The Dubai World Expo began a year late due to the coronavirus pandemic and closed on March 31, after receiving more than 23 million visits. But Expo 2020 wants to last beyond the six months it has been open to the dazzle of the entire world. Its organizers have proposed to build a new city in the middle of the desert on the land occupied by the pavilions of the 192 participating countries, which will be called District 2020.
The challenge is to reuse 80% of the buildings and facilities of the Exhibition to create a “sustainable smart city centered on the human being” that is capable of housing 145,000 people, according to Nadimeh Mehra, vice president of District 2020. The project will be configured to offer housing, learning centers, office spaces, cultural and leisure facilities, schools and higher education, but integrated into a friendly ecosystem so that any area of the new city that will occupy 4.4 square kilometers, the double the surface, is accessible on foot in 15 minutes.
“We are going to work in a futuristic city where people can work, and live in an ecosystem focused on innovation that will accelerate future technologies to reinvent the future of smart and sustainable urban spaces, fully digitized and with 5G coverage”, explains Mehra to a group of international journalists, including the correspondent from EL PAÍS, on a trip to Dubai organized by Siemens.
And it is that the German multinational is going to have a great role in the creation of that city of the future as it has already had in Expo 2020, since it has been in charge of designing a system that connects more than 130 buildings in an intelligent way, thanks to MindSphere, Siemens’ cloud-based operating system, in which data generated by elevators, air conditioners, lights, and other hardware is linked and related to each other to gain new insights and control functions such as refrigeration, quality air, access and fire alarms. Buildings become smart thanks to this Siemens application, which creates a “digital twin” of each installation that governs flows and consumption, thanks to artificial intelligence and algorithms that anticipate the needs and requirements of several structures at the same time , according to Afzal Mohammed, head of MindSphere.
“Expo 2020 Dubai is the world’s best example to date of a purpose-built, connected urban environment, and Siemens wants to make it a model for future smart cities. It pulls information from 210,000 data points, 5,500 doors, and more than 15,000 cameras. These sensors collect data, send it to the cloud and, being all interconnected, allow us to predict the needs and requirements of people, spread over various places. Managers access this digital twin through the analysis application of all building data in real time. In this way, consumption and all operations are optimized, reducing polluting emissions, saving water and energy”, details Mathias Rebellius, CEO of Intelligent Infrastructures at Siemens.
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
District 2020 will encompass government institutions, large companies and entrepreneurial SMEs, academic institutions, cultural attractions, accelerators, start-up project incubators to attract talent from around the world. Siemens is among the first multinationals to trust in the new city, and has signed a lease to install an 11,000-square-meter office space there as a base for operations in the area and for its subsidiary Siemens Energy, where 1,000 employees will work. .
“In the end the center is put on the human being in which technology plays a supporting role. And in that human nature of technology, Siemens wants to bring safety, security and sustainability, based on technology concepts such as its MindSphere IoT operating system, Navigator cloud-based energy analysis platform and Desigo CC digital building management system. ”, indicates the CEO of Siemens Expo 2020, Oliver Kraft.
But there won’t be just technology in District 2020. Despite being in the middle of the desert, it will include 45,000 square meters of green spaces and parks filled with local native species, such as drought-tolerant Ghaf trees and jasmine bushes. The buildings are also designed with the environment in mind, and each one is equipped with panels located in “solar palm trees”, which give a very characteristic appearance to the avenues. There will be 10 kilometers of bike paths, five kilometers of jogging paths and a four-kilometre public transport route with driverless autonomous vehicles.
The city will preserve 123 of the Expo’s structures and buildings, from the emblematic pavilion of the United Arab Emirates, which emulates the wings of a falcon and has been designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, to the enormous glass and steel dome of the Al Wasl Plaza, the symbol of Expo 2020. The Poem Pavilion From the UK, another one of the sensations of the event, in the shape of a cone with a circular façade that uses advanced machine learning algorithms to transform the entrance of visitors into collective poems, will become a center of hydrogen innovation. And the Italian Nautical Pavilion, whose roof is made up of three ship hulls and its facade of marine ropes, will be transformed into a center for the preservation of archaeological artifacts and art recovered from war zones. In total, 260,000 square meters of buildings converted for the Expo will provide homes and offices for up to 145,000 people.
The first wave of 85 companies will start moving into the Expo buildings from October this year, although Scale2Dubai, the organization in charge of managing the new spaces, has selected almost 700 companies interested in settling in the new smart city, which will also become the first completely covered by a state-of-the-art 5G telephone network and Wi-Fi.
The Dubai Expo, whose motto was “Connecting minds and creating the future”, aspires to leave with District 2020 the greatest legacy of any other universal exposition in history, which until now is only remembered for unique buildings that have survived such as the Tower Eiffel of Paris. The purpose is to serve as an example of the potential of smart cities. The smartification is called to transform the Administration, transport, health and public safety of the city, and will be essential for the habitability of the planet taking into account that, according to the United Nations, 68% of the world population will live in urban areas for 2050. Siemens estimates that investments to make cities smarter will double, from $100 billion in 2021 to $250 billion in 2030.
The Expo 2020 party closed on March 31 with performances by Christina Aguilera, Norah Jones and Yo-Yo Ma under the impressive interactive dome of Al Wasl Plaza, while the Emirates Air Force stunt planes United Arabs flew over the clear sky of the desert. Now it’s time to collect the confetti and the glasses of champagne and make sure that this impressive futuristic space surrounded by sand does not become a “white elephant” more than millions of dollars dissipated. The land and semi-abandoned buildings of La Cartuja de Sevilla, site of the 1992 Expo, are an example of the waste that Dubai wants to avoid.