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Here’s how Dubai plans to be the centre of the world tomorrow…

Dubai continues to put its money where its mouth is in order to be at the forefront of business and innovation in the future.

Our world is changing. We all know that. In fact, it’s widely acknowledged that we are going through a fourth industrial revolution. The pace of change right now is frightening for some and exhilarating for others.

Dubai seems to be firmly in the ‘finding-the-future-exciting’ camp – and he Dubai Future Accelerators programme is a bold move that involves the government flying in and supporting top innovators from around the world just so that they have the time, resource and space to develop their ideas.

Last year there were 2,274 applicants from 73 countries, and 30 companies and projects were chosen, spending 12 weeks incubating their forward-thinking ideas (all of which would have an effect on humanity and grow jobs in the UAE). And it’s happening again in 2017.

In 2016 Dubai paid innovators to help develop their concepts, wanting no equity or intellectual property in return (only a chance to work with the projects the government thinks is worthwhile). Plus, Dubai’s commitment was strong, with the Dubai government committing Dhs1 billion to the project.

What happened? Well of the companies that participated, it’s reported that around 14 of them are now choosing to relocate their head offices to Dubai, and the Dubai government has chosen to invest Dhs120 million in 19 of them. They anticipate that this will lead to 135 new jobs in the city in the next three months alone.

DUBAI FUTURE ACCELERATORS 2017

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Last year the UAE asked for companies to come and solve seven specific challenges, this year they have identified 11 areas that they want different companies to explore (they are now asking for submissions, with the date of entry closing in 40 days). Here are the issues they want to explore…

AIR POLICE & FACIAL RECOGNITION, DUBAI POLICE, SECURITY

“Consider how manned and unmanned drones can be used to improve policing across private property and public areas…. Develop systems that synchronize public cameras and utilise facial recognition to identify wanted individuals based on current and past data.”

REDUCE WASTE, DUBAI MUNICIPALITY, ENVIRONMENT

“Develop innovative solutions to achieve 50% increase in green building efficiency, implement 3D printing technologies in 25% of Dubai buildings, ensure safety and quality of all imported consumer and food products before they enter Dubai, and secure 75% reduction in general waste.”

ALLOW US TO MONITOR OUR OWN HEALTH, DUBAI HEALTH AUTHORITY, MEDICINE

The aim is to make sure all patients have the ability to make decisions about their health by using the latest digital technologies that are monitored by qualified doctors and are available to the patient anytime, anywhere (not just in the hospital). Aka, “improve patient self-management of chronic disease by a factor of 10 through the use of digital technologies”.

ENSURE STUDENT WELLBEING, KHDA, EDUCATION

“Develop 21st century assessment system that recognises micro-credentials, in particular across STEAM subjects and Arabic. Prototype social-emotional learning solutions that promote student wellbeing. Explore innovative data architectures to support education providers and administrators.”

ANTICIPATE CUSTOMER NEEDS, DUBAI HOLDING, HOSPITALITY & REAL ESTATE

“Deploy intelligent methods, technologies and business models across all our business areas and processes, which enable us to proactively and autonomously predict stakeholder (customers, employees, business partners) current and future needs, and drive the evolution of the hospitality, real estate and entertainment sectors.”

CHANGE THE WAY WE GET OUR WATER & POWER, DEWA, ENERGY

“Explore and demonstrate new technologies that can transform a utility provider’s traditional business model of generating, transmitting and distributing water and electricity”. This is all part of Dubai’s Clean Energy Strategy 2050 that aims to make sure Dubai’s total power output is 75 per cent clean by 2050.

CHANGE THE WAY WE MOVE THROUGH AIRPORTS, DNRD, FOREIGN AFFAIRS

“Develop security systems that have 100% biometric identifying capabilities and decrease processing time during passport control. This can be through the introduction of AI or implementing facilitating software to decrease the need for human intervention. Introduce innovative solutions to achieve 50% reduction of illegal resident entry and incorporate an international blockchain platform.”

THE END OF THE CALL CENTRE? DU, TELECOMS

du hopes to study how digital technologies can enhance the customer service experience (could this be the end of call centres?). “Consider how new technologies can improve customer service through different channels, from traditional (call center, IVR, retail) to digital (web, app). Support and improve customer journeys from product discovery to purchase to customer support. Increase adoption of digital customer interfaces by a factor of 5, and reduce operational expenditure by 50%.”

REDUCE BUSINESS RED TAPE, DED, ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT

“Reduce business registration and licensing red tape across government by 20%. Increase efficiencies through automated systems by a factor of 6, and reduce the processing time for receiving, renewing and modifying trade licenses by 50%.”

HOW WEARABLES CAN SAVE OUR LIFE, ETISALAT DIGITAL, COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES

“Our first challenge will address the significant health segment, through which we aim to reduce Emergency Room visits by patients in the UAE by 30%, over the next ten years.  Startups should tackle this challenge by leveraging predictive healthcare management solutions to address life-threatening situations linked to chronic diseases and by utilising technologies such as IoT, wearables, telemedicine, cloud, artificial intelligence, big data & analytics.”

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES/INNOVATIVE PAYMENT & TICKETING, RTA, PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The RTA would like companies who have innovative solutions for payment and ticketing to come and work with them. They are also interested in further studying “the readiness of the public to futuristic transport modes such as autonomous vehicles.”

ALSO READ: Sheikh Mohammed’s letter on the future of the UAE that went viral

WHO WAS HERE LAST YEAR?

The companies involved last year included Next Transportation, who works with driverless cars, UAE-based startup Grow that is working on a prototype for a farm that reduces the need for water and fertilizers, and Concensys a blockchain and digital finance expert that will now work to develop a real estate database in Dubai using Blockchain technology. Perhaps the most high profile was Hyperloop One – the transport system that may one day take us from Dubai to Abu Dhabi in 10 minutes: their time here led to them signing an agreement with the RTA to intensely study implementing the project here first (and they’re also working with Dubai Ports for a cargo system).

Think your idea has what it takes? You can sign up here, and don’t worry, we’ll keep you updated on the ideas that are developed this year, and how those that were harnessed last year are doing.

MORE FROM THE PROJECT’S ORGANISERS

“The future needs champions: smart, powerful, and motivated partners with the knowledge to appreciate your ideas, the courage to make them real, and the budget to develop them at scale. No one does this better than Dubai.”

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