Saudi Arabia’s new $500bn city will be led by artificial intelligence

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman announced plans to build an entirely new city called “NEOM” on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea coast, the latest project in his drive to remake the kingdom in a time of dwindling resources, Arabian Business reported.

Announced during a global business conference in Riyadh, the prince said the city will operate independently from the “existing governmental framework” with investors and businesses consulted at every step during its development. The project will be backed by more than $500 billion from the Saudi government, the country’s sovereign wealth fund and local and international investors, according to a statement.

“NEOM will be constructed from the ground-up, on greenfield sites, allowing it a unique opportunity to be distinguished from all other places that have been developed and constructed over hundreds of years,” Prince Mohammed said in the statement.

The scope of the project will include a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city to Egypt and the rest of Africa. About 10,000 square miles have also been allocated for the development of the area that will stretch into Jordan and Egypt.

“Its strategic location will also facilitate the zone’s rapid emergence as a global hub,” Prince Mohammed said.

Artificial intelligence will be the driving factor behind NEOM, the Prince also revealed, explaining that everything in Neom life will be connected via an app which will give residents control over what they want to do.

In an interview with Bloomberg, he said the city will have no supermarkets to visit because everything you need will be delivered to you using the latest technology.

He said: “Everything will have a link to artificial intelligence, to the Internet of Things – everything. Your medical file will be connected with your home supply, with your car, linked to your family, linked to your other files, and the system develops itself in how to provide you with better things.

“Today all the clouds available are separate – the car is by itself, the Apple watch is by itself, everything is by itself. There, everything will be connected. So nobody can live in Neom without the Neom application we’ll have – or visit Neom.”

Neom, short for Neo-Mustaqbal, a Latin-Arabic term meaning “new future”, is scheduled to start taking shape in 2020 with the main city opening five years later.

The Crown Prince told Bloomberg that the first phase of the giant project will be Neom Bay, which will be like the Hamptons in New York.

The plan includes a bridge spanning the Red Sea, connecting the proposed city with Egypt and the rest of Africa. Some 10,000 square miles have been allocated for the development of an urban area stretching into Jordan and Egypt.

New technology will transform mobility and livability in Neom, he said, adding that the likes of Amazon, Airbus and Alibaba have registered an interest in being involved in the city’s development.

“There are many enormous companies, enormous, considered among the most important companies in the world, that want to do their new projects in Neom to take advantage of this opportunity,” he noted.

“We are talking with everyone. We are talking with Amazon, they are engaged, but we didn’t reach a final agreement. We are talking with Alibaba, and they are engaged, and both of those two companies are having great ideas to make Neom different.”

Asked if Dubai is worried about the impact Neom may have on its own ambitions, the Crown Prince said: “I think we are creating new demand and this will help Dubai and it will help other hubs in the Middle East. I don’t think Hong Kong harmed Singapore or Singapore harmed Hong Kong. They are creating good demand around each other.

“It will help Dubai, it will help Bahrain. It will help especially Kuwait. Kuwait will export to Europe faster and cheaper than now through the pipelines and the railways to Neom, immediately to Egypt, to the north of Sinai, to Europe.”

Klaus Kleinfeld, who was ousted in April as chief of US engineering firm Arconic and will now be CEO for the Neom project, will lead an advisory team on more than 100 “world class” people.

 

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