With the fourth industrial revolution, the role of the cities in driving economic growth is ever-increasing, and urban areas are attracting more people looking for opportunities for a better life. With more than half of the world’s population lives in cities and urban areas, the challenges that face councils and municipalities to achieve their goals of reducing costs, increasing safety and sustainability, and enhancing liveability are mounting.

Source: World Bank

This rapid growth in urbanization strains cities’ infrastructure and resources such as water, food, and energy. It’s leading to road congestions, fewer green spaces, and deterioration in the level of government services, hence threatening the sustainability and liveability of those cities. Coupled with other severe economic and environmental issues, like climate change and health and wealth inequalities, the challenges growth exponentially.

Luckily, we live in the era of a full transformation, not only digital transformation but also a real evolution in our understanding of the true nature of human needs and the real contributing factors to our comfort and happiness, or at least we are on the correct path to understanding them.

Access to fresh and clean water, electricity and internet is not only a necessity but also a human right. Spending more quality time with our families and/or exercising our hobbies and less time commuting to/from work should not remain a ‘luxury we cannot afford’. Minimizing our carbon footprint and helping protect the environment for future generations is a moral obligation. Creating smart, sustainable, and innovative cities that improve the quality of life of the citizens should at the heart of every council, municipality, or any other government agency.

The concept of the smart city is not new, and the definition remains very broad. Smart cities are comprised of a “system of systems.” Systems can include smart lighting, building automation, security and access control, emergency management, intelligent grids, renewable energy, water treatment, supply and reuse, transportation, and more.

A Smart City Unified Platform is an Enterprise level platform that collects data from interconnected sources (sensors and devices) residing on the Edge. This platform performs many functions, including visualization, analytics, remote asset monitoring and control, performance management, decision support, and/or presentation components.

However, integrating data from disparate and geographically distributed systems into a unified platform to provide a holistic view of the overall performance of the city’s assets, and support the decision-making process by providing the correct information and knowledge in the right time to the right person in various formats and different locations (fixed and mobile), hence presenting new levels of situational awareness, faces few challenges illustrated below:

  • Device and sensors management
  • Network management and aging infrastructures
  • Data management and cleansing
  • Cybersecurity
  • Application development
  • Mobility of users
  • Simulation

The Middle East and Africa are one of the rapidly growing areas in the world with a young population striving for opportunities and a better life. A KPMG report released at the sixth Annual Arab Future Cities Summit, held in Dubai in September, revealed that the Middle East and Africa’s smart cities market is expected to double from $1.3 billion in 2018 to $2.7 billion by 2022. Operating at the heart of this region, we at AITS, empowered by the AVEVA’s platform of ‘system of systems’, and years of experience in data collection, visualization and analytics, can enable city managers in the centralisation of monitoring and control, asset performance management, and real-time decision support for all kinds of smart infrastructure and can pave the way for enabling them to create the best work, live, and play environment for their citizens.