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From Smart Cities to Smart Destinations: How The Red Sea is Leading the Way

By Ben Bilz, Associate Strategy Director at The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC) 



As more people populate urban areas, cities around the globe are striving for new concepts that engender happiness, improve quality of life, and increase prosperity. Estimates show that today more than half of the world live in cities, and that this is expected to increase to 68% by 2050. Yet, urban areas increasingly face environmental challenges spanning freshwater depletion, air and water pollution, deforestation and food security. There is also a pressing need for solutions that will ease the ever-increasing volume of traffic. 

How can this be achieved? Transitioning towards a super-smart, sustainable society, or ‘Society 5.0’ offers hope. But governments and societies cannot manage this on their own. The private sector has an important role to play. 

Singapore, Dubai, and Vienna are among the front-runners of smart cities. Each has started their journey by modernizing their traditional setup and services with the help of smart technologies. 

As the world comes to understand the potential and the power of smart living, people increasingly demand personalized interactions and services in their day-to-day lives, and it is becoming a determining factor in the appeal of where to live and visit.

Technology with Purpose

A smart destination has proven to be more than a technology implementation project. We have found that cutting-edge technologies and solutions are only one part of what makes a destination smart.

A holistic vision and strategy is needed for true digital transformation – a new way of thinking, implementing, delivering, and operating a destination. By taking a full 360 approach, smart initiatives can be prioritized based on a high-level assessment of their needs and their fit to the destination’s objectives and stakeholders’ requirements.

We have assessed the complex nature of smart initiatives implementation across our vast development area, which includes 33,000 square kilometers of islands, deserts, volcanoes, and canyons, all presenting unique landscape hurdles that we must overcome. For The Red Sea Project’s conceptualization, a portfolio of dozens of smart services ranging across mobility, utilities, environment, logistics, healthcare, education, security, buildings, public space, administration and more was defined. Such diverse landscapes require multiple technologies to be employed simultaneously in order for the entire project to achieve seamless experiences, the highest living standards, and maximum sustainable and environmental improvements.

From the outset, The Red Sea Project has been inspired by key learnings from smart cities worldwide. We asked ourselves: what challenges can be solved by a smart city? How have other cities solved these challenges? Which products and solutions have they implemented? What lessons can be derived and adapted to our destination? 

Only after we had created a holistic vision and technology strategy, validated the impact of our initiatives, and understood and learned from other projects, we developed an execution roadmap. Our roadmap was split into several execution waves outlining the timeframe of when a specific smart initiative was best implemented and any dependencies on other initiatives.

In addition, we have established an ecosystem of committed and collaborative partners. We know that strong technology partners are key to attaining our full potential as a smart destination. An ocean of opportunities is waiting to be explored. 

A new Siemens Advanta whitepaper outlines five key enabling factors for smart destinations: developing a holistic vision and technology strategy; evaluating impact and finalizing the initiatives execution roadmap; building an ecosystem of partners; developing an integrated technology platform; and starting small, optimizing, and scaling. 

The Red Sea Project is included within this whitepaper as a best practice example of a super-smart, sustainable destination - ‘a blueprint for world-wide smart city initiatives’ that is leading the path to a new era of responsible development.

In the same manner, that we learned and benefitted from the knowledge and experience of leading smart city projects, and enterprises, we wish, other smart cities and destination developments can learn and benefit from us.