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Digital Number Plates

Dubai is once again in the news for being an adopter of new technologies after an announcement that it will be hosting a trial of digital vehicle number plates next month.

Smart Plates

The ‘smart plates’ will have digital screens, GPS and transmitters, and according to the head of the Vehicle Licensing Department at Dubai’s Roads and Transport Authority (RTA), the digital plates will make life easier for drivers.
The trial of the new plates is scheduled to start next month and end in November, and one of the key things that is being tested, as well as the Roads and Transport Authority’s (RTA) Tag2Connect (T2C) platform, is thought to be whether any issues / problems may be caused to the hardware and operation of the plates by Dubai’s desert climate.

The smart plates system incorporates Blockchain technology, the same technology behind the Bitcoin cryptocurrency.

Why Have Digital Number Plates?

In reality, the plates will have benefits for Dubai’s government as well as for drivers e.g. through being able to track vehicles (via transmitters in the plates), and for the police to gather detailed information quickly about cars and their drivers.

Ways in which drivers could benefit from using the plates include:

  • Allowing real-time communication with other drivers about traffic conditions or any accidents ahead.
  • Contacting the police and ambulance services if the vehicle is involved in a collision.
  • Enabling plates to be changed using the RTA’s app or website.
  • Enabling automatic deductions from users’ accounts for e.g. payment for fines, parking fees or renewing registration plates.

Other Technologies Adopted In Dubai

Dubai is making a name for itself internationally as a place that is proactive in adopting the latest technology. For example:

  • Back in February 2016, Dubai committed to putting all its documents on Blockchain’s shared open database system by 2020 in order to help to cut through Middle Eastern bureaucracy, speed up civic transactions and processes, and help bring a positive transformation to the whole region.
  • In February last year, it was announced by Dubai’s Roads and Transportation Agency, that passengers could be able to use Ehang 184, electric-powered, pilotless, self-flying drone taxis. The app-hailed taxis can travel at 100 mph / 160km/hr top speed, this means that it can travel 31 miles in one trip.
  • Plans for high-speed Hyperloop pods to open by 2020. These pods should be able to transport passengers to the UAE’s capital Abu Dhabi in just 12 minutes (covering distances of over 120km / 75 miles).
  • Plans to expand the use of technology in transport, and hopes for self-driving vehicles to be making a quarter of all journeys by 2030.

What Does This Mean For Your Business?

Some may say that given the wealth of Dubai and the speed of its development in recent years, it is not a big surprise that it is able to afford trials and adoption of the latest technology, and that its road network and geography make it well-suited to driverless vehicles, drones etc.

Some commentators, however, have expressed concerns about the tracking of drivers, and potential issues surrounding privacy and information security.

New transport technologies that are planned for Dubai, such as driverless vehicles, have also experienced some bad publicity recently with the woman killed in Arizona last month when she was hit by an autonomous Uber car.

Smart number plates are an example of how smart technology is providing business opportunities, and bringing simpler, more centralised systems around the world. For example, it is thought that the smart plate system in Dubai will bring together on a single platform all stakeholders e.g. manufacturers, dealers, workshops, insurers, licensing authorities, police and vehicles owners. This could be an example of how greater transparency could be brought to an industry using technology.