Dubai's Expo 2020 site to be transformed into smart city to test new technology

German tech company is currently building a digital replica of the sprawling Expo site to better analyse data

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The Expo 2020 site in Dubai will be converted into a smart city, where the latest in technologies can be tested, once the world fair ends in 2022.

The site will be renamed District 2020 and a once crowded event venue will be transformed into a permanent and futuristic residential, cultural, business, and technology powerhouse.

A blueprint to repurpose the sprawling 438-hectare site is being developed by senior Expo officials in partnership with Siemens, the Germany technology company.

We have the opportunity of developing a sub city within Dubai that has this remarkable digital infrastructure

Its conversion will begin as soon as the six-month fair ends in April 2022, with plans for most of the expo buildings to be retained.

“District 2020 aspires to become a test bed for new technologies and innovations,” Nadimeh Mehra, vice president of the District 2020 transition unit, said on Tuesday.

“We can anticipate certain requirements and adapt our infrastructure to address those needs as we are doing right now in the development of District 2020.”

Expo organisers released a video showing close-ups of exhibition areas, metro station and green parks across the site.

Ms Mehra said digitalisation would be used to create a “human-centric city” that did not isolate its residents.

Preparing a road map with Siemens and prioritising technology to be implemented would help anticipate infrastructure and technology requirements for smart building, traffic, and parking systems that were energy efficient.

Dubai Expo 2020 site progress

Dubai Expo 2020 site progress

Siemens said it would set up a global logistics headquarters in District 2020 within the Dubai South area to assist with its airports, cargo and ports operations.

“We see that companies want to be involved in the development of cities they are occupying and that type of solution-oriented collaboration mindset is truly a game changer,” said Ms Mehra.

There are plans for a concept called the ‘Urban Lab’ for innovators and start-ups to test ideas and products.

“We have the opportunity of developing a sub city within Dubai that has this remarkable digital infrastructure,” Ms Mehra said.

“We want to allow our tenants and partners to test their products within our space before they take it to market."

After the World Fair ends, 80 per cent of the Expo site will be remodelled and several signature structures will remain, including the main Al Wasl plaza and Terra, a children's science centre, and Dubai Exhibition Centre.

Siemens said it was keen to be part of a vision that would connect 137 buildings using cutting edge technology to improve sustainability.

The company is also building a "digital twin" of the Expo site where all data would be analysed and used to take informed decisions.

Oliver Kraft, executive vice president at Siemens, said the aim was to transform data into value.

"Together with Expo 2020 Dubai and District 2020, we are co-creating a blueprint for future smart cities,” he said.

“Data is the raw material surrounding us and it’s also what can turn a district or campus into a smart city.

"It’s one thing to collect all the data and it’s another to select what can turn data into value.”

He said the focus would be on safety, security, quality of life and sustainability.

“I truly believe that District 2020 will be the ecosystem that fosters collaboration and drives innovation. We are looking to participate in that because we have already become one of the anchor tenants.”

District 2020 will be ready for occupancy by October 2022 following a six- to nine-month period of repurposing and transition from Expo 2020. Courtesy: District 2020