When you step into a driverless train in Riyadh, you quickly remember that smart transport systems form part of smart cities initiatives that is shaping the future of the Kingdom. It is not only in Riyadh where the dream of a smart city is real but also in the other 17 cities in the Kingdom where smart city projects have been earmarked.
The smart city market is projected to reach $14, 745.2 million by the year 2027 given its 19.6% CAGR growth since 2020. In the G20 capital ranking, Riyadh secured the fifth position in terms of its smart city development! This impressive growth trajectory is accompanied by local project promises of smart cities in the Kingdom.
Smart City Initiatives in the Kingdom
As outlined in Saudi Vision 2030, the Crown Prince, Mohammad bin Salman launched a transformation initiative to invest in non-oil sources of revenue through the National Transformation program. Project NEOM launched in the year 2017 with its car-free, pedestrianized zone, The Line is an emblem of the smart city initiative.
So, what is smart about the NEOM?
- It will be 100% renewable in terms of energy use
- It is designed to be 100% carbon neutral
- It will be accessible within 20 minutes through walking, cycling, and the use of electric mobility devices
- It preserves 95% of the natural environment around it.
- It is expected to house 9 million people by 2045
- The city will extensively use artificial intelligence as part of the smart initiative.
Kingdom commitment to smart communication, drainage, street lighting, and communication systems is indicative of the sustainability of smart cities.
Impacting Factors for smart City Growth in the Kingdom
Government support: Part of the government plan is to establish 200 smart cities through the Smartathon challenge in which artificial intelligence is applied to enhance safety, healthcare, and development of the smart cities.
The government has also integrated smart city development as part of its vision 2030 with strategic plans to ensure the realization of these goals. Flagship projects such as the Red Sea which has made tremendous progress are emblems of local project promises of smart cities in the Kingdom. Some of the major developments include:
- 77-kilometre roads that have been constructed to enhance connectivity to the Red Sea Project
- 1, 773 cabins to house workers have been completed out of the planned 1, 876
- Over 380 contracts were issued to the tune of 5.3 billion SAR to facilitate the construction
Collaboration with International companies. Given the attractiveness of the economy, the Kingdom has attracted international brands such as Cisco, IBM Corporation, and General Electric among other giants to support the smart city initiatives. For instance, Siemens played a pivotal role in the realization of the Riyadh metro when the company delivered 67 driverless trains in partnership with the National Energy Services Company.
Benefits of Smart Cities
- Provide opportunities for investment in eco-friendly construction projects.
- Improved living conditions with new ways of interaction.
- Provide smart housing to more than 84% of Saudis living in urban environments.
- Open new employment opportunities and diverse revenue sources.
In sum, various local smart projects in the Kingdom are under progress with greater promises of sustainability. They highlight a golden opportunity for the growth of the construction sector. The smart city projects will not only meet the demand for housing but also contribute towards opening a large smart city market in the Kingdom. These initiatives are valuable development opportunities to advance the sustainability debates in the Kingdom. At the 5th position in terms of smart city development, the Kingdom is poised to rank better with the completion of its local project promises of smart cities.