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The role of IoT in the GCC's Smart City developments

Jul 5, 2024

Callum Moates

The Internet of Things (IoT) links physical devices, infrastructure, and equipment through sensors to collect and exchange data with a central system. This technology boosts efficiency and automation in urban settings to ensure public safety, mobility, enhanced public services, and sustainability. These interconnected sensors span from household gadgets to industrial equipment, enabling real-time data collection that streamlines operation, minimizes human intervention, and enriches decision-making.

In the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), IoT is pivotal for crafting smart cities. In places like Dubai, Doha, and Riyadh, IoT technologies help efficiently manage resources, prepare for disasters, and improve public services. By integrating cutting-edge tech, these cities enhance urban living, tackle environmental issues, and foster sustainable development.

How IoT powers Smart City infrastructure

Smart grids

Smart grids leverage IoT technology to revolutionize energy distribution and management. By integrating sensors in smart grids and meters, IoT enables real-time monitoring and automated control of energy flow, optimizing efficiency and reducing waste. These interconnected devices collect data on consumption patterns and can create demand response strategies by better matching supply and current needs while reducing costs. 

Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) leads the city's smart grid, which has transformed the city into a global leader in smart technology. With an AED 7 billion investment, the program focuses on advanced metering, grid automation, green mobility, and AI-driven water management. It aims to enhance energy efficiency, support clean energy, and improve customer experiences. Notably, DEWA has reduced electricity losses to 2.2% and achieved only 1.06 minutes of annual downtime per customer, demonstrating significant advancements in sustainability and efficiency.

Intelligent transportation systems 

IoT connects vehicles, traffic signals, and infrastructure to ensure safety and efficiency. Sensors and cameras collect real-time data on traffic conditions, vehicle tracking, and passenger counts, which are analyzed to optimize traffic flow and reduce congestion. These data insights help enable dynamic traffic signal control, real-time route planning, and improved public transit systems. These advancements lead to smoother traffic management and reduced travel times, improving overall urban mobility and customer experience. In 2018, Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority (RTA) approved a project investment of $161 million to improve the smart traffic systems in the city. As a part of the project, traffic monitoring and data capturing systems like cameras, vehicle detection devices, and weather sensors were to be installed. They also planned to build sign birds that offer drivers instant updates on road conditions.

Public utilities management

IoT transforms public utilities management by enabling real-time infrastructure monitoring like water, electricity, and gas networks. This technology enhances efficiency, reduces downtime, and improves service delivery through data-driven insights and predictive maintenance. Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, has implemented a comprehensive smart water management system using IoT technology to enhance efficiency and sustainability. Key components include an extensive IoT sensor network that monitors water pressure, flow rates, and quality indicators in real time. These sensors detect leaks promptly, reducing water losses and infrastructure damage. The system forecasts demand by analyzing historical and real-time data, optimizing distribution, and preventing shortages. Smart meters provide detailed consumption data, promoting conservation and accurate billing.

Public safety and security

Smart surveillance 

IoT-based cameras and sensors can monitor environments in real time, enhancing public safety. These systems provide live feeds and analyze data for unusual activities, enabling rapid incident response. They can also alert authorities to potential threats, improving situational awareness. Additionally, smart surveillance aids in crowd management and traffic control, contributing to safer public spaces and more efficient emergency responses. This technology significantly improves urban safety and security by utilizing data-driven insights.

Real-time video monitoring and smart CCTV systems are vital for enhancing security in Doha's smart city initiatives. According to the Qatar Ministry of Interior and Finance, Qatar has seen a significant increase in the number of CCTV cameras installed across businesses, with a growth rate of 15% in 2022, totaling over 100,000 new installations. Qatar's newer CCTV equipment is AI-powered to monitor road networks and pedestrian movements, automatically detecting suspicious activity or dangerous incidents and alerting emergency responders. 

Emergency response

IoT sensors provide first responders with real-time, actionable insights into incidents, enabling faster emergency service alerts. IoT devices, such as connected cameras, sensors, and wearables, monitor locations and track dangers like explosive and hazardous gas detection, building structural integrity, and gunshot sound detection, ensuring prompt emergency detection. Additionally, smart traffic systems prioritize emergency vehicles, optimize routes, and reduce response times. IoT enhances coordination, situational awareness, and resource allocation, leading to more effective emergency management.

Disaster management

IoT networks enhance disaster management and resilience through early warning systems and response planning. Sensors deployed across the city monitor real time environmental conditions such as weather patterns and water levels. This data enables early detection of potential disasters like floods or storms, triggering timely alerts to authorities and residents. IoT facilitates proactive evacuation strategies and helps coordinate emergency responses by providing accurate situational awareness to response teams. Post-disaster, IoT aids in assessing damage, prioritizing rescue efforts, and restoring essential services swiftly. By leveraging IoT,  cities strengthen their disaster resilience through proactive monitoring, rapid response capabilities, and effective coordination of resources.

Urban mobility and transportation

Connected vehicles

Connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVs) are integrated with smart sensors, communication technologies, and data analytics that connect to other smart vehicles and urban infrastructure. These interconnected systems allow CAVs to communicate with each other, traffic signals, and central management systems in real time. IoT facilitates vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) and vehicle-to-infrastructure (V2I) communication, enabling enhanced safety features such as collision avoidance and adaptive cruise control. EasyMile, a leading provider of autonomous shuttle technology, is testing driverless buses in NEOM that can operate in extreme heat and humidity conditions expected in the Gulf region. The electric shuttles can carry up to 12 passengers and are equipped with state-of-the-art sensors, cameras, and connectivity for navigation. To develop an autonomous air taxi service, NEOM has also invested $175 million in Volocopter, a German eVTOL (electric vertical take-off and landing) startup. Volocopter recently conducted successful test flights of its electric aircraft in NEOM, achieving 40 km/hr speeds at 40 meters altitude. The Transport General Authority (TGA) of Saudi Arabia is working closely with NEOM to promote the adoption of autonomous vehicles. TGA aims to convert 15% of public transport vehicles in the country to autonomous by 2030 as part of its National Transport and Logistics Strategy.

Smart parking solutions

IoT enables smart parking solutions by using sensors to detect available parking spaces in real-time, guiding drivers to vacant spots and reducing traffic congestion. This technology enhances convenience through automated systems and mobile apps for seamless parking management. Sharjah has implemented IoT-connected parking sensors citywide for real-time occupancy monitoring. These sensors track vehicle arrivals and departures, sending data to a centralized system. Sharjah's new "Sharjah Smart Parking" initiative, launched in partnership between Sharjah City Municipality (SCM) and EVOTEQ, integrates Artificial Intelligence and smart applications. Residents can now reserve parking spots in sensor-equipped lots via mobile phones, including VIP spaces and 'Priority Parking' for urgent needs. Thabit Salim Al Turaifi, director general of Sharjah Municipality, emphasized the municipality's commitment to enhancing services through digital transformation. At the same time, EVOTEQ CEO Jihad Tayara highlighted their role in advancing Sharjah's digital economy and smart city status.

Public transportation

IoT integration in public transportation enhances efficiency by enabling real-time vehicle monitoring, optimizing schedules, and predicting maintenance needs. It also improves user experience with smart ticketing, real-time updates, and enhanced safety measures, elevating overall service reliability and passenger satisfaction.

Quality of life and public services

Smart healthcare 

IoT enhances hospital efficiency through smart devices, improves patient outcomes with personalized treatment plans, and supports preventive care through continuous health monitoring. The Seha Virtual Hospital in Saudi Arabia utilizes IoT-connected devices and 5G technology to deliver remote healthcare services. The Ministry of Health and Prevention and Emirates Health Services also launched a platform, Shefa, where patients can upload their medical records and track all their current wearable health metrics, such as body mass index, calories burnt, heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose level.

Smart homes

Smart homes integrate IoT sensors in various appliances and systems, enhancing comfort and energy efficiency. These devices, connected via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, allow homeowners to remotely control and automate lighting, heating, ventilation, air conditioning (HVAC), and security systems through smartphones or voice commands.

Batelco, a leading telecom provider in Bahrain, has partnered with Naseej, a real estate developer, to integrate smart home technologies into the Nasayim villas residential project. This initiative aims to enhance power efficiency and introduce advanced features. The collaboration underscores Bahrain's commitment to integrating innovative technology into residential developments, offering residents optimized power usage and enhanced living conveniences.

Citizen engagement

Citizens can actively participate in city planning and governance through IoT-enabled apps and sensors that collect feedback and monitor public services. This data-driven approach improves responsiveness to community needs, enhances service efficiency, and fosters transparency in decision-making. For instance, Dubai's smart city app, Dubai Now, allows citizens to access over 250 government and private sector services like transportation and health.

Sustainability and resource management

Energy efficiency

Intelligent sensors can help optimize lighting, heating, and cooling energy consumption. IoT-embedded equipment like smart thermostats, meters, and other smart devices can significantly reduce energy usage and carbon emissions.

For instance, Oman has embarked on a comprehensive deployment of smart meters nationwide, including Muscat, to monitor and optimize energy usage. Initiated by the Oman Authority for Public Services Regulation (APSR) in 2021, the national smart meter program aims to install 1.2 million units for all electricity consumers by 2025. By the end of 2021, approximately 145,000 smart meters had been installed. These meters facilitate remote electricity consumption readings, reducing billing errors and enhancing collection efficiency. Consumers can monitor their usage regularly and manage consumption patterns. 

Waste management

Smart waste management systems feature bins with IoT sensors that monitor fill levels in real time. These sensors transmit data to a central management system, optimizing collection routes and schedules to reduce operational costs and fuel usage. Advanced analytics further enhance efficiency by identifying usage patterns and adjusting collection frequencies accordingly. 

Implemented by GN Techonomy as part of the Ooredoo smart city project, the GN Waste Management application collects data from Doha's waste bins to process and analyze it. This information is accessible to citizens so they can plan and manage waste collection.

Water conservation

IoT enhances water management by optimizing delivery systems to minimize wastage and ensure optimal resource distribution. For instance, Dubai Municipality partnered with Sensegrass to deploy smart irrigation systems on farms. These systems use IoT-connected soil moisture sensors to monitor soil water content. Data is sent to a central system that analyzes moisture levels and weather, triggering irrigation only when necessary.

Jul 5, 2024

Callum Moates

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We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024

Landvault · Wam Group

All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved


We build infrastructure for the 3D internet,
to create a richer, fairer internet.

Copyright ©️ 2024 · Landvault · Wam Group · All rights reserved