C+S August 2021 Vol. 7 Issue 8 (web)

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The city of Dubai takes its smartness and its happiness very seriously. In fact, happiness is the stated end goal of all the ambitious and clever initiatives the city launched since the start of its Smart Dubai program in 2013. The all-encompassing strategy influenced the creation of the United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) first-ever Minister for Happiness and Wellbeing, and it’s ultimate aim is to transform Dubai into the smartest and happiest city on Earth. A significant part of Smart Dubai has been GeoDubai, a comprehen - sive scheme managed by Dubai Municipality’s GIS Center to collect and provide all geospatial data and related services to government, educational and private entities within the entire UAE. “The Dubai government believes that geospatial data is one of the core elements of creating the happiest and smartest city in the region,” says Maryam Obaid Almheiri, the GIS Center’s Director. “Geospatial data is essential for effective urban planning, infrastruc- ture, security and health, all of which contribute to smart services that make Dubai a livable, sustainable, innovative, and growing hub of happiness. The key for us has been the ability to accurately map the city as fast as it develops.” To give them both the mapping speed and precision it needs, the GIS Center acquired a vehicle-mounted mobile mapping system that captures centimeter-grade spatial data at highway speeds without sacrificing data quality or crew safety. The new system has not only enabled the group to image all the major roads, landmarks, and build- ings in the emirate in record time, it’s driving them toward success- fully supporting Dubai Municipality’s ultimate smart goal of building Dubai’s “Digital Twin,” an entire 3D model of the city’s exterior and interior infrastructure. Keeping Pace The GIS Center has been collecting and processing geospatial data of the whole emirate of Dubai since 2001, when His Highness Sheikh Mak - toum bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, issued a law proclaiming Dubai Municipality’s GIS Center as the sole official body responsible for the task. As such, it has routinely acquired aerial photography and satellite imagery of the emirate and created 3D models and topographic maps using photogrammetric techniques. It also has, on a nearly daily basis, used traditional total stations and GNSS RTK technology to survey roadways, parks, and street furniture as well as collect as-built sur- Mapping the Smart Path to Happiness How one city is using geospatial data to improve the quality of life By Mary Jo Wagner

Dubai’s downtown waterfront. Photo: Olga Ozik, Pixabay

veys. For street-view imagery, it has previously turned to commercial vendors. All the data sources are offered through a centralized portal to support a host of public services such as civic planning, building design and legislation, transportation, addressing, and utilities. Keeping pace with its ever-changing city, however, hasn’t been easy, especially in the area of urban development. “In Dubai, it seems there is a new feature or development added every day,” says Almheiri. “We can’t get aerial photography and satellite imagery fast enough, commercial vendors don’t provide blanket cover- age, and capturing construction with traditional survey technology is time consuming. Setting up total stations and GNSS receivers along active roadways is also a constant risk for our crews. With the launch of GeoDubai, we knew we’d need an inhouse mapping system that would allow us to control our data-acquisition program, coverage and accuracy requirements, and would give us the means to safely and pre- cisely capture Dubai’s infrastructure as it’s changing.” In late 2018, the GIS Center acquired the Trimble MX9 mobile mapping solution, a field-to-finish system that combines high-density laser scan - ning, one spherical and three planar cameras for panoramic and multi- angle imagery, and a high-precision Applanix GNSS (IMU) component. “The MX9 has four cameras that capture panoramic and multi-angle images, and two laser scanners that each capture 1 million points per second as you drive,” says Mohamed El Mustafa, the GIS Center’s MX9 project manager. “That gives us an incredibly high-density point cloud as well as incredibly rich images of every feature on the road. Nothing’s missed. And we can acquire those significant data volumes in a fraction of the time of a traditional survey. It’s the key to us suc- cessfully achieving the goals of GeoDubai.” As the first government department in the emirate to own a mobile-map - ping system, the GIS Center began using the MX9 in a number of parks and exhibition areas to familiarize themselves with the technology and


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