The Middle East is on the technology fast lane of becoming one of the world’s leading smart regions. With thousands of smart city initiatives in the pipeline, the United Arab Emirates, in particular, will set the benchmark for efficient and sustainable cities, with others to follow suit. From self-driving cars to futuristic flying taxis, the UAE has got them all in their smart city blueprint.

In the midst of this technology-driven age, it is interesting to see how the smart city vision of Dubai touches upon the human factor by setting the goal of making it one of the happiest cities in the world. In this context, the Internet of Things (IoT) and artificial intelligence (AI) will be the key drivers in accomplishing the Gulf dream of smart, happy, and efficient cities.

Picture a world in which the connected health data of citizens can help them make better decisions and also save millions of lives. If Citizen A is allergic to smoke and is prone to severe pollution-related asthma, he would receive proactive notifications in case of fire breakout or excessive pollution in the route he’s taking. Accordingly, Citizen B with the same set of problems can also avoid the route and take a different one to reach his destination. Further, live traffic data fetched along with hospital details in the vicinity can help someone access the nearest hospital in case of an unavoidable medical emergency.

Apart from the pure health benefits, such connectivity can help reduce expenses on avoidable medical treatments. And so the logic goes, a healthy citizen is a happy citizen. This is a classic case of technology enhancing the lives of people and improving the happiness index.

Connecting The Dots And Putting The Pieces Together

For the above example of connected traffic to be realized, environment and health data must be integrated across multiple disparate systems. Here, IoT will be instrumental in collating the data from individual smart city siloes and creating interconnected and meaningful services for the citizens.

The various individual smart city deployments like smart mobility, smart lighting, and smart workspace will improve efficiency and governance. However, to derive maximum value out of them, it’s critical to consolidate the data swamp and convert them into cognitive intelligence that benefits people. In other words, a way to render data into happiness.

Imagine if weather forecast data is interconnected to temperature and water data; this can help in the responsible use of limited resources to improve efficiency and reduce downtime. Similarly, imagine having your complete transportation network integrated into a single, sophisticated app that gives intelligent insights into deciding the mode of commute that is faster, more convenient, and closer to the destination. This would help improve productivity and avoid unnecessary delays. Once again, a convenient and comfortable commute equals happy commute, and happiness will ultimately lead to improved productivity at work.

Additionally, machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) will improve the end-user experience through trend analysis. With artificial intelligent technologies like Alexa and Siri becoming an integral part of many homes and lives, the impact of AI and ML is expected to ameliorate the quality of services even outside our homes, and in the larger picture, city operations.

Big data streamlined by IoT, together with AI can allow apps that act as intelligent virtual assistants to help citizens navigate the city with ease, get things done quickly, and keep them informed on all of their preferences based on User Behavior Analytics (UBA). There is ample opportunity for engineering solution providers and service channels to use the data clutter to craft meaningful insights and applications for smart and sustainable cities in the Middle East.

As the saying goes, happiness is not a destination. It is a method of life, and to achieve consistent happiness for its people, governments and utility departments are gearing to embrace technology and tools that eventually create smart, convenient, and financially viable environments, turning our cities into smart cities of the future.

Karen Ravindranath is the Director of WebNMS IoT