Smart Cities and Inclusive Growth for the Middle East
Hello and welcome to Frontiers of Innovation, a live initiative brought to you by Canon I’m Eithne Treanor and I’m delighted you’re here with us, we have so much going on and we have so many people joining us, we’re delighted you’re here. We’re going to talk today about smart cities and inclusive growth in the Middle East. So, you’ve all heard about smart cities If I could just stop you to think How smart is your city? And how are you benefitting from it? We have two great speakers that I’m going to introduce you to in just a minute. We’d love you to be involved as well so please please make sure you get a few questions in. There’s lots we can talk about and I’ll do my best to make sure that we get these questions to our two experts here, and of course tell us who you are, where you’re from, and let us know what’s on your mind as well.
So, lots to talk about in this discussion as we explore the industries and the life and times of a smart city. So let’s meet our panel members: We have the Vice President from Khalifa University, Steven Griffiths is with us. Steve, it’s lovely to have you with us. And also from Saudi Arabia, the head of the centre for urban design and planning at DASO, so Day Aldhawyand is also with us. Two great experts here. I’m really looking forward to this conversation.
Day, I’d like to talk about smart cities with you, and get started on this When we think about smart cities, you actually say it’s not enough to just be looking at smart cities. You’ve actually, when I talked to you earlier, you were saying that they need to also be clever. What exactly do you mean? Well every time that we bring up the term smart city, we immediately think of the technological part of the equation, and we talk about how technology could help in developing and bringing some data that could help with planning or putting strategies or others. So, we look at it from the perspective of data and of technology interfering in our day to day life to think or rethink the design or the planning of cities. However, what we really need to think about or what we really need to look at is the clever city, as I call it, or the smarter city. It’s not just about the technological aspect of smart cities, but actually all aspects, like the right infrastructure or the basis of infrastructure for cities, and looking at solutions and innovative ways of approaching our problems that we face in our cities in a more comprehensive aspect. So, smart as I said, we always associate it
with technology but when we say clever, it gives us the chance to actually think about other things or other solutions or other approaches to what makes a city smarter or more clever. I like that, smarter, because there’s so much that has to go on to make it all come together, and to make it all work. And ultimately, to make it a benefit to the people who live there. Now, Steve, you have written about this in detail and I really enjoyed reading a lot of what you write about and talk about, but break it down for us, when you look at the concept of smart cities, and it probably means different things to different people, but give us your interpretation. Sure, I’ll follow along with Day and I agree with her points When I think about a smart city, it’s not just about the technology Technologies are needed to enable citizens lives to be better We’re looking at utilizing technological platforms to better the lives of the people and when you think about that, really it’s not a smart city we’re looking at, it’s a sustainable city. So, smart city for me falls under the broad umbrella of sustainable city.
When you think about sustainability, what you’re trying to achieve is economic prosperity and environmental prosperity for the people. You have a sustainable city, and you employ smart technology in order to enable all the different paradigms of sustainability that we’re trying to achieve, but we don’t stop at sustainability. For myself, when I think about it, we also have to consider resilience.
So for a long time I’d talk about smart cities, and everyone thought OK it makes sense, 49 00:05:41,000 --> 00:05:44,000 smart cities and sustainable cities, but then the pandemic came, with COVID-19 and everyone started thinking: what is happening here? how did we become more aligned in our cities to dealing with such a pandemic? And that’s when the idea of resilience came up, and it became very important for when we think about cities. Something about resilience, I think, how can we make our cities able to withstand challenges they are faced with? The pandemic was an example of something happening in healthcare, obviously a very serious healthcare issue. But it’s not just health, I mean, when you look at the future, climate change is coming, and we know that if we don’t do something to tackle it, we’re gonna be faced with a lot of challenges in cities, and so we need to start looking at 59 00:06:19,000 --> 00:06:23,000 climate as a potential area where we have to be resilient, and also cybersecurity. I know later will talk about this, I see cyber threats in smart cities being very important. So to me, sustainable cities that are smart and resilient is what the paradigm is gonna continue to go towards in the future.
Indeed, there is so many elements that we have to look that, and indeed it is about the cooperation of everybody, all the departments, all of the stakeholders in the city actually talking to each other and working in harmony, because there is so much that has to be done. Now, Day, your background, as an architect, as a managing consultant, many great expertise in there. But when we think about urban design, how has this changed over the years, and when we look at what’s happening in Saudi Arabia, are we seeing that sense of community come back to the cities that we’re looking at, so maybe work on this from the KSA example.
Sure, I mean, KSA cities, just like any other cities in the 50s and the 60s, influenced or affected by the automobile, so it just, I would say it was also the beginning of the fast development of these cities, so at that time, that was the idea, or the big ideas, it was the automobile, and their position in cities, and how do we actually work our society and life around the automobile, but maybe what was a bit affecting Saudi cities is that we didn’t really pay attention to the negative effects of automobiles until really later, in our city history, or the modern city history. We started really understanding the huge effects and what has happened through the last 40 to 50 years, or really the last 7 decades, on the way that we designed our cities, is that we started realizing now, with our vision 2030, and all the premises and the targets and the approaches that were trying to achieve, that our cities are not really built around the human scale, I would say. So, we really drove the development of these cities around the automobile and we ended up with not very livable and the quality of life has been affected as well in Saudi cities in general. So the vision 2030 came, and with the biggest understanding of this issue, and trying to resolve and rethink the way that we design our cities. So we are having 2 approaches into the solutions or aspect or the way we are approaching the vision, which is by 1. Having the bigger projects here and there and experimental planning in cities in a green field I would say, and then we have the issues that we have in our cities where we are having initiatives and projects also considered large projects to really rethink some of the issues that we face in day to day life, one of the biggest issues that we’re facing and that we’re really trying to reconsider by having multiple big projects in the city of Riyadh for example, is the public space and green space and open space for the citizens, and considering also the human scale in cities and humanizing cities in general.
We have multiple projects from King Salman Park to Green Riyadh to Sport Boulevard and then other smaller approaches where we are actually looking at the historic cities in Saudi Arabia and in particular let’s say in Riyadh, we have like Al Diriyah, a neighborhood or city, and we are trying to rethink the development around it and how do we preserve what’s there and add the new in coherence with each other and not in a clash, and how can we build on that and really use that to promote humanized cities or vibrant cities. There are also other initiatives within the vision, we have one of the targets actually, it’s to elevate the urban life in cities, and it’s one of the largest targets of the vision. And on that target we have multiple initiatives under, regardless of the projects I talked about which are individual projects and bits and pieces in cities, but actually initiatives that drive the urban quality, like initiatives on repairing streets and humanizing central cities, preserving old cities, and building on that. Yeah and we’ll talk more about that, there’s so much, and I think Saudi Arabia at the moment, it’s gotta be a dynamic time for city planners and architects and construction developers and everything, there’s so much going on. Steve, talk to me a little bit about what you call city science, and is this related to artificial intelligence and technology, or does it stand apart? Well, it can include artificial intelligence, I like the term, so let me try and define it a bit.
When we think about science, what we try to do is gain a fundamental understanding of the natural world through empirical knowledge which we gain from a rigorous scientific methodology, we’re trying to understand things around us using a good methodology so we can get insights that are rigorous. When you apply that to the city, it’s really the same paradigm but now we have the city context, so when I think about trying to apply the city science, I wanna understand the city, and I can apply many technologies to understand the city. Today, we have sensors everywhere. I mean, my phone is essentially a sensor. We can create sensors which can help us interrogate the traffic flow, patterns, the weather, whatever you like. So much data is coming to us, we can use this data, understand the city fundamentally. When we understand the city, then we can start to think about interventions which help the people in their everyday lives.
This is what I was talking about before, you use technology to make a better world for the people, apply this methodology to take your fundamental knowledge and then start to find new solutions that can be good for those that you’re trying to help. When you do that, coming back to the notion of science and experimentation, I think it’s important to start looking at how you can pilot technologies, pilot approaches, get people involved, and apply your scientific method to seeing if what you think could help make the world a better place and the city actually works. Don’t roll it out all in one shot, see if it works, see if you get good feedback, and if it looks like it’s a very positive technology or practice that 124 00:13:51,000 --> 00:13:56,000 you’re trying to deploy, then it can go broader. So, in my view, science is science. If you apply it to the natural sciences, the social sciences, or the city sciences, it all should follow the same paradigm, and it excites me. At Khalifa University, we have many research centers and this is what we’re trying to do with them. We’re trying to find ways in which we can understand first where we think interventions will help and then take small steps to seeing if those interventions make a difference.
And that’s very much a common sense approach I think as well. Day, when we look at population growth in cities at the moment, and the fact that so many people live in cities and so many people are migrating to cities every year, it’s estimated that two thirds of the world’s population is going to live in cities by 2050, probably even more. 134 00:14:38,000 --> 00:14:45,000 Do you think the world, and particularly this region, given also what Steve has been saying there, are we ready to handle this? Do you think we’ve got the plans in place? Do you think we’re ready to make sure that we can accommodate this? I think we’re starting to really understand the risk and understand the problem that we will be facing very close in the future and we’re starting to really as I said rethink the way we plan and we design our cities and I think a lot of cities around the region have realized the effect of immigration and the effect of the growing population in the area considering the middle east is one of the parts of the world where the population is growing in a very fast manner compared to other areas of the world so I think the conversation has started and I think that there are a lot of strategies and plans and regional plans and city plans that are trying to really put that in mind as a response to the way they plan for the next 20, 30, or even 40 years. So, I think there is a lot of attention paid into the issue of growing population in cities and there is an understanding that this is happening and it’s faster than we thought it would.
So yeah, I think there is, from my perspective, from Saudi Arabia, and from some of the areas of the region that I’ve been involved around as a consultant, that’s what I feel is happening, I think there is a clear understanding of that. Steve, maybe stay with this topic, cause I think you have something to say on this too, in terms of, it seems like the cities have almost stayed the same for quite a while, and it’s almost in the last few years that really there’s been this realization that we really need to employ technology for everybody’s benefit, but is it, are all hands on deck, so to speak? Are we ready to do this? And do you think that the planners are maybe embracing new ideas in terms of what they need to do. So if you look at the term “smart city” If you ask me, smart city peaked in about 2015 timeframe as far as technologies. Today, what we’re seeing is what we talked about earlier, we’re seeing a lot of city planners, a lot of those that are looking after cities, think about how to pursue sustainability and resilience. And I think the catalyst is naturally that we’re seeing things like a pandemic hit us and we know that we need to be ready for those types of issues we know that technology can help us climate change is coming everywhere now, people are talking about how can we be resilient against the potential impacts of climate change wherever you may be in the world, whatever your geography may be. And cybersecurity — a smart city is naturally a place where you have many many opportunities for cyber attacks to happen it can be cyber terrorism, cyber warfare, cyber crime all these issues that are so central to us, where are they gonna take place? if they’re gonna take place in a big way, it’s in a city.
So, I think there are a lot of catalysts out there to get really get planners moving around the notion of building sustainable resilient cities that are smart now, it’s naturally to me, when you look at the population growth, I mean, Day mentioned it earlier, and we’ve talked about it many times in many different events, the world is moving towards an urban context. I mean, we’re trying to free up land, from utilizing this beautiful natural land that’s being taken up by populations and people trying to settle there, we’re trying to move people to cities. So I think, naturally seeing that there’s these different issues we need to address, that are coming toward us, seeing that we’re trying to free up land so that we can have nature back again, and have people in places where they can aggregate, have meaningful productive lives, do good work, have access to culture, those are the things a city can be. So, we have catalyst to think about how to make a city smart and resilient, and we have the opportunities now with population growth, and seeing that we need to have people who are able to take advantage of what a city can offer. So I do think that there is a resurgence and revitalization in this notion that the city can be something more than what it is today.
Day, talk to me about the role of the government in terms of making sure that the city can be more for its people than it is today. Where do you see that? Well, as I said before, smart cities as a concept is overloaded with expectations of what could smart do. So really the role of the government evolves around creating policies, laws, regulations, programs, and projects that would actually promote sustainability, equity, social coherence, and other concepts that we look for, and also resilient cities as Steve had mentioned earlier. So I think that the government could do that, not necessarily through smart city concept, or smartness, or I would say the technological advancement that we use in.
Smart cities is just a tool. I would like to say that the smart city concept is great but let’s not give it more than what it’s offering really. It’s a tool to achieve some of our targets and some of our wishes I would say to the future cities. Steve, indeed it is a tool in many ways, but also when we look at the technology and we look at the role of the government and other stakeholders, we’re also looking at the role of a few tech giants, who we have to subscribe to, and there’s a few people controlling this, maybe that’s not the right word, but how do we manage that and how do we actually make sure that we’re going down the right direction. Well, the tech giants, they’re good at the very visible tools for a long time the simple matter is, when you’re looking at a smart city, you’re looking at utilizing ICT technologies, having the ability to store and analyze massive massive amounts of data is a very challenging task you need to have the technologies to do that you need to have trained people to do that and the Microsofts and the Amazons of the world are very good at this So it does make sense to partner with these organizations and try to bring them into a framework which allows them to do good things for the city. With that said, I think
the role of the government in choosing these partners and working with these partners is to make the partners do what we need them to do and investing properly in the form of the technology and trying to make their technology as broadly available as possible, and making sure their technologies work how we need them to work. So, when I think about the government policy perspective, policies to me can be around innovation, can be around regulation, they can be around fiscal and financial incentives. If you look at the regulation side, it would bring these companies into the framework of a smart city, we need to make sure they are looking out for privacy of data. Too often, we hear about all the issues that are arising when the data from some technology is shared with the company, the company allows that personal data to be accessed by others, then who knows where your personal data is gonna get out to them. I think we have to bring in frameworks which allow the data to be protective of people, otherwise people aren’t gonna believe in those technologies and participate in the smart city.
We also have to make sure that we bring these companies and technologies into the city, we leverage the opportunities that we can bring upon when we bring these technologies in — In a sense, if you want to say, for instance, in the procurement of their technology and you put out a tender, in that tender, you can put in, say, some stipulations that when the company brings its technology, they need to also support the broad deployments in all parts of the city, because we know that not everyone has access to high speed internet, all the computational tools they need to access what we call the smart technology frameworks. So, I think, that’s another way in which we can bring public/private partnership to the good of the city, and we can start to bring upon the companies that we’re working with, some kind of regulation, but also a financial incentive to them, to bring to the good of the citizens their technologies in a meaningful way. Yes, I mean, it is, it’s important, I think, that trade off, in that sense, whereby, it is helping both parties is absolutely essential Day, people want to be safe in their cities, I think this is absolutely essential.
They want to be physically safe, but also when it comes to cybersecurity, they also want to feel safe in terms of giving away their data. Okay, we give away a lot of our data for free, and voluntarily every day of the week, but talk to me a little bit about the fact that now, this data that is out there, it’s available, it’s available for the government, it’s, you now, on various platforms, and they don’t really have to go looking for it, it’s all there, it’s almost gifted to them, because it is in the public domain. You know, are there issues around there in terms of people feeling safe, and in one way, feeling perhaps that their privacy is respected.
I think this is a very… you can argue for both sides. But I would say, if it’s shared willingly, and if it’s open information that you share on the Internet, why not use it? To probably advance a certain project or a certain plan or a certain — Because yes, we said that smart city is not everything, but data, as I said before, or smart city concept in general, is a tool, is a strong tool that could actually help tremendously in planning and decision making and strategies around cities and regions. So, if it’s, I think if it’s shared, willingly shared: Why not use it? I mean, if it’s for the good of the people and the good of the city and what could bring advantage to everyone, why not? So yeah, I think it depends on how this information has been accessed, is it private information or is it public information? Steve, let’s continue this conversation and again, I suppose in many ways, the sort of advantages of available data, and maybe a few of the disadvantages. You know, I think we see even in a city like Dubai, and many cities around the world, and even the police here have been very open and eager to demonstrate, you know, if anything goes wrong, that they can demonstrate to us, that they know where people have been and what has happened, and they solve crimes very quickly sometimes and are very proud to show us how it’s been done. So, we know there is data being collected at many touch points around the city, but also there’s a lot there in terms of helping to protect the population, and all of this data is feeding into a bigger picture.
Talk to me a little about what you see the advantages and perhaps there are a few disadvantages there. Well, I think you brought up some good advantages, so if you look at the areas in which the city can benefit from the data being available, civil security makes sense, so we want to be sure that we’re safe, so it can do facial recognition to see if there are suspects of crime in the city. You can potentially do predictive policing so that you know where to put your police force proactively so that you don’t have crimes, work is being done on that, you can have priority dispatch on your emergency services so in an emergency situation, where do you deploy the people to get to those parts of the city that have the most need or maybe have the people that are most at risk… Those kind of uses of the data can be quite good. Now, that said, these data are not always used to be the most helpful in the situation that I described, in the sense that, when you have an AI machine learning approach, it utilizes these data, and it utilizes historical data that are gonna come from the sources from which you have collected it, so today if you’re trying to recognize a suspect at an airport, in a city, or wherever it may be, and you are not having data that’s been trained on whatever the nationality of that particular suspect is, you may misidentify the person.
So, if I am of a particular nationality or ethnicity, where I’m underrepresented in the data that is being collected, then I am at risk of having potentially false accusation or false arrest, a lot of things that can be very disruptive in my life. Likewise, if I’m having a system interact with me in a smart city, say, to monitor or check some aspect of my interaction with the government civil service. If they’re trying to understand through an automated system what I’m conveying to them and the dialect I have is not one that the system has been trained on, again, there could be challenges in trying to have a way in which you can interact seamlessly with the system.
So, I think within these different open data platforms, there’s an opportunity to not have sufficient transparency in the algorithms and the processing that they’re operating. There’s potential to have biases in the data that’s actually collected, it’s not intentional, it’s just because we don’t collect the data from all the different groups which we have represented for the applications we are developing. So I think there is good things happening around use of data, but there’s also potential issues in which the data are utilized in ways that maybe are anticipated, and then end up causing problems for those groups that we’re supposed to be trying to help.
Yeah, and I think as you say, a lot of this is people are learning how to analyze it, learning how to work with it, and you know, we hear about new developments every day, I think only this week there’s eye-scanning developments at the airport here in Dubai, we know they’ve been there for a while and we’ve seen the great technology so it’s gonna really move people through the airport at a faster rate, and you know, they will be able to make sure that it’s efficient and it helps people as well. One area though I think in terms of COVID, and Day, if you look at this, I think we saw it here in the UAE, that’s what I know of, but it worked incredibly efficiently is very much in the health sector, particularly the management of the vaccines, whereby all of the health players really came together, so in many ways, how does this change healthcare in a city? Because the technology is actually there to help people, and I think it also cuts down on travel time, and people going to the doctor, because we had to do something different. I’m glad you brought up health, is it okay if I take that a response? Okay please, Steve stay with this one, and Day can come in on it as well. Yeah, it was because I was thinking about the last question and health became, something on my mind as I mentioned, civil security. We know there are many applications in civil security.
But when you look at the smart city and all the sectors that Michigan serve, I think two of the areas that are most underserved by smart technologies historically have been health and education. In health what we’ve seen recently is that there was really not enough focus on having health data of the populations available for rapid analysis. So what we’re going to see now, I’m certain we’re going to see it in the coming years, there’ll be much more focus on bringing health records to a digital format, and then we can start utilising the information about the populations that more wrap to responses, particularly to issues that arise like COVID-19, around epidemiological studies, so we can trace disease, figure out where it may be going and try to be proactive in preventing further outbreaks. The other area that I see as an opportunity is using digital biomarkers. And so, we’ve been doing a lot of this throughout the pandemic, and digital biomarkers, imagine with your smartphone, you have an app, and you’re worried whether or not you may be coming down with COVID-19, or you have it and you want to see if it’s progressing in a certain way.
If you’re able to train a system to recognise your speech patterns, your cough patterns, heart rate variability, maybe also combine them with a few answers to sort questions, and that can help the system learn whether or not maybe you contracted COVID, maybe you have COVID and it’s getting worse, and you need to monitor it more closely… These kinds of systems have been built on a more COVID sense at the university and we deployed it now, it’s available on the Apple store and Google Play, we’ve deployed it and hospitals are using it, doctors are using it, to do exactly this; see where their patients may be, or their possible patients may be with COVID-19. So, I think the entire digital suite of technologies available to us now, the sensors which we have which are growing all the time, but we already have smartphones, so yeah there’s already a platform available to get so much information about us, and we can be intelligent with that. It’s only going to grow in the future, you got the Oura ring, you can wear a ring now which is going to detect any abnormalities in a way that your sleep pattern is and your body temperature… So, all these biometric analyses, all these biosignals that we give off on different devices that we wear, I think that’s going to be a great opportunity as well in the future around health. So I’m excited in particular about the healthcare sector in smart cities, I think it’s a great opportunity.
Indeed, I mean you just think of these things, it sounds a bit futuristic at one point, but then again we can see that your watch can actually monitor your blood pressure, your heartbeat, and various things like this, so there’s so much of it happening already. But great to hear. And I’ll talk about education in a few minutes but there’s so much going on there. Dhay, again, on the health sector in Saudi Arabia, do you see a sort of unification of the data and how it can help the population, really, and particularly, I think, what we’ve learned in the last year. Honestly, what was very impressive for me is the response itself to the pandemic. We all understand that this is not going to be the last pandemic. The problems that we will be facing in the future will be pandemics more than wars as we understand at this point.
So, the response that I have seen in Saudi Arabia and the… At the beginning of the pandemic, everyone was confused, even the health sector was not sure how to deal with the whole situation, and it’s fine. But the solutions that they came up with and the way that they have dealt with it, or their response to covid or to the pandemic, was very impressive and very interesting. I never thought that we will be at this point of sophistication in terms of the response to such a pandemic. But I mean, these things will also inform healthcare, as Steve has mentioned, even further and beyond the pandemic later on.
There are a lot of things like just checking on your diagrams through your smartphone, through your apple watch, your watch in general, Or through a call. Before, as you said, we had to drive to check on things that are not necessarily dangerous, or they don’t need immediate attention, There will be chairs or even beds and also doctors and nurses, that are not really performing to the highest potential, Because they have to attend to certain patients that do not necessarely need that attention. And there are other really critical parts of the population who actually need that fast response. So, I thought the way they dealt with it was very very incredibly impressive and very important, to really see how there is this strong response that is very well thought of, Even with the vaccine and the senders that provide the vaccine, the way they have done from the organization around it So they’re not really actually causing it, by having a large number of people in one place or the way they organize it was very very interesting Also, developing those apps that would track someone who had probably encountered or had a meeting with somebody who has the virus, And how they actually dealt with that, and how they performed, even if it's like a distant person that has seen someone, that has met someone who had the virus and how do you get notified, where you can actually be safe yourself and your family So it’s nice to see this strong response, it’s nice to know that this will also advance into other things in healthcare, And as Steve has mentioned, there hasn't been that much of an evolution in terms of smartness or technology around all data in general around healthcare And it’s good to know that now it’s just a start, I’d say, and it’s already impressive. It is indeed, and now that less of us will then maybe need to travel to the doctor whereby telemedicine could connect pretty faster, we got used to that. But I want to talk about transportation Steve, this is huge when it comes to kind of technology and the smartness of the city, And I suppose even, I was talking to someone the other day, and I just thought you know the traffic light system, how smart has it always been in terms of keeping us safe. So from the very basics, it’s been there for a while
But talk to me about how it can actually develop and how it can change and what it will mean. I think a smart city, the area that’s most looked at today is mobility. And so if you look at the sectors of a city in which there's a lot of focus going on right now technologically Energy water waste mobilities are happening. Mobility to me is randstad, because mobility you’re moving people, you’re moving things, or you’re building infrastructure. It’s one of those two things.
And so if you talk about meeting people in the mobility space, you have all types of ways in which you can do this, You have ride-hailing, you have car sharing, you have the emergence of micro-mobility, There I would talk about things like scooters, electrical scooters, or personal people-powered scooters Ways to walk, and we can bike, we can take public transportation Or we can put it all together, as with mobility that serves and try and find the best way to go from point A to point B using any of the above. With COVID-19, what happened of all those things I talked about, public transportation got hit the hardest. Because before COVID-19 come out what people worried about was time to get to where you were going to be You want to be as efficient as possible in getting from your current location to where you want to be When COVID-19 came everyone became much more worried about just getting there safely without getting infected Because of course, we didn’t know what COVID was and now we know, after we’ve had much more information on this severe disease. So you want to avoid that, and so with safety in mind, obviously going on public transportation becomes something which is not as widely accepted as what you want to do today. So I think what’s going to happen going forward in cities around moving people is the whole trend towards this soft-mobility, micro-mobility, that’s good because it creates sustainability, so more walking more biking when possible Scooters when they’re done safely - which is not always the case - is a good thing. But I think more than that, we want to be able to bring people back to public transportation, one, because in some cities people rely on it, it’s their life, it’s their livelihoods. Not everyone can afford a car
So you need to have the ability to make public transportation economically viable, And you can’t do that if no one’s using it except the few people that have to. So you need to make it something that’s going to be there, to be economically viable and desirable. I think the way that will happen is the notion where there are more technologies which allow you to seamlessly see public transportation in your route from A to B. along with ride-sharing, micro mobility, micro transit, maybe there’s a place where you can walk easily to get from one of these different modes of transportation to another I think that coming together is going to be one of the major shifts we’re seeing, around intelligent transportation in cities, around moving people.
Now that said, not every city will have that. I think that the lowest hanging fruit is exactly what you said and I see it happening all the time. In the infrastructure itself, just making the city more efficient through intelligent transportation systems, censors are everywhere and so when you can detect cars, you can detect people, you can detect bicycles, you can find ways to optimise the means by which you control your traffic lights. It can be the light itself, it can be signage to get people advance, warning them when light is gonna change Those things are happening broadly, and I think that will continue to happen. but the real paradigme shift I think will be when people are seamlessly using all the modes of transportation to get from where they are to where they want to be. Now Dhay, in Saudi Arabia you mentioned earlier, the love affair with the automobile And I think it’s certainly something that we had in cities around the world but But, also I think the expanse of some of the cities, you need a car in Saudi Arabia and there hasn't been public transport But there wasn’t great public transport here even in Dubai where I’m at, you know 15 years ago But look at it today, I mean it’s got a metro, it’s got trams, it’s got buses, it’s moving at a very different rate How can cities in Saudi Arabia, sort of, reconcile how do they maybe depend less on a car? 426 00:41:26,000 --> 00:41:31,000 And maybe move towards public transportation? Or indeed is that the answer? I think it is the answer actually. I mean with the pandemic definitely, especially public transportation has a bit of a setback on the approach
And how do we really want to rethink public transit in light of the pandemic or other, But I think in the end we have to all agree, that public transportation is not just sustainable... Let me just rephrase it and not say public transportation But let me say a sustainable mobility, which offers everything, it’s not just the transit itself or the motor itself, But also all modes of moving, I would say, is very necessary. And this is the way that cities will operate and would go if we want to really improve the quality of life in cities and the economic and city prosperities. The public transportation, in Saudi there are multiple challenges, I would say. There are basic infrastructures, let’s say, sidewalks or other things that have to be worked out, In order for a transportation system or a mobility system to work together.
Because as Steve also has mentioned, is that the new look to what a meaningful or sustainable public transportation That is really useful is when you have multiple ways of moving around. You cannot have, let’s say, metros and buses if you don’t have a public ground that will also support the people who are walking to go or to get from point A to B safely, as well. If it’s not comfortable in terms of climate as well. So this has to also be reconsidered.
If it’s not well planned, where these positioning, or where these hubs happen, where you can translate, or you change from a metro to a bus, or to a bike, or to let’s say, what is happening in the States where people come from the suburbs, where they park the cars close by a metro station on the edge of the city And then they can actually move around for the whole day, or using public transit and to go back. So there will be the mix of all of that in order for it to work. We have to well first, pay attention to our basic infrastructure, make sure that we are covering every aspect of mobility, from walkability, bike lanes, buses and faster ways of moving. Also, to... We’re not saying kill the car in total.
But we’re saying reduce the amount of car ridership And make it where it’s only used where it’s necessary, it’s only used when you have to. So you are more driven into using other modes of mobility. And in order for that to work, it has to be comfortable and convenient for people, otherwise nothing really would change. I want to talk more to you about this as well, we’ll stay with this for just a few minutes, but Steve let me bring you in here, when we think of all these things that have to happen it’s also a bit of a culture shift as well, and ofcourse when we look at this region too you know, and any region, you look beyond, you look at Asia, you look at the big cities in India where the smog levels have been so bad, so putting it in terms of the environment and the use of the car, and now the shift to electric cars, but again, the price point is not there available for everybody, you know, what can we do on that, because we see some countries adapting the whole concept of electric cars, and even today I think there’s been a big meeting with the House of Lords, talking about this as the only way forward. What can be done with that, particularly in this region? Well, I totally agree, I mean electrification is where a lot of the world is headed, and there is a lot of policies being put out there that say by 2030, 2035, there won’t be internal combustion engine vehicles entering cities. That’s possible, but just imagine if everyone’s still driving a personal vehicle and it’s electric, you may have less noise, you may have less emissions, but it’s still going to be a lot of traffic.
So if we’re looking at sustainability, we want to look at the holistic picture. So I do think as I was saying, as I was alluding to earlier, we need to find ways to make these other modes of travel attractive. And I love electrification for buses, I think if we can get people to embrace the bus, they should all be electric, and China has been doing this in massive quantities right, buses everywhere in China are electrified, I think that’s something we should be doing broadly. In the city itself, I like electric vehicles a lot, and I like them when they are used in public transportation, for instance with taxis. Right, so if we can make all the taxis electric in some way, to me battery is okay, if people want to use hydrogen, that’s a big exciting topic right now, you know it’s still electric, a little bit of a different way in which it operates, but it still achieves the same purpose.
The taxis, the ride hailing vehicles, all of those different vehicles which are going to be a part of this system which operates together, to get people from where they are to where they want to go, if those can be brought into a cleaner paradigm, and we can reduce the amount of cars that people are coming into in the city in by themselves, I think we’ll do well. And we can deal with and handle all these issues that people thought about, will there be too much peak demand for electricity, it’s very possible, I mean, the other area I deal with a lot is on the supply side, and everyone’s worried about putting too much solar on the grid, it’s the same idea, you don’t put too many cars on the grid that are electric at one time, you’re not able to predict when they’re going to be on the grid asking for electricity. So I think we can try to be proactive, and moving towards clean transportation, but as Dhay said and I’ve been saying, it’s got to be part of a planned system, it’s got to push forward the notion that multimodal mobility with the incorporation of public transportation is the way we’re going to go. Now ofcourse for Dhay in Saudi Arabia, I think gasoline is probably among the cheapest to fill in your car, probably in the world, I forget what it was when I was there, and again you know, you’ve got a whole system that has changed, you’ve got more people working now, you’ve got women driving, you’ve got a whole new stress on the system.
But also I mean, when we look at electric cars, I think people look at it and think, yes it’s a great idea, but even as Steve is saying there, it’s more stress on the grid, is the infrastructure built to manage it, what do you see as the solution and is it the electric car? I honestly don’t think that electric cars is a solution to what we’re facing, an electric car would take exactly the same amount of space in our cities as a motor car. Yes it could be more clean, but also we’re not sure, like if it’s a solar system, even to build those solar systems, it’s also not that clean. So in terms of clean and sustainable, we might give it a bit, but it’s not as much as people think, how electric cars are clean. And as I said, taking the same space as motor cars, I think there is no difference in the transformation of cities, we still have to cross the street when there are cars driving, and people’s safety is more important. We’re still having cities in the region, Dubai for instance, and even in Riyadh, where you have, I’d say, a roadway of streets within the city that are the size of neighbourhoods combined in Europe or in the US, some of the cities in the US, so I don’t see an electric car as a solution honestly, I see it as a bit better, but that’s it, I don’t put so much on electric cars, I think probably we should really look at the multiple ways of transportation or mobility and take it seriously, because that’s where the solution really lies, and that's what we really need, and that’s what would change the way we plan and design our cities in the future, to get a better life or a better lifestyle to our citizens, and also we have touched on this, I remember earlier last week when we talked about, also how transportation, public transportation, would actually not just help the city to become also sustainable, but also equity, it helps with that.
Just few years ago, not many women, or women weren't able to drive in Saudi Arabia, and now they are driving but still, the number is short, there is not enough examination centres to get a driver license, the women are not all comfortable with driving, given all the years they haven't been driving, so having a transportation system will actually also encourage part of the population or society, like women, low income families, and others to really have access to opportunities in cities which where, we will see then, really, the social inclusion and the opportunities for all. So that would also support the equity, beside the sustainability, absolutely. Indeed, so Steve, no matter how these people get to work, no matter how they travel, when they get there and when the summers hit here, it’s going to be very hot, so the stress on the grid in terms of air conditioning, the whole sustainability of the environment, more people moving to the cities, more waste, I mean again, that has to be managed in a very holistic way, to make sure that it is actually managed.
Yeah in that sense what we’ve done, I think this is where we have to go with smart cities, in Khalifa University, we worked with Saudi Arabia when they were planning out it’s renewables program, we looked at these issues, how do you figure a way to bring clean energy to a city. And so what I preferred was always looking at the demand side. So you look at the transportation system, you look at the buildings, you look at the way in which there will be demand for electricity, there will be demand for mobility, and if that’s a place where you can apply Artificial Intelligence to do proper prediction, of when you’re going to have demand and figure out how to, say, turn down the demand when possible, and there’s many sophisticated, actually probably creative ways you can do it.
Simply in a building, if you’re looking at cooling, just make sure the thermal inertia is utilized as much as possible, so that when you’re going to be short on supply of clean electricity, you just let the building turn itself down little bit as far as the amount of electricity it’s putting in to do the cooling, and let that thermal mass just carry forward for a little bit, and then you go back to supplying energy when you need to. So we built a system that looked at the resource forecasting from solar energy, looked at all the dispatchable assets on the grid, could be batteries, could be other power plants, whatever the electricity companies are thinking about, and tried to couple that up with the understanding of demand, utilising, of course machine learning, artificial intelligence technique, so there could be this nice way of doing a predictive dispatch of your energy to the city or to the environment, where you are looking to try to make sure you’re doing that balancing, so I think ultimately where we don’t want to lose when talking about sustainability, we don’t want to lose focus that the ultimate way to be sustainable is just reduce your demand to the extent you possibly can, without making people uncomfortable, and having to forgo certain activities. So I’d say that’s really to me, the opportunity is to try to push the smart city to be an efficient city, in mobility and everything that we do, and if there were a climate where we can all walk, great, I mean that would work out just fine, but it’s not going to happen everywhere, so then you bring in these different ways of going from point A to point B, that are appropriate for the context. So to me that seems like where we need to be thinking about a city when it comes to this issue of, can we balance it? Well lets balance it, but lets balance as little as we have to, because that’s the ultimate way to be sustainable. Yes indeed, I mean we’re lucky I guess, in many ways the weather has been just absolutely beautiful for so many months of the year, so it’s really only we’re coming into May, June, July, August, so I suppose that’s still a long four months, but Dhay it’s great to hear so much work is going on at the university, this is absolutely essential, but with all of the new work that’s going on, Dhay you know you look at people like yourself architects, looking at people in planning and all of that, is there enough you know, when we look at the talent that’s available, the pool of talent in this region, do we have enough people pursuing careers in the university to meet that demand, and be able to manage it? No, we are very far, we are very far away from having enough people or enough planners and urban designers and urbans in general I would say, this is a very very important, actually topic to be discussed in the region as a whole, not just in Saudi, and there is a need to be a very serious move or initiative, initiatives, or a bundle of initiatives to help grow that number, we really don’t have enough experts in the region, we don’t have people who are really dedicating their career around planning, and even when we do, we mostly have academics who are not very, involving themselves in the practice itself of what is happening.
Also, we have a lot of universities where graduates really weren't part of the, what is going on, on the ground, the expected changes that we want to see in our cities moving further or forward. One of the studies that Mckinsey have done I think in 2015 or 2016 in Saudi is around this subject, and the result was very concerning in ways that, they were suggesting that even when we start building those capabilities now, we will not have enough capabilities to carry on in urban design and planning or urbanism until 20 years from the year we started. So that’s one area that needs a lot of attention, we have to wrap up because we’ve only got a minute or two left, but give me another area Dhay just before we go, in terms of what do you think needs to be done now to really make sure that we can have smarter and more clever cities. So again, it’s looking at the whole, or the comprehensive approach in designing and planning cities, and let’s not put so much put so much expectations into one thing and not look at the others, sustainability, cohesion, which is equity, and also city resilience is key, and let’s definitely start looking at cities in a clever way where innovation is really a process and a way of doing things, to get either where we want to go, or really to look at our future and how do we want to approach it as well, and let’s not put all our eggs in one basket and really look at every aspect of sustainability, resilience and equity. Absolutely, it’s all of that, that has to be done together, Steve I’m leaving you with the closing word here, what do we need to doing now and really focusing on to make sure that we are getting to a brighter and better future? Well we start with the notion of sustainable cities that are resilient, and then we apply smart technologies to achieve those purposes. When we’re doing that, I think we want to make sure that whatever smart technologies we are bringing to solutions, are going to be recognising all the population of the city.
So we don’t want to leave people out, because we talked about this earlier, when you collect this data for smart technologies, sometimes you are not going to have all the data of all the population that you are trying to get technology to serve. Finally, in order to make sure you have the people that are going to run these technologies, develop them and are aware of these issues, I think you really have to make sure the education system has good urban planners, good systems thinkers, and good people in digital. If you don’t have people who understand those three areas, they don’t have to understand all of them, in one individual person, but have a collective number of people who can work together in teams to work on smart cities, sustainable cities, resilient cities that have those skills, it’s going to be very challenging, so I put my focus in that and that framework. Indeed, and thank you both so much, there’s so much that we managed to discuss but indeed we could have carried on for another hour on this, it’s fascinating to have both of your inputs into it, so I really want to thank you, Dhay thank you so much, coming from all of your background and indeed from the urban design and planning area in Saudi Arabia too, thank you so much, and to Steve from Khalifa University, thank you both.
And ofcourse to all of you, I hope this has been very informative, I hope you found it engaging, and without a doubt I found it very interesting and educational indeed. But still a lot to be done, and it really is about everybody coming together, all the stakeholders coming together. That’s it from us for this edition of Frontiers of Innovation, we will continue this series right throughout every month, where we’re really bringing you experts around the world, dynamic speakers talking about innovation, and new ways of living for everybody, on all of these topics that deal with each and every one of us, that impact our lives every month. So we will continue to do that, and that’s about it from here, so from all of us at Canon Frontiers of Innovation, that’s about it for today. Thank you so much for being with us, and ofcourse all of these series, the entire series, will be available on the website, so make sure you look at Canon Middle East if you want to see this in more detail and look back on any of our other series. Once again, it’s been great to be with you, stay safe, stay engaged and stay with Frontiers of Innovation. Thank you so much.