Issue 14: A Fresh Take on Smart Cities

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Welcome to Backstory, a weekly newsletter turning global technology shifts into a three-minute read. Given the pace of developments in the smart city sector, it’s time for a fresh index. We have you covered. – Mary Ames, Director of Strategy


A Fresh Take on Smart Cities


Global smart cities are at a pivotal moment. Never before have officials had so many options to make cities more liveable. Technology is enabling cities to put theories of human-centric urbanism into practice. From streamlining residents’ experiences at city offices to encouraging people to be healthy, smart cities are transforming the urban experience. But many cities still struggle to live up to their potential.

A fresh index: To find out exactly what’s working and what needs improvement, we’re compiling a smart city index. More people than ever are living in cities, and these urban spaces are globally connected by commerce, aviation, and culture. We learn from each other. In that spirit, we have set out to determine which cities are the best at adapting technology and highlighting the human experience in urbanism; where collaboration thrives; and which cities remain true to their roots. This index looks beyond technology to spark a new conversation on the future of smart cities.

UAE as a backdrop: Cities that remain true to their story while staying nimble enough to embrace the latest tech innovation are hard to find except in the UAE. Living in Dubai, we experience these innovations in our everyday life. That gives us an edge in spotting new trends in other places and determining who’s getting it right (and who’s missing the mark). Next week, we will unveil our findings, and we can’t wait for the ensuing conversation.


“Urbanism works when it creates a journey as desirable as the destination.”

Paul Goldberger, architecture critic.



The future is here: The future of artificial intelligence (AI) is not difficult to imagine. AI innovations are going to change society for better and worse. From this departure point, we considered our present knowledge about AI to forecast the contours of tomorrow.

Libra and payments: Facebook’s Libra currency is a wake-up call for local technology companies and governments. The global remittance sector is ripe for disruption and Facebook is angling for entry. But with smart innovations like a government-backed blockchain specifically designed for remittances, the UAE could build on its trusted name in the sector and command one of the most overlooked spaces in the global economy.



Titan of design: One of the greatest designers of our time has stepped down. Jony Ive, Apple’s Head of Design, is moving on from the company. Ive is the genius behind the iPod, iPhone, and Apple Watch. His innovations changed the way humans interact with each other. Only time will tell if his departure from Apple will make room for new designs that limit our increasingly unhealthy relationship with the phones he created.

Regional tech: Jordan is positioning itself as a hub for computer programming in the Arab world, reports Abu Dhabi’s The National. The government and private sector plan to train hundreds of thousands of Jordanians from the ages of six to 46 to read and write code for software, applications, and websites. This model has been championed by Dubai for years. It’s exciting to see it flourish around the region as technology becomes the DNA of the Middle East.


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