Dubai: Building the Smartest of Smart Cities.
This September UrbanTide’s Steven Revill travelled to Dubai to speak at the Smart Cities MEED Conference.

October 2, 2014


The event was hosted at the Sofitel Hotel on the Palm.  He and Zack had a catch up in Citizen M Glasgow this week to debrief from such an exciting trip.

Below are the 5 lessons Steven learned from his travels to the UAE.

1: UrbanTide are on the Right Track!

This was confirmed after listening to several excellent presentations on other Smart Cities projects and haven spoken at the conference himself (technical issues notwithstanding!). Steven spoke about delivering Open Data for the city of Glasgow and observed his, Pippa’s and Simon’s work on the project bestowed with an extra layer of authenticity and approval. Glasgow compared very favourably with other international case studies.

It is fantastic to learn that the expertise contained at UrbanTide is highly relevant to the transformation that is going to take off in Dubai and places at the forefront of the Smart Cities boom flourishing in the Middle East.  In addition, highly positive feedback was offered in particular to UrbanTide’s branding.  Well done Simon.

2: Be Adept at Adapting.

Responding to different cultures and customs is crucial when in an industry of such global opportunity as Smart Cities.  Every country has differing etiquette both in private and professional life and Dubai proved to be no different.  For instance, handshakes last a great deal longer than they do in, say, the United Kingdom.  Having the ability to pick up on these traits and utilise them in appropriate and respectful ways will be invaluable as UrbanTide continues to grow and expand internationally.  Simon is off to India in a couple of weeks where again different rituals and customs will arise and be required to be observed.  Savvy rules the day.

Also on this point, the public authority is the driving force behind Dubai’s Smart City 2020 vision.  This skill of being able to tailor your approach and adopt the correct behaviour was also tested here with Steven being required to flit between the two very different sectors of public and private. 

"The ability of the Public and Private sector to work together is crucial in the smart cities industry as most projects will very much be a team effort - collaboration is not just necessary, but encouraged" (Steven Revill)

3: The Scale of the Smart City Opportunity is Immense. 

Dubai was the location this time around, a city famous for its rapid growth and expansion. However, it seems that in the rush to build far, wide and high in the quickest way possible, the ‘smartest’ way possible has perhaps been neglected.  Dubai is now seeking to redress this and there is huge scope for UrbanTide to offer its skill set in support.

This is not just applicable to Dubai however.

The speakers at this particular conference ranged from all over the Middle East, as well as the Western World, as the region seeks to break new ground in the Smart Cities Industry.  Qatar and Saudi Arabia have already started making waves.  Even further afield too, similar initiatives are attracting huge attention as well as significant foreign investment.  India has recently embarked on an ambitious 100 smart cities project as an example. 

It is at events like the one Steven attended that you truly see just what a burgeoning global industry this is and how important a role it is going to play in everyday life, now and in the future.

4: You’re Not Working if You’re Not Networking.

Following on from the previous point, events such as the one Steven attended are a bona fide melting pot for establishing relationships, extolling your own virtues and learning what is going on everywhere else.  In this case, speakers ranged from water experts in Qatar to the Managing Consultant of a Smart Cities renovation project at Berlin’s decommissioned Tegel Airport.  UrbanTide took delivery of some excellent business cards and fanning devices to cope with the inevitable baying crowds swarming for our contact details and Steven’s cards got a fantastic outing at the conference.  He made some strong connections and met many accomplished and inspiring individuals - some global and a few a little closer to home.

It is great to spread our word but also hear what others have to say. The virtues of effective networking can never be underestimated. And if that means occasionally having to go to The Palm, well then that will just have to be done…

5: Relevant Results

Steven wasn’t even back for a week before attending a Dubai specific event, 'Opportunities Dubai', hosted by SDI in order to support Scottish business development in the region.

There is no substitute for experience and he felt a huge benefit being able to speak from a position of authority and understanding on the intricacies and requirements of the project and the place, having witnessed them first hand. 

It wasn’t all work however. The rest of the team took great delight in receiving the image below from Steven atop the world’s tallest building – the Burj Khalifa.

The Dubai project is one of massive smart cities significance. UrbanTide offer a range of services and expertise that are of great value and relevance and we look forward to working with colleagues in the Middle East soon.



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