Towards 'smart' city: Abu Dhabi uses technology to facilitate navigation

In line with international best practice

ABU DHABI - The Department of Municipal Affairs is coordinating efforts over the next 30 months to modernise street addressing, geonames and signage systems across the Emirate of Abu Dhabi in line with international best practice and beyond.
The Emirate's rapid pace of development and urbanisation has transformed Abu Dhabi into a larger and advancing metropolis - infrastructure developments for roads and bridges, residential, commercial and community buildings has fast changed the city skyline.
Abu Dhabi's potential to thrive in its progressive developments is however constrained by its current addressing and signage infrastructure. Emergency services, residents, taxis and delivery drivers alike, all have to cumbersomely rely on landmarks such as schools, hotels, bakeries and even fountain sculptures to navigate around Abu Dhabi.
The present system which defines location by zones, sectors, main streets, internal streets and plots or buildings requires remembering long sequences of codes which makes navigating with its use very difficult, particularly in a growing city. Responding to this struggle, the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA) in coordination with Abu Dhabi, Al Ain and Western Region Municipalities, is undertaking the Abu Dhabi Emirate Street Addressing, GeoNames and Signage System (ADAGS) Project, to meet the growing societal need for a sophisticated and timeless addressing system.
It is leading efforts to implement a system that complements the current flux of change and also accommodates for the ever evolving future needs of Abu Dhabi society.
Every street will be named, homes and offices will have its own unique address, new geonames (geographical names) reflecting history, culture and heritage will appear, and all street signs will be replaced with an Emirate wide standard -with municipality specific identifiers. Together, all these elements will contribute to an effective wayfinding system that will make every journey smooth.
Progressing towards a 'smart' city, the new addressing system will use modern technology such as mobile apps and QR codes on every street sign, to provide pinpoint location specific information that can be shared between location dependent service providers. The QR codes will also have a public interface, where explanations such as how the street name came to be from historical, cultural or heritage backgrounds and other geographical based information will be available. Abu Dhabi Municipality will be the first Municipality in the Emirate to implement street signs and building numbers with smart technology enablers.
"The ADAGS Project is expected to vastly improve how businesses and residences are referenced and located in ways that will provide benefits across all segments of Abu Dhabi society" said His Excellency Dr Abdullah Ghareeb, Director of the Land and Property Sector of DMA.
Some of the core end benefits of the addressing system will be improving emergency service response times to allow, for example, ambulances and fire response teams to reach homes within minutes with precise navigation, instead of the currently longer waits which increase chances of fatalities and costlier damages. Bringing greater efficiency to utility services between entities such as Abu Dhabi Water & Electricity Authority and Etisalat - accurately identifying burst water pipes, electric outages, and monitoring neighbourhood consumptions would all lead to smarter servicing. Not only would an addressing system drastically boost the e-economy through online shopping and smarter goods distribution, where supermarkets could directly deliver daily groceries to thousands of homes, but improved resident and tourist navigation would further boost the economy with greater exploration of the Emirate.
The new system would also positively influence the environment, by reducing air pollution and CO2 footprints that are often created by wasted travel. The planned addressing system will bring about many benefits for Abu Dhabi society, and will transform the way we live and work in the Emirate.
The ADAGS Project for the first time ever, will align the separately held location databases of over 60 government entities and private organisations, and provide a unified addressing platform for common use. This platform will enable smarter cross servicing opportunities in the near future.
"We intend to provide a comprehensive methodology for converting all location databases, cascade training for every transportation and delivery personnel, provide guidance to international organizations and hoteliers, educate school, college and university students through a new curriculum element and taught course, and raise awareness about the new addressing systems amongst the wider public through several outreach campaigns" said Ahmed Awad Al Mazrooei, Project Manager for the ADAGS Project, DMA.
DMA recently assembled a stakeholder workshop gathering 90 high-level Geographic Information System experts from government and private entities with core location-related services. The workshop arranged for International Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) to provide analysis and evaluation on the proposed addressing system due to be implemented Emirate wide.
Pertinent topics deliberated on related to geonames and street addresses, signage and wayfinding, data and systems, and outreach. Among engaged stakeholders were DMA and the three Municipalities, Urban Planning Council, General Directorate of Abu Dhabi Police and Emergency Units, Department of Transportation, Emirates Post, Abu Dhabi System and Information Centre, and Abu Dhabi Tourism and Culture Authority.
"This addressing system uniquely calls for contribution from a wide diversity of stakeholders, inclusive of international and local experts, making this one of the most enriched and comprehensive project of its kind" said Ahmed Al Mazrooei.
On the 28th of March, DMA awarded a contract to lead the planning and implementation phases of the comprehensive Emirate wide Project to Bayanat Mapping & Surveying Services, a wholly-owned Mubadala company, born from the commercialization of the UAE Armed Forces' Military Survey Department. Under terms of agreement with DMA, Bayanat will be responsible for the establishment and maintenance of a unified central database of geographical names and addresses in the Emirate, the development of international standards for collecting and documenting geographical names, and the development of an addressing system that will serve as a unified reference for all of Abu Dhabi.
"We will help bring to reality part of the Abu Dhabi Economic Vision 2030, transforming the Emirate's addressing infrastructure into one of the world's leading in public service excellence" said Khalid Al Melhi, CEO of Bayanat.
The diverse technical elements within the ADAGS Project necessitate Bayanat to partner with two international experts; Esri Global and GPC-GIS. Esri Global will be leading on technology related GIS software investments, while GPC-GIS will be responsible for project management, programme design, outreach, and coordinating work with SMEs such as RoadPro (Australia), Merje (USA), Spatial Focus (USA), and Geo-Naming Solutions (Australia). The changes will transform the Emirate's infrastructure and society as we know it.
The ADAGS Project will provide a sophisticated addressing system in-keeping with progressive developments in Abu Dhabi, and the world platform. Every home and office will finally receive its long awaited unique address.