The annual Middle East Mega City Infrastructure Report views the future of the region’s infrastructure from a multi-disciplinary perspective. Sustainability is key, but financing presents the greatest challenge. And that, says IQPC Middle East Managing Director, Ayusha Tyagi, brings with it challenges, including the need to structure project financing and incorporate automation and IoT into infrastructure.
What technologies will be most in demand? Which solutions are still being sought, and what challenges await? The survey looks at the ways in which the Middle East is adopting smart technology and how it plans to do so in the future.
The Survey and its Participants
The report is based on a survey which was sent to leading figures from government, educational, and private organizations and provides a breakdown of the areas of interest, organization type, and geographical area represented. Areas of interest represented included housing, ports, and roads infrastructure.
Subject-matter experts from countries outside the Middle East may have represented a minority of respondents, but the leavening of international thought leaders adds a third-party perspective to the on-the-ground observations of government representatives, local contractors, and academics who participated.
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Housing and Residential Development Challenges
The majority of survey participants said that sustainability and affordability were the two greatest challenges in bringing smart technologies to housing and residential development.
However, they are quick to point out that the two characteristics need not be mutually exclusive. Indeed, the contrary may be true. Since sustainable housing has a smaller resource footprint, it is logical it will prove more cost-effective, at least in the long run.
The Next Big Thing
Nearly half the respondents said they thought “smart” homes, cities, and communities would be the next major trend in new infrastructure. Commentators see smart automation and smart homes as a factor that will redefine the way we experience our living spaces and our cities.
Port authorities and roads infrastructure experts are also looking at smart mobility, blockchain, and other data-based elements as tools to help them achieve their vision as providers of world-class infrastructure.
When asked about solutions that respondents planned to apply to current or upcoming projects, sustainable material choices topped the list. But with air conditioning a major energy consumer in the Middle East, energy-efficient HVAC is a close second. Notably, our “next big thing,” smart automation, gets a look-in here as number three on the list of desirable solutions already being implemented.
To view the detailed report, click here.
With IoT and smart automation from home to community and city level having been identified as a desirable solution, the challenge of finding suitable technology partners rears its head. The technology applied in smart cities must be scalable and each element needs to integrate into a larger ecosystem.
Port authorities also identified technological challenges and the need for training as being a priority. Many Middle Eastern ports are striving to gain a greater share of shipping by introducing the latest digitization and automation, and although overcapacity is the next-greatest on the list of port-related challenges, it’s worth remembering that several large port upgrade projects in the Middle East have only recently been commissioned.
Roads infrastructure projects, however, are most often plagued by project delays with respondents citing unreliable contractors, material choices and design issues as accounting for most late completions.
The survey results show a knock-on effect as one changing paradigm impacts on the next. Sustainability got the most votes as the big innovation that will change future cities – but to enable that, we need technology – smart technology.
Of course, all this tech is going to gather a lot of data, so big data makes an appearance on the list of expected innovations, while the next logical step once you have data being used to run cities and make decisions is to make sure that data is safe and secure.
The Outlook for Renewable Energy
Renewable energy has been making inroads into the Middle Eastern energy mix in recent years with large solar parks being constructed and commissioned in several countries. However, obstacles to the adoption of renewable energy do exist. As always, obtaining funding may not be easy, and with much of the existing infrastructure in need of upgrades before readiness can be achieved, the cost is likely to be much higher than it may superficially seem.
When asked to identify elements that will be incorporated into current or future projects, most respondents agreed that smart water and energy use and improved waste management were on the cards. However, one respondent criticized the questionnaire design, pointing out that other items listed, such as emissions monitoring and solar panels were components forming part of the two central themes.
Megacities of the Future: Shaped by Technology
When asked if technological elements like robotics, big data, and automation would have an impact on the Middle Eastern cities of the future, 85 percent of respondents responded that they would.
What may surprise some readers is that 15 percent of respondents said they would not. However, the Middle East is by no means a homogenous region and what is feasible in one area may not be feasible in another. No breakdown of results by geographical area was included and no motivation for the minority opinion that technology would not be widely adopted in city management, housing and infrastructure was given.
Megacity Infrastructure Week to Zero in on Trends in April
The event itself will feature over 50 hours of conferences, a Mega City Challenge in which selected students will present innovations that could contribute to the cities of tomorrow, an opportunity for start-ups to showcase promising new ventures, exhibition halls, networking opportunities and more.
Without doubt, content will be influenced by the survey results, and decision makers can expect to find the latest innovations and ideas under the spotlight during the two-day event.