Abu Dhabi's Masdar City envisions buildings of the future to be AI … – The National

Ahmed Baghoum, chief executive of Masdar City, says smart technology will help in the ‘creation of the next wave’ of buildings. Alvin R Cabral / The National
Ahmed Baghoum, chief executive of Masdar City, says smart technology will help in the ‘creation of the next wave’ of buildings. Alvin R Cabral / The National
Abu Dhabi’s Masdar City plans to take advantage of the capabilities of artificial intelligence to create more efficient and smarter techniques to support the UAE capital’s smart city agenda, its chief executive has said.
The sustainable research and development hub, part of Abu Dhabi’s clean energy company Masdar, aims to collect and analyse data in a “swift manner” to support its ambitions, Ahmed Baghoum told The National in an interview.
This will help them better understand trends related to water and electricity consumption, transport and mobility, and increase efficiencies, he said on the sidelines of the Envision event in Dubai, hosted by Emirates Integrated Telecommunications Company, better known as du.
Crucially, smart technologies will also help in the “creation of the next wave” of buildings and other assets that will be anchored by better monitoring and control, he said.
“AI is playing a great role today; it’s the backbone of any industry. So for us, AI is definitely very important to create more efficient and smarter cities to create more seamless workflows and automations to run those cities,” Mr Baghoum said.
“Now it’s more of buildings and assets talking to each other … this wealth of data will be very important for us to create … a driven and more integrated community.”
Masdar City is currently developing the UAE’s first net-zero buildings in Masdar City, which will run on solar power and have a number of high-tech features.
The “grand opening” of one of the buildings, and other initiatives will be announced at the upcoming Cop28 climate conference in November, which the UAE will be hosting, Mr Baghoum said.
Masdar City is also heavily supporting companies that develop sustainable technology.
At present, its portfolio counts more than 1,000 companies, comprised of both large organisations and small and medium enterprises, which are focused on economic, financial, social and environmental sustainability.
“We work closely with our partners to attract all the technologies to pilot them and implement them at Masdar City,” Mr Baghoum said.
“They can really advance and feel the impact of their technologies on the ground as we play the role of a test bed for their technologies.”
Abu Dhabi retained its title as the smartest city in the Middle East and North Africa thanks to its digital-first initiatives, Switzerland’s International Institute for Management Development said in its Smart City Index for 2023 in May.
A smart city utilises the latest information and communications technology to connect people and devices, improve operational efficiency and boost overall economic activity.
Abu Dhabi came in 13th globally, and has been Mena’s smartest city for three studies from 2020. The IMD did not release an index in 2022.
And with Dubai ranking 17th overall, this made the UAE one of only four countries to have more than one city in the top 20, joining Switzerland, Australia and Germany.
The two emirates are also “well positioned” to be at the forefront of becoming full-fledged smart cities, with several initiatives being tabled to help the transition to a futuristic digital economy, Abu Dhabi’s Technology Innovation Institute had previously said.
Meanwhile, Masdar City also continues to focus on innovating within the sustainability space. Last month, Adnoc and National Central Cooling Company announced the “first project” in the Gulf region that harnesses geothermal energy to power Masdar City.
“The UAE is ahead of the game when it comes to sustainability – it’s no longer a wish-list or a ‘good to have’ idea. It’s no surprise that it’s a must-do now,” Mr Baghoum said.
“Sustainability is now the mainstream and has become the norm. We were challenged at times whether it will work or not, but we have proven that sustainability is, indeed, sustainable.”
Masdar City’s initiatives aim to support the UAE’s Net Zero 2050 Strategic Initiative, which calls for Dh600 billion ($163 billion) to be invested in clean and renewable energy sources in the next three decades.
“Our long vision is, of course, to advance, create, and lead efforts towards becoming net zero by 2050,” Mr Baghoum said.
“We’d like to do that beforehand, and be pioneering and leading the efforts.”
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