Dubai's Silicon Park brings smart city to life

Dubai's Silicon Park brings smart city to life
Silicon Park’s buildings include advanced building management systems and sustainability features.
Published: 16 March 2019 - 12:37 p.m.
By: Mark Sutton

Dubai is forging a reputation for being one of the smartest cities in the world, but the emirate will take another step on its journey this year with the opening of Silicon Park, the first dedicated smart city development in the emirate.

Construction is due for completion in the first half of 2019, and the 15 hectare development at Dubai Silicon Oasis is set to be the first purpose built smart city in Dubai. Combining residential, office and retail buildings, Silicon Park will also include many of the latest concepts in smart services and infrastructure and sustainability

The park comprises 71,000 square meters of office space, 25,000 square meters of commercial space and 46,000 square meters residential area, along with a 112 room business hotel and 59 furnished apartments, in a self-contained development, complete with conference centre, plaza and open space. The park, which will be home to around 20,000 workers and residents at full capacity, will be managed by Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority (DSOA), and occupies a site in the centre of the existing Dubai Silicon Oasis development, just to the east of the DSOA HQ.

Engineer Muammar Al Katheeri, Executive Vice President of Engineering and Smart City Unit at Dubai Silicon Oasis Authority said that the park is in the final stretch for completion, with anchor partners already signed and preparing their buildings: "We are closing off most of the buildings for handover, and we already started letting customers to go in to do their fit-outs."

Once all buildings are handed over, he explained, the park will open in two main phases, with 20 buildings opened in the first phase, followed by a second phase which will include the conference centre, furnished apartments and the hotel, which will be the first Radisson ‘Red' Hotel in the region. A three month testing and commissioning phase will run across the whole project, to ensure that not only is the physical infrastructure up and running, but that the smart services are working properly as well.

All of the buildings at Silicon Park will be connected to integrated building management systems, and smart sensors will monitor every aspect of the park, feeding data back into a central command and control centre and a central smart city platform.

The platform will enable DSOA to manage all aspects of operation including power consumption, traffic, CCTV and more. The platform was developed specifically for Silicon Park, to be able to cater to all the different aspects of the project, and to enable integration with legacy systems from Dubai Silicon Oasis. The master development was established under DSOA in 2004, as an integrated community and free trade zone, with a focus on technology. DSO already has an advanced telecoms infrastructure, including fibre optic network and tier 3 data centre, as well as some pilot smart services, and Silicon Park will share the C&C facility and some other elements of the infrastructure with Dubai Silicon Oasis.

"Most of the smart city solutions that we have seen in different cities are only tackling two or three aspects, for example traffic and energy, but here we have a holistic view of the city and all of these systems require a more tailor-made architecture. The master systems integrator, du, was appointed for the project to look at a holistic view of Silicon Park, and also we are working with Orange Business Services as the technical [partner] and NXN as the consultants who designed the platform.

"ln Silicon Park we have 28 systems that are running the project, through a centralised command and control centre, with sensors all around the project, and these systems will operate the intelligent integrated building management system, the security systems, all the systems that are related to operations of the project, plus energy consumption, cooling, solar power. We will have all that, and 60 smart services that underlining the smartness, and the smart experience that you will get in Silicon Park."

The planned smart city services are where Silicon Park will really distinguish itself from other smart developments in the region. Residents and office workers at the park will have access to many different services - for example, drivers can register their car, and as they drive into the park, access control systems will be alerted, and an elevator called for their car parking, so they can go straight into the car park and into the office. Parents will be able to define boundary areas for their children, and geofencing will provide alerts to the parents or to the park's security team if the child goes beyond the virtual boundary. Health pods will allow residents to check their basic bio-signs on the spot, and consult with a doctor via teleconference rather than having to book an appointment.

Other smart functions will include smart signage for wayfinding; and charging points and WiFi across the development to make sure that users can keep their smart devices connected; DSOA is even trialling robotic lawn tending machines and robotic garbage collection services.

The services will be available on a standalone basis, but will also be used in orchestrated fashion, for example smart parking and signage can be used to direct people to events held at the central plaza, where smart building facades will be able to broadcast event coverage, sports matches and so on. This will open up new revenue streams for DSOA, and create new and better experiences for residents and business partners.

To connect the different services, DSOA has deployed a number of different network technologies, including WiFi, LoRa, and narrowband IoT, based on use case, Al Katheeri said, and the authority is supporting development of 5G.

"We have already established a 5G lab with our partners, du and Nokia and some universities, to look at different use cases, and how we can utilise the 5G network. 5G is expected to have a drastic transformation effect, and it will accelerate the way we do business."

Sustainability is another big feature of Silicon Park. Smart metering for building energy and cooling systems will be provided by Dubai Electricity and Water Authority. Many of the building roofs will house solar panels, as well as rooftop gardens to make the most of the space. The development uses LED lighting throughout, and this coupled with the building management systems will mean much better control and automation of lighting to minimise wastage. Companies in the project will be able to have smart metering for individual offices, to encourage better usage.

While Silicon Park won't be zero energy, the authority is taking as many steps as possible to improve sustainability, and the buildings are built to the highest green standards, Al Katheeri added - Dubai Silicon Oasis is already home to several LEED Platinum standard buildings, and they hope that buildings in Silicon Park will achieve the same levels.

One important aspect of Silicon Park is that it is not just a standalone development, but that it plugs into a wider ecosystem of smart city development, which is being driven by the government of Dubai. As part of Dubai Silicon Oasis, which is well established as a residential and work environment, Silicon Park has a community surrounding it and which will utilise its services, and the community already provides valuable feedback on initiatives on social media. Silicon Park will build on this  

The park is also able to plug into key initiatives of Smart Dubai, such as the Dubai Data Initiative. All of the data created by Silicon Park will be ingested into the Dubai Data Platform, to benefit the wider smart city ecosystem. On the data front, DSOA is also working closely with one of its partners, the Rochester Institute of Technology in Dubai, which is providing support on data skills and services, and which has also launched a Master's program in data science, which will provide skilled personnel for Dubai's smart projects.

In transport, DSOA is a strategic partner of Dubai's Roads & Transport Authority and its smart mobility initiative. Dubai Silicon Oasis was used to test the RTA's autonomous taxi, and the two entities are working together on other autonomous transport solutions.

Silicon Park will also benefit from DSOA's involvement in the startup scene, through its own Dubai Technology Entrepreneur Campus (Dtec) and with other programs with technology companies and government entities. The aim is to bring together public and private sector partners to bring the best ideas and to grow them in Silicon Park and Dubai Silicon Oasis.

"We are not just hosting companies to do sales, we are hosting companies and partnering with them, securing the business for them, and sustaining continuous growth by aligning them with government initiatives, whether it is about solar, blockchain, digital transformation," Al Katheeri said. "We are basically a test lab for all these companies to have a live demonstration of their products, which will encourage the private and public sector to engage them."

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