x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Fridge magnets will pinpoint address for every one of Dubai’s 124,000 buildings

The municipality’s Geographic Informations Systems (GIS) department announced it has completed the first phase of the new system dubbed 'Makani'.

Residential buildings in Al Karama area of Dubai. The municipality’s Makani scheme assigned a precise location code to each of the 124,000 buildings in the emirate. Pawan Singh / The National
Residential buildings in Al Karama area of Dubai. The municipality’s Makani scheme assigned a precise location code to each of the 124,000 buildings in the emirate. Pawan Singh / The National

DUBAI // Fridge magnets with pinpoint coordinates for Dubai’s new address system will be distributed to homes around the emirate next year.

The first phase of the scheme, Makani (my location), has already been completed, said the municipality’s geographic information systems (GIS) department.

Phase one involved assigning a location code for every one of the 124,000 buildings in the emirate, while phase two involved the release of a web and smartphone application.

“We are currently double checking all the data we have collected and fine-tuning it. We have already completed rechecking 53 communities in Dubai,” said Abdul Hakim Malek, director of the GIS department.

“We are now identifying the coordinates to the entrances for all buildings, not just the compounds they are in.

“Everyone is facing this problem. We have more than 127 languages being spoken in Dubai. We need a simple system that everyone can use and understand.”

To make sure the information is precise, the department is using the 10-digit military grid reference system (MGRS) which is accurate to within one metre.

“MGRS is the simplest of all the universal systems. You don’t need a new system that you have to manage, these coordinates are available so there is no headache,” Mr Malek said. “About 90 per cent of Dubai is on the grid.”

The 10-digit code can be used in its entirety to pinpoint an exact location, or just the first few digits can be used to identify a broader area.

Aside from assisting in day-to-day activities such as deliveries, the new address system will help Civil Defence crews respond to emergencies.

The municipality plans to start distributing the address coordinates for residential and commercial buildings in March, initially concentrating on busier communities.

The addresses will be handed out as fridge magnets for private residences, as stickers to shops and as tabletop displays for hotels, Mr Malek said.

The municipality had planned to post plaques on every building in the emirate showing its coordinates, but that idea was put on hold while the National Committee for Addresses in Abu Dhabi decides whether to roll out the system nationwide.

“If this system is implemented all over the country then most likely the look of the plaque will change, it will probably need some federal entity logo, so we didn’t want to have to do the same job twice,” Mr Malek said.

An updated version of the Makani app will be released in two to three weeks with improved features.

“The first release of the application was just to test it out, it had a few bugs that we have now fixed,” Mr Malek said. “We’ve also added some feature to help integrate the system with all GPS devices.

“We wanted to integrate it with the instant messenger WhatsApp application but the application programming interface wasn’t available. I’m sure that will be added soon.

“We are also working on making the application completely voice operated.”

The Makani app works better when a device’s Wi-Fi is switched on, as its accuracy is adversely affected when used via 3G.

“With 3G it will only show your location to the nearest telecom tower you are connected to,” Mr Malek said. “It is accurate to within a metre when connected with Wi-Fi.

“We are working on an offline map, where you won’t even need an internet connection to use it, everything will be downloaded on your mobile device.”

The department also plans to use QR bar codes with the address coordinates. These can be scanned by most smartphones, meaning people can take a photo of the code and send it to someone who needs to find that location without having to explain directions on how to get there.

Another idea under development is allowing government bodies to access data about a building or business by scanning its QR code.

The address system web portal is Makani.ae and the Makani application is available on iOS, Google and android devices.

malkhan@thenational.ae