Martin Saps

Dubai is piloting a decentralised data programme with Outlier Ventures

May 12, 2019


Dubai is planning to launch ‘Decentralised Data for Dubai’, a programme that brings an open data ‘Sandbox’ built using a range of decentralised technologies from the Outlier Ventures ‘Convergence Stack’, potentially including Sovrin, Ocean Protocol and Fetch.AI. The new programme will represent the largest living group of data sets ever accessed through blockchain(s) and it will bring public and private sector organisations together with a selection of decentralised protocols to create the open data Sandbox.

Decentralised Data for Dubai was conceived following a research report into smart city development undertaken jointly between Smart Dubai and Outlier Ventures. 

The new programme will represent the largest living group of data sets ever accessed through blockchain(s) and it will bring public and private sector organisations together with a selection of decentralised protocols to create the open data Sandbox. Developers will have completely open access to Dubai’s data so they can build exciting new services. The initiative will be supported by a range of working groups and a two day hackathon that challenges developers to build prototypes.


Renewal of the City

By 2050, 68% of the world population will live in cities. These megacities will be producing more than 80% of the global GDP and are coming to resemble the ancient state-cities of Athens, Rome, and Carthage but now supercharged by data. These megacities tend to have similar challenges to nations around infrastructure, connectivity, mobility, and healthcare and have developed their own distinct cultural and economic micro-climates. Broken business models and misaligned incentives between different city stakeholders have restrained innovation and limited sustainable and inclusive growth.

As our greatest challenges become increasingly global and technological progress continues its exponential march, cities are once again coming to the fore. Nations are struggling to address global challenges like climate change, migration, and an integrated global economy supercharged by the Internet. Cities do not suffer from the same level of constitutional weight and are able to be more flexible and adaptable to the fast-changing technology, cultural and economic landscape. As the scale of problems is global like climate change and migration, the nation is no longer able to deliver effective policy responses.

Cities, on the other hand, offer a solution. Reinforcing collaboration and globalism to tackle these global problems regardless of national borders. It is the City that has the flexibility and opportunity to grasp the opportunities emerging from the coming Fourth Industrial Revolution and make a real and lasting impact. Cities must lead the revolution by utilizing data and emerging technologies in an open, collaborative, and shared way to build the digital infrastructure required to support a global, integrated and dynamic economy.

Public-private partnerships are a start and have fostered collaboration between corporations and governments by aligning the business models while ensuring solutions meet the needs of citizens not just shareholders. Cities, just like communication networks, benefit from network effects, that is, the more citizens join the more collaboration, innovation and economic output it produces. The challenge comes in connecting people, assets and data to take advantage of these city network effects.  

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Data is the Most Important Resource in the City

First, we need to collect data. The Internet of Things consists of the interconnection of identifiable connected devices into the Internet. The concept includes almost anything that has a sensor, collects and transmits data over a network, including a city’s infrastructure, energy, security, healthcare systems. The success of a smart city is the ability to capture vast amounts of raw and clean data.

Second, once the data is collected by IoT and software, it needs to be authenticated, validated and securely stored. Blockchains and ledgers fit into the Convergence Stack as elements to a new data distribution layer. Sovrin for example, is an open-source global utility for self-sovereign identity, enabling any individual, organization or machine to own their digital identity. Without these decentralized technologies, data authentication and validation will lack the transparency, provenance, and tamper-evidence features which are crucial in building a digital infrastructure to support public utilities.

Finally, we want to find and make use of the data to support learning algorithms that help us optimize and improve smart cities. The first step is finding the data. Marketplaces are springing up to support the trading of digital goods and data. Ocean Protocol makes it easy for buyers and sellers to come together and trade data for use to feed learning algorithms. Other marketplaces are emerging for different types of data including sensor data, personal data, digital goods, land, and even software bots. The second step is making use of the data. enables software agents to learn from their environment to make their own economic decisions. Other projects are using this supply of data to build innovative new products and services. Smart cities are the ideal testing ground with a vast ecosystem of interlocking data markets from energy, transport, buildings, and physical infrastructure.


The Convergence Stack: A Trusted Smart City

The current centralized data infrastructure is broken. It is broken from a technical perspective. It is broken from a security and privacy perspective. And it is nowhere near ready to handle the convergence of technologies and markets in a smart city environment. We need a new digital infrastructure.

For smart cities to thrive and be successful, they need to look beyond specific technologies or desires of particular industries. They must take a holistic and integrated view and see the emerging decentralized digital ecosystem as an opportunity to be grasped. They need to see that the internet of things, blockchain technology, and artificial intelligence are all interconnected. These technologies form the backbone of a trusted digital infrastructure.

Only once a new trusted digital infrastructure has been installed can the benefits of a truly smart city be shared widely and equitably. Outlier Ventures is embarking on a journey with Smart Dubai to apply the Convergence Stack on the city’s decentralised and open data infrastructure.

To read more about how the Convergence Stack expedites the adoption of Web 3.0 and turns a smart city in a successful smart city



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