A smart city is defined as an urban development vision that integrates information and communication technology (ICT) and Internet of Things (IoT) technology in a secure manner, so as to manage a city’s assets. With the advances made in mobile and internet technology, the willingness to embrace the technology around smart cities has grown rapidly, with countries and cities looking to adopt and integrate them within their systems and processes across the board.

Improving the quality, performance and interactivity of urban services is a crucial component of smart cities, and nowhere is this more evident than in Dubai. As an early adopter of the concept in the GCC, the Dubai government has implemented several forward-thinking initiatives that have positioned it as a leader in the development and operation of smart cities.

Established with a mandate to collaborate with both the private sector and government partners, Smart Dubai is one such initiative that has borne fruit for HH Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the Ruler of Dubai, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE. Tasked with delivering and promoting an efficient, seamless, safe and impactful city experience for residents and visitors to Dubai, the quasi-government body has developed a tiered partnership framework from across the government, private sector and institutions of the UAE.

One such partner is the NXN Group , formerly known as neXgen, which has been working with the Dubai government on the Smart Dubai project for a number of years. In addition, this Dubai-based advisory and consulting services organisation has also been working with the likes of Aldar and Dubai Silicon Oasis to create expert strategy and deliver practical results in the development of smart cities. Speaking exclusively to Big Project ME at NXN Group’s offices in Business Central Towers, Dubai Media City, chief business officer Labib Matta relates how the company got started, and how it has grown and evolved over the years to become one of the companies leading the regional push towards smart cities.

” NXN Group started back in 2008 as a consulting organisation, focusing mainly on consulting for smart city services as well as smart district services. At the time, the concept was still relatively new and was not very well accepted yet. People were just thinking of digital cities or digital services as the norm”.

“However, we had some notable early successes – people were listening to what we had to say. We focused on working with governments, specifically the government in Dubai. We also started in Qatar with some of the private developers there, who were early adopters of the concept,” Matta says. “What we felt was that since we did a lot of the consulting work – and because we understood very well the smart cities services and the challenges that come with them – then it would be good for us to start moving into delivering those services and moving into the managed services model, which is what we started doing a year ago”.

“Today, we’re balancing both businesses. We still do consult, but we also deliver for smart districts – by that we mean Energy Management,Facilities Management, Incident Management – which comes under Smart District Public Areas Management, Parking Management and so on. We’re also moving into Smart Security and some of the verticalised or niche service offerings”.

Finally, with the interview coming to a close, Labib Matta turns his attention to what NXN will do next. The company is already keen to move forward and evolve further. Of particular interest is data analytics, which is a key trend for the smart cities concept, driving change across a range of sectors and services. “We feel that this is where we want to go forward: big data analytics and cyber security. That’s what we’re really focused on. We feel that these two sectors not only relate to the job we’re doing, but they allow us to differentiate ourselves, while also being applicable to a lot of industry sectors that we want to get involved in,” Matta concludes.

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