Would you live in a smart city? | The Tylt
Smart cities are all about efficiency. Their goal is to collect as much data as possible, both from citizens and devices, in order to limit waste, enforce laws, and maintain safety. Advocates for worldwide smart city implementation say these communities are the next natural evolution for civilization, saying cities must increase efficiency in order to sustain population growth. Others argue "smart cities" are a front for citizen surveillance. What do you think?
Would you live in a smart city?
According to TechRepublic, 60 percent of the world's population will live in cities by 2050. Just as cities have developed greater infrastructure to support larger populations in the past, they must continue to do so well into the future. Increasing city-wide efficiency by becoming "smart" is the logical next step for urban areas to support their citizens.
With this in mind, it isn't surprising that the smart city industry is projected to be a $400 billion market by 2020.
These cities leverage existing technologies and collect data with the goals of making life easier for citizens and driving economic growth. The Internet of Things Agenda defines these areas as:
A smart city is a municipality that uses information and communication technologies to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve both the quality of government services and citizen welfare.
Smart cities may sound like futuristic utopias on paper, but in reality, their tactics call into question a number of basic rights, especially when it comes to privacy.
In order to work, smart cities typically involve a great deal of surveillance. Sensors, actuators, and cameras enable the "efficient" lifestyle touted by smart-city proponents. As CNBC notes in its video above, cities like Singapore use cameras to monitor things like cleanliness and crowd density. But this technology can also be used for facial recognition and the movements of all registered vehicles.
For some, this is too much information for any city government to have. Blaine Curcio explains on Quora that one of the greatest drawbacks of smart cities is very limited privacy:
If there are cameras on every corner, it becomes very hard to go somewhere without being seen, and if those cameras are equipped with facial recognition technology, being seen means becoming known. The concept of personal privacy is radically changing, and we have not prepared adequately for it.
For a moment, think about the things that bring you daily stress:
The list might go on depending on where you live, but most will agree these categories are among the top sources of stress for city-dwellers. By analyzing data in real time, smart cities can quell these daily woes. For example, Forbes reports:
An integrated IoT-enabled infrastructure of intelligent traffic systems, safer roads, directed parking, frictionless toll and parking payments can give back up to 60 hours a year to drivers stuck in their cars, according to an Intel-sponsored study by Juniper Research.
If cars reach their destinations (and find a parking spots) faster, air quality will also improve due to a reduced amount of traffic on the roads at any given time. In this way and more, smart cities can go beyond resolving regular inconveniences to saving lives. For example:
Another converging development is the new array of IoT-connected medical devices such as vitals-tracking wearables. Heart monitors can watch ailments like arrhythmia and alert doctors to adverse events in real time, and smart glucometers can track blood sugar readings via a smartphone app.
In March of 2019, New York unveiled its latest smart city development: Hudson Yards. This 28-acre complex aims to track and collect data on everything from energy use to noise. Not everyone is happy about what this could mean for the future, as the smart city plans to hold and store the data it collects. The Real Deal's David Jeans reports:
“Cameras, microphones, Wi-Fi kiosks and other sensors leave visitors vulnerable to exploitative and invasive data collection methods that allow for the precise tracking of people’s identity, movement, interactions, and behavior,” said Daniel Schwarz, a privacy and technology strategist at the NYCLU. “Prior notice and consent should be a baseline requirement.”
Smart cities open the door to people around the world giving up their personal data without explicitly realizing what they are consenting to.