Smart cities are already in the works across the gulf with Dubai zooming ahead towards integration of AI and digital solutions in public infrastructure. Apart from the Emirates and Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain have also become proactive about using innovative tech for mobility and day-to-day tasks.
Saudi Arabia’s city of the future Neom started off with a vision right out of a scifi movie, by creating a buzz about flying taxis, humanoids roaming the streets and a moon of its own. But as of now the mind behind Neom has shed light on a system of harnessing data on residents via digital IDs, facial recognition, phones and thousands of devices embedded across the city.
The city run entirely by AI will also be monitored by an operating platform called Neos, which will perform tasks like sending in rescue teams when a person falls and doesn’t get up for a long time. Fingerprint scans on doorknobs and biometrics will be used to facilitate automatic check ins at hotels, and to identify people at public spaces.
Neos is aimed at collecting 90% of data from tech enthusiasts who choose to call the megacity home as well as the smart infrastructure around them. Its functions scale up capabilities of existing smart cities like Songdo in South Korea, where sensors are used for alerting locals about simple things like arrival of public transport.
But the move at Neom may also come across as too intrusive for some, since privacy concerns are always triggered when massive data collection comes in the picture. Last year, even tech titan Google’s plans for a smart city near Toronto were scrapped over surveillance.
Although the tech head at Neom says that people get to choose how much info they wish to reveal, there still isn’t clarity about a minimum amount of data residents will be required to share for day-to-day services.
But Neom is promising convenience and an unprecedented urban experience with a car-free, green city in the middle of a desert, which may reduce concerns over data for many.