x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Address system will make life easier

New building addresses for Abu Dhabi will improve life in some obvious ways - and in other ways we haven't yet guessed at.

Everyone in Abu Dhabi goes through it: " … after the signal, turn right at the bank; we're the fourth building on the left. Look for the Baqala next door. Or just phone me when you get lost."

Newcomers tend to be startled and confused by Abu Dhabi's absence of a simple building numbering system, but after a few months many residents become inured to the confusion and delay; some we are told even take a sneaking pride in their ability to handle this inconvenience with nonchalant equanimity.

But in fact the absence of a proper address-number system can be costly in time and even dangerous, so it is welcome news that the emirate is moving with increasing speed towards the introduction of a clear, comprehensive and efficient number format.

With Dubai already engaged on a comparable initiative, at least one aspect of the future promises to be simpler than the past in the UAE's big cities. This effect will be magnified if the Dubai and Abu Dhabi systems are comparable, making life easier for travellers between the two cities.

On a map, or from the air, Abu Dhabi looks like an orderly grid of major streets that should be easy to navigate, and before long it will actually be so. In just over two years, we are told, every home in the emirate will have a unique number. No more cold pizza - and, more seriously, no more frantically trying to explain to ambulance officers or other first responders just where they are needed.

The new system, like so much in the UAE, has the advantage of being designed in the 21st century. Officials of Bayanat, the company hired by Abu Dhabi Municipality to assign names to the streets, explained to The National this week that the new system will include not only unique street names and building numbers, but also 4,000 new "geonames" for neighbourhoods and areas, plus a unified transliteration system to make spellings uniform, in both Arabic and English. That in turn will simplify computer searches.

All this will open the door to efficient delivery services direct to homes and shops, which in turn could feed the growth of convenient online shopping. It is impossible to enumerate today all the advantageous changes that may flow from this reform; some are sure to be surprising to us all. But what we can be sure of already is that this new clarity and efficiency will bring benefits for the whole society.