Access and Feeds

Smart Cities: Potholes in the Road to Creating More Efficient Cities

By Dick Weisinger

Smart Cities is the idea that advanced technology can be applied to improve urban living. The core benefit of Smart Cities are cities that have significantly improved efficiency.

Smart Cities have financial benefits from optimized trade and there proactive maintenance of infrastructure. There is less waste — electricity, water and traffic are all controlled and optimized for most efficient utilization.

One worry about Smart City technology though is privacy. Smart Cities can potentially improve infrastructure, make utilities more efficient, and improve citizen engagement, but these benefits are enabled through the mass deployment of sensors and cameras.

Rebecca Williams, Fellow at the Technology and Public Purpose Project, wrote that “while some parties will dismiss potential harms of “smart city” technology as alarmist or premature, I see these repeated instances of public pushback as intrinsically legitimate. The widespread implementation of new technologies that ultimately collect personal data throughout public spaces is uncharted territory. Thoughtful regulation and management of these technologies must be applied to protect against the potential harms, and we must forward plan for the worst-case scenarios of mis-using/mismanagement “smart city” technology in order to safeguard our democracy.”

Besides the privacy issues, many early blueprints for Smart City technologies have failed. Alphabet abandoned a smart city project planned for Toronto. The pandemic has also driven many urban residents out of cities — 65 percent of smart-city projects have been put on hold and are being reconsidered.

Cisco had touted the benefits of Smart Cities, but recently backtracked and exited their Smart City initiative. Christopher Reberger, a former director at Cisco, said that “Smart cities are a hard sell. Even basic things like public Wi-Fi have been difficult.”

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