Analyst Gartner said citizen engagement has become critical to the success of smart cities because city-wide initiatives are no longer just about optimized traffic patterns, parking management, efficient lighting and improvements to public works.

-Bettina Tratz-Ryan, research vice-president at Gartner.

To keep pace with the changing needs of citizens and the development of new business, cities are now striving to become not just smart, but also innovative in enhancing human experiences.

Ratti said with the interest shown around smart city initiatives across the Middle East and in particular the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), in the future, the region will initiate a robust platform to not only monitor changes in collective health, but to understand which chemicals are being released into the water by industries, to monitor security threats.

“In short, we could say we will see more ‘sensible’ cities and less smart or [those with] technology prowess,” he said. GCC looks towards future Hasan Zuberi, smart cities consultant Dubai-based Key Options, said Gulf states comprising countries (Bahrain, Oman, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and UAE) that are part of the GCC are home to some key smart city projects.

Zuberi said GCC countries are now working smart city initiatives and several governments have relaunched programmes to give a new boost to progress and ensure that the region’s cities can match and even exceed other global cities in the adoption of smart city systems.

Tom Pegrume, vice-president, emerging markets in Europe, Middle East and Africa at Hitachi Data Systems, said the Middle East saw an initial rush of excitement five years ago about smart city initiatives and is now shifting from installing the technology infrastructure to an era of big data analytics, gaining new insights that can enhance operational efficiencies and quality of life across transport, healthcare and energy.

“The biggest challenge facing Middle East smart city leaders is breaking down barriers to share data between the public, private and academic sectors,” said Pegrume.
“Smart city leaders also need to upskill staff to become data scientists and app developers to analyse city data to drive social innovation and new digital revenue streams.”

Rasheed Al Omari, business solutions strategist, Middle East and North Africa, at VMware,agreed with Pegrume on sharing data and said the first critical step towards shaping a smart city involves the creation of a reliable shared-services platform that aligns all of a city’s services.

Acting as a foundation, it will connect all of a city’s smart technologies – from electricity grids through to water meters and all other utilities,” he said.