x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

City life is at your fingertips

Plans unveiled for a sophisticated urban monitoring system that will pull together a host of data to paint a detailed picture of the city's social makeup and evolving landscape.

MARRAKECH // The Abu Dhabi Urban Planning Council (UPC) yesterday unveiled plans for a sophisticated urban monitoring system that will pull together a host of data to paint a detailed picture of the city's social makeup and evolving landscape.

The web-based CitySense will include data on the capital's traffic, weather, the local economy, commuting patterns, cultural development and many other factors.

The system is designed to help Abu Dhabi's planners and city officials monitor progress of the city's evolution, formulate development priorities and respond to problems such as traffic bottlenecks.

Once it is operating it will also be made available to the public, says UPC.

"We're trying to find a model that works better for the integration of data, provides more flexibility in understanding the geographic circumstances and the impacts, whether it's the social, cultural, environmental or economic levels of sustainability," said Michael White, a senior planning manager at UPC.

"And we want to do it in a really user-friendly way. We really want to make this easy and adaptable for agencies or even the public to help monitor and understand what's happening in your neighbourhood."

Many cities have sophisticated monitoring tools, but UPC officials say none can match the scale of software or universe of data within the system UPC is planning in conjunction with the Abu Dhabi Council for Economic Development (ADCED).

CitySense's use of new technology, including GPS systems in taxis and buses, is also a rarity among urban monitoring systems.

"Other cities only recently are starting to draw on some of these new data sources and starting to bring them into decision-making," said Neil Mallen, a UPC planning manager.

"But to our knowledge no one has linked up the sustainability idea with the indicators idea with this new richer data idea. There are some elements of those elsewhere but as far as I know you will not find any other place where they have all been brought together."

CitySense is in the conceptual stages. It was unveiled yesterday at the World Economic Forum in Marrakech, Morocco, and UPC plans to reveal more details about the first version at Global City, a conference in Abu Dhabi next March.

It will then spend a few months developing the software before making it operational, initially for city officials only, next summer.

If all goes well, CitySense will provide services including real-time information about Abu Dhabi neighbourhoods and traffic information that improves response time to fires and floods, and data on culture and characteristics of the economy that might be useful for job seekers.

"Suppose you were considering relocating to Abu Dhabi," said Mr Mallen. "There's a job opportunity you've spotted that's in your field and you just want to know if this is going to be a good move for you to make.

"So you may be interested in knowing a lot more about the city in terms of who the key employers are and what are the strengths in terms of economic activity.

"What are the dominant sectors and the really strong sectors in Abu Dhabi? Are there economic clusters in Abu Dhabi that you might fit into?"

Alongside its partnership with ADCED, UPC has linked up on CitySense with Barcelona, Spain and Grand Paris, the large metropolitan area that rings the French capital.

Those cities will share information about urban monitoring efforts but each is keeping tabs on sustainable growth in its own way.

For UPC, CitySense is also key to achieving Abu Dhabi's Vision 2030, a wide-ranging plan for the city's development.

The system will help UPC, which is behind the major road, bridge and other infrastructure projects that are changing the face of the city, evaluate its progress and respond to setbacks.