Keith Miller

Middle East & Africa

Keith Miller is Director of Smart Cities within Atkins’ Advisory Services division in the Middle East. Keith is experienced at providing strategic advice on smart cities to government clients, as well as in supporting the development of core infrastructure. His main interest is Big Data and the way it can be used to take smart cities to a new level of economic efficiency and citizen engagement.

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Dubai has moved another important step forward towards its smart city goals this month with the passing of the Dubai Open Data Law.

This will allow the sharing of non-confidential data between government entities and other stakeholders – an essential move which provides the legislative framework for Dubai to progress into a Smart City.

It catapults Dubai alongside the most progressive and developed cities on the planet. What’s really impressive is the level of leadership buy-in for the new law: it has been sponsored by H.H. Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Crown Prince of Dubai and General Supervisor of Dubai Smart City. Not only that, but it was announced by none other than His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai.

What this tells us, if there was ever any doubt, is that Dubai is very serious about becoming a smart city – it has all the backing that it needs so we can expect activities to keep moving in the right direction and for the legislation to progress quickly along the principles outlined by the Open Data committee earlier this year.

The law opens the door for a new wave of data enabled services using technologies such as cloud computing and will encourage a new wave of significant investment in Dubai’s digital economy.

The result – and the aims of any smart city – will be to enable better, more efficient and responsive public services and allow the private sector to supply innovative solutions which really meet the needs of end users. Service providers – both public and private sector – will be able to use open data to better understand, predict and respond to the needs of their customers.

Another linked key benefit will be in how the Open Data law will enable the development of intelligent mobility and support for driverless vehicles (read the Atkins whitepaper on driverless vehicles here) which require open data to operate. Cities already benefiting from this include London, New York and Singapore – providing their citizens with the first generation of new solutions where mobility is delivered as a service, and where people can engage with multiple transport options easily.

Atkins is now working closely with many cities to help them create a vision for “Journeys of the Future” using Open Data; these are the exciting first steps to the driverless vehicle services that we can realistically expect to appear in volume as we approach 2025.

Nevertheless, there are still important hurdles to leap. Even when open data legislation is in place, there will need to be an appropriate level of governance, business transformation, education and behavioural change. The Open Data Law will need other changes in insurance and liability law which are equally complex before we embrace a very new way of using transport as a set of universally available services.

These are significant practical issues, but the biggest will be data and cyber security. As our world becomes more interconnected and reliant on Open Data sources then cyber-attacks become more able to damage the feeds and our use of them. Similarly as driverless vehicles use the new generation of wifi standards (802.11p etc.) for information on traffic lights, accidents, other car positions etc, the need for a strong cyber protection architecture will become critical. Only then will we truly be able to move from driver assist options to true autonomous vehicles linked to everyone’s smart phone and position, ready for whenever they need mobility as a service.

However, these are challenges which will be faced by every leading city, and Dubai is with the leading pack – a trailblazer for the region.

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