Middle East

Smart City Transformation

Smart city is not just a technological trend; it is a way of life. Smart cities use technology to improve the way we live, work, and play. Smart city is one of the most popular technology trends in the world today. This trend is also becoming increasingly popular in the Middle East, where many countries and cities are investing in smart technologies to improve the quality of life for their citizens.

However, this is where it all started

The term "smart city" was first popularized by Peter Schwartz, a futurist and author of the book The Art of the Long View: Planning For The Future In An Uncertain World in 1991. In his book, Schwartz predicted that cities of the future would use technology to become more efficient, environmentally friendly, and sustainable. From there, many countries around the globe have started their smart city initiative.

In the 2000s, the term "smart city" became even more popular with the development of the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT allows cities to connect various devices and systems so that they can collect and analyze data in real-time. Today, smart city has become one of the main trends in urban planning. Many cities around the world are developing smart city projects to improve the quality of life for their residents.


Smart Cities Chart'.png

Smart Cities in Arab World (Belal and Shcherbina, 2018)

But, what exactly is a smart city?

A smart city is an urban area that uses technology to improve the quality of life for its citizens and to better manage its resources. Smart cities use a variety of technologies, including information and communication technologies (ICT), the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence (AI), and data analytics. In short, according to TWI Global, a smart city uses a framework of information and communication technologies to create, deploy and promote development practices to address urban challenges and create a joined-up technologically-enabled and sustainable infrastructure. 

The purpose of smart city

The primary purpose of a smart city is to create an urban environment that yields a high quality of life to its residents while also generating overall economic growth. Smart cities leverage information and communication technologies (ICT) to enhance service levels, citizen well-being, sustainability, and economic development.

In addition, smart cities also have several secondary purposes, including enhancing citizen engagement and empowerment, improving efficiency and optimization, promoting data-driven decision-making, and fostering innovation and collaboration.


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Smart city initiative in the Middle East

Smart cities began to gain popularity in the Middle East in the early 2000s, coinciding with the development of information and communication technologies (ICT) in the region. As reported by World Future Energy Summit, the acceleration of smart city development in the Middle East is being driven by increased investment and collaboration among countries.

In 2007, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government launched the Smart Cities Strategy program, aiming to develop 150 smart cities across the country. Now, the Middle East expects to invest nearly U.S. $50 billion in smart city projects through 2025.

Interest in smart cities grew further in the Middle East during the 2010s, driven by several factors:

1.       High urbanization rates in the Middle East: By 2022, an estimated 70% of the Middle East's population will reside in urban areas.

2.       The need to improve the efficiency and sustainability of cities: Cities in the Middle East face various challenges, including air pollution, traffic congestion, and resource limitations.

3.       The availability of increasingly sophisticated technology: Advanced ICT technologies enable cities in the Middle East to develop more innovative smart city solutions.

As the pioneer of smart city development in the Middle East, the United Arab Emirates is considered to be the country in the Middle East with the highest concentration of smart cities. The UAE has actively invested in developing smart city initiatives, and several of its cities rank among the most advanced in the world, including Masdar City, Dubai Silicon Oasis, and Lusail City. However, the most interesting this is, that NEOM—a new urban area planned by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia—is set to be one of the most innovative cities in the world by automating the city and introducing a car-free transportation system, powered by renewable energy.

Here is a table listing some of the most notable smart cities in the Middle East:



Notable Smart City Initiatives


United Emirates Arab

Smart grids, smart transportation systems, smart buildings, smart lighting, smart parking

Abu Dhabi

United Emirates Arab

Masdar City (a sustainable city using renewable energy), smart grids, smart transportation systems, and smart water management


Saudi Arabia

King Abdullah Economic City (KAEC)—a planned smart city with smart grids, smart transportation systems



Smart grids, smart transportation systems, smart water management


The challenges of smart city

Oh, is there any? Yes, a lot. While smart city offers a promising vision for the future of urban development, the implementation comes with several challenges. These challenges include:

l  Technological Complexity: Smart cities involve the integration of a wide range of technologies, including sensors, IoT devices, data analytics platforms, and communication networks. This complexity can make it difficult to ensure that all systems are compatible, interoperable, and secure.

l  Data Privacy and Security: Smart cities collect vast amounts of data about citizens, infrastructure, and urban activities. This raises concerns about data privacy, security, and the potential for misuse of personal information.

l  Cost and Funding: Implementing smart city initiatives can be expensive, requiring significant investments in infrastructure, technology, and expertise. Securing funding for these projects can be challenging, especially for cities with limited resources.

l  Public Acceptance and Engagement: Gaining public acceptance and ensuring citizen engagement are crucial for the success of smart city initiatives. Citizens need to understand the benefits and potential risks of smart city technologies and have opportunities to participate in decision-making processes.

l  Integration with Existing Systems: Smart city technologies need to be integrated with existing urban infrastructure and systems, such as transportation networks, energy grids, and waste management systems. This integration can be complex and requires careful planning and coordination.

Building smart city requires a collaborative effort from government agencies, private sector companies, research institutions, and citizens. By working together, smart cities can realize their potential to create more sustainable, livable, and equitable urban environments for all.

To achieve this goal, it is crucial to establish a strong supporting ecosystem. This involves the development of a robust digital infrastructure, including advanced communication networks, cutting-edge technology platforms, and efficient data management systems. A reliable digital infrastructure will facilitate the integration of various smart city services, ranging from transportation to energy management, creating a connected and effective environment. With a solid foundation in digital infrastructure, smart cities can better optimize resources and deliver maximum benefits to their communities.



Photo by Pixabay: https://www.pexels.com/photo/high-rise-buildings-during-night-time-photo-219692/

Partnering with BTS.id for a sustainable future

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As cities embrace technology to enhance their livability and sustainability, BTS.id is ready to empower them with the IT expertise and software solutions they need to thrive. Contact us today to discuss how we can help your city become a leader in the smart city revolution!