Definition Series: Smart City

What is a Smart City? That is the question answered by today’s post in this blog. It returns to the definition series, reproducing some of the most important definitions we all can find in the Computer Science/Business Analytics glossary WhatIs.com. This helps in a better The Information Age content strategy, giving a necessary diverse mindset/perspective to the blog.

This is an emergent technological concept that promises to become increasingly important in the years to come. What is remarkable with this is the possibility of technological integration on a very large-scale: the scale of whole cities. This integration will involve the other emergent concept of Internet of Things and the increasing connectivity of devices of different type. reading the entry in the glossary we also see other important developments related with Smart Cities, namely, advanced data analytics, smart sensors and routers, and Data Democratization.

500px-smart_sensors
Smart Transducer from Wikipedia

To that list we must not forget the other integration that will play a vital role in these developments: Cyber Security. Security and reliability of all this infrastructure will be extremely important, it should be part of any smart city project from the very beginning. Also evidently important will be political and Governmental support. Here I can also see some risks,  related with behavioral, cultural and differing rates/capacities of adoption in different zones (or  between different cities of the same country) or jurisdictions. It is not imaginable that a really smart city will run by itself in isolation and not need to relate to its surroundings and the wider community or society, hence the need for good institutional/political integration from the start should be a plus to seek and foster.

This last institutional aspect of smart cities is a process well under current development in a regulatory front. The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) being drafted by the European Union will address many important concerning issues from this highly connected reality (it will enter into application in 25th May 2018, hopefully…). One of the most important issues is the protection of privacy for individuals and small institutions or communities, how the private or public data should be handled or used in accordance with those concerns and how the legal framework will enforce and act in cases of violations of such regulations. I usually like to adopt a most possible liberal attitude regarding regulatory matters, preferring by default positions where trust and accountability are acknowledged or recognized by responsible adult agents and entities almost always with the best good faith possible. But in Smart Cities matters, given the complexities and perplexities involved, compounded by obvious asymmetry of abilities, skills and information, that may be easier  exploited by the advantaged, there is the case for proper and robust regulation.

The glossary entry

Smart City

A smart city is a municipality that uses technology to increase operational efficiency, share information with the public and improve the quality of government services.

Adoption of the smart city concept is being driven by emerging technologies and trends such as automation, machine learning and the internet of things (IoT). The push to create smart cities is also being spurred on by environmental concerns such as using energy efficiently and social concerns such as citizen safety.

Theoretically, any area of city management can be incorporated into a smart city initiative, including such things as water usage, infrastructure design, emergency response, parking spot availability and snow removal. For example, some city planners and managers are using smart sensor technology and advanced data analytics tools to monitor, analyze and optimize the way traffic flows on city streets and ensure that public transportation supply meets user demand.

Data democratization is a key component of the smart city concept. Advocates of smart city projects maintain that making large municipal data sets available to citizens will increase civic engagement and enable residents to develop new, practical ways to use the data a city collects. Opponents worry that city managers will not keep data privacy and security top of mind, exposing the data that citizens produce on a daily basis to the risk of misuse.

With all this in mind, last but not least, the regulatory environment should be a privileged partner and an enabler of business innovation. We often hear and read in every media outlet about the many ways regulations end up being detrimental to business innovation and success. Some of those concerns might be true, but we can also see here an opportunity for another state of affairs to emerge, one in which regulations are not a burden to business innovation and success, but an enabler, an embedded system and indispensable ingredient. Like a nice meal we eat in our best Restaurant: we do not need to notice that it’s there, doing its good job of making that one the best meal we had for years, and we get out satisfied and assured.

Featured  and Body text images: Eureka Smart Cities 

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