Smart Cities from the Desert Up
By Mohamed Moselhy, smart cities leader, Honeywell Building Technologies, Middle East, Turkey and Africa
Our world continues to evolve rapidly, never more so in our new normal. Research shows that two out of every three people are set to live in cities or urban centers by 2050. Within the next decade, we will have more than 43 megacities with over 10 million inhabitants.
Population growth, increasing urbanization and economic shifts mean that cities are under pressure to attract trade, capital and human talent. More recently, the current environment is challenging cities, regions and countries the world over to adopt new solutions and approaches to support societal well-being. The shift in philosophy and focus towards being more people-centric has become critical to the development of the region’s smart city frameworks.
Today, there is a collective understanding among city planners that the optimal approach will be to look at an integrated set of solutions to help building owners improve the health of their building environments, operate more cleanly and safely, comply with social distancing policies, and help reassure occupants that it is safe to return to the workplace. Big data, analytics and the Internet of Things (IoT) are transforming the development of regional buildings and cities to empower citizens, corporations and institutions, providing smart solutions to everyday problems.
Some cities are more progressed in their planning, development and deployment of smart infrastructure and there are many stages of maturity. Conceptually, there are two types of smart cities: ‘brownfield cities’, which entail the conversion of existing cities into smart assets, mostly by retrofitting the present infrastructure. Often brownfield cities seek to enhance their citizen experience while optimizing city services such as public safety, energy efficiency, or quality of life.
The second type is known as a ‘greenfield city’, which is essentially building a new city from the ground up. This new construction is something that we see often in the region when compared to global counterparts. Saudi Arabia and Egypt are both examples of countries that have several greenfield cities, planned or currently under development due to rapid growth and urbanization. For example, more than 95% of Egypt’s population inhabits less than 5% of the country’s land, and rapid population growth calls for a critical need for greenfield cities in the country.
With the purpose of bypassing existing issues such as congestion, overcrowding and pollution the concept of the New Capital in Egypt was born. The Administrative Capital for Urban Development (ACUD), the developer for the New Capital located 45km to the east of Cairo, is collaborating with Honeywell to roll out city-wide security and surveillance systems as part of the first phase of the project’s development. As part of this, Etisalat Misr and Honeywell will also establish a City Operations Center (COC) to provide citizen services at the nation’s upcoming New Administrative Capital.
With a steady flow of smart infrastructure projects and collaborations across the region, the key to success is to leverage the data available to us to make sustainable, safe and productive outcomes for our cities. As a result regional government initiatives, cities will support efforts to attract trade, capital and human talent and support economic growth.