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10 digits solve Dubai's address confusion

Makani numbers help residents find their way in fast-growing city

To large buildings in Dubai, individual 10-digit numbers are assigned to each entrance.

DUBAI -- This city is undergoing massive and rapid urbanization. But it lacks a postal code system, so finding your destination here can be challenging.

In recent years, the Makani geo locating system has been offering the convenience of searching for a location just by typing in a 10-digit number assigned to each building on an online website or smartphone app. These locations are plotted on an onscreen map.

In Dubai, which has been transformed from a desert oasis to the biggest business hub in the Middle East in the last decades, the main streets and the names of office buildings serve as the major clues for locating a place.  

It is therefore a bit challenging to find a private home located off a main street. It is even hard for taxi drivers, who are expected to be experts on the local geography -- passengers often have to tell them landmarks such as hotels and commercial facilities and then give detailed directions to a destination.

With no postal code system in place, mail is delivered to a recipient's post-office box.

This situation causes confusion and hinders the movement of people and goods and creates inefficiency in public administration. The government instituted the Makani system in an attempt to solve this problem.

One of the attractive features of the Makani, which means "my place" in Arabic, is that users can figure out their destination without having to read the name of a place -- they only have to know the 10-digit number of their destination.

This is especially appealing for people from other countries living and visiting Dubai.

For colossal developments, such as the Dubai Mall, one of the world's largest shopping malls, each entrance gets its own number, making it easier to decide on a meeting place.

The service can show a position of a place with an accuracy of 1 sq. meter, according to the service provider.

Finding precise locations is beneficial for many public agencies, including police, fire departments and emergency medical services.

The Dubai government came up with the Makani idea under its "smart city" scheme and started in 2015 installing plates showing the numbers on buildings across the city.

About 70,000 locations, or half of those registered, now have the plates, but the government plans to allot the numbers to all the buildings in the city.

There are similar moves in other parts of the United Arab Emirates.

Dubai's Roads and Transport Authority plans to connect 4,500 taxis operating in the city with the Makani, enabling passengers to get to their destination simply by telling drivers the 10-digit numbers.

Ahead of the World Expo in 2020 hosted by Dubai, construction work is underway all over the city. The massive Dubai canal opened in November last year, and commercial facilities and residences are being built on both sides of the waterway.

Linking positional information with the numbers is quick and easy, and characteristic of fast-growing Dubai. One 32-year-old visitor from Ghana said that a system like the Makani would be helpful in African cities.

Despite the benefits of the new system, some might argue that they prefer reaching their destination using a mental map because simply hearing the numbers cannot generate the image of a place.

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