate solution is one example of blockchain's use in the education sector, as is the new enterprise-to-enterprise solution enabling financial institutions to streamline the regulatory compliance, know your customer (KYC), and client onboarding processes for lifecycle management of UAE clients. Additionally, du's BPaaS is being used to simplify the document attestation process for government entities, while also enhancing patient welfare in the healthcare sector.

3. AI in the UAE's DNA

AI is a key area for the UAE and for du, with the UAE AI Strategy 2031 aiming to make the most of AI to boost citizen, enterprise, and government interactions and outcomes through better decisionmaking and automation. du is blazing a trail for AI with a number of machine learningenabled e-health innovations to increase accessibility, affordability, and efficiency for patients in the smart city future. These innovations include everything from AIenabled diabetic retinopathy screening platforms, AI-driven solutions to assist radiologists in making informative diagnostic decisions about tuberculosis, and an AI primary care symptom tracker chatbot to aid patient triage and recommend next course of action for treatment.

As a leading ICT provider and key digital enabler, du is in a unique position to assist its clients to drive AI adoption within their respective organizations and build trust when onboarding this type of disruptive technology with a unique and common goal, which is to improve the quality of life of all citizens of the UAE.

Related: H.H. Sheikh Mohammed Launches Dubai Future District With AED1 Billion Fund To Support "New Economy Companies"

Marwan Bin Dalmook

Senior Vice President, ICT, Commercial and Business Development, du

Marwan Bin Dalmook is Senior Vice President, ICT, Commercial and Business Development at du

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