x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Finding a better way to be found

Dubai has made the leap from no address system at all to one that's more advanced than those in many other countries.

One persistent frustration of life in the UAE is the difficulty of getting around in unfamiliar areas. Shops, offices, villas and apartment buildings have no numbers, districts are not well defined, and street names often seem to be repeated at short intervals, or are confusingly similar.

As a result, deliverymen, removal companies, emergency services, friends and family can have trouble finding out exactly where we live or work. And, of course, the lack of actual addresses means there is no general home mail delivery.

But all that is changing – and very much for the better. Dubai Municipality has announced the completion of phase one of its Geo Address System, with each of over 130,000 buildings and other landmarks now assigned a unique code, making them findable on smartphones and other mobile devices. As Hussain Nasser Lootah, the director general of Dubai Municipality, said: “With this code you can find any building, any street, any park bench in Dubai.”

The next stage is to give each individual residence or place of business within a building a unique 10-digit code. Residents will be able to use their smartphones to scan a bar code based on this number, and send it to anyone who needs to find them.

This means Dubai has effectively made a giant leap to a system that’s far more advanced than the lengthy form of address in many other countries. It is a good example of modern technology leapfrogging over old restraints, rather like the way much of Africa skipped the costly installation of copper telephone cables, and jumped from no phone service at all to ubiquitous mobile phones.

Abu Dhabi, too, is making progress on addresses. As The National reported in February, the Executive Committee at the Abu Dhabi Executive Council has given the green light to a project to formalise the capital’s address system, including numbering buildings and installing all the necessary signposts, featuring street names in Arabic and English. This system is to be rolled out on Abu Dhabi island and in Al Ain before being extended further.

Both systems will provide enormous benefits, ranging from the expeditious delivery of goods bought online to the assurance that civil-defence first responders can arrive quickly in case of any emergency.