October 26, 2020, ainerd

The Factors at Play with Smart City Growth and Adoption

by – Brad Smith

A quick look at smart city initiatives shows that they are about bettering the lives of city dwellers. Flipping that coin, we cannot but cringe at all of the data mining happening in the background.

The age of smart cities is a wheel already set in motion. Without proper controls and safeguards around the privacy of user data, though, things are not looking too rosy.

The Privacy Concerns

Some non-intrusive smart city plans do not need user data.

For example, the waste management system in Seoul is only programmed to compact the waste in it and get in touch with waste collectors. There is no need to know who is throwing the garbage into those bins. While that sounds great, know that such systems work on a public Wi-Fi network and server.

This server is usually in the same bunch with other servers used to provide free Wi-Fi services to citizens of the smart city. That sounds fine till you learn of all the dangers that an open Wi-Fi network brings to the table.

In the quest to build a better world, the needs of the citizens shape the process. That is how best to plan a smart city that does what they want, anyways. However, that also means collecting data on these citizens.

We have seen what data can be used for in the wrong hands. If it were not a lucrative market, big companies like Yahoo and Uber would not be targeted just for the consumer data that they are sitting on. Either this data is sold to the highest bidder on the black market or used to launch more targeted attacks by these threat actors, it is never good news.

If smart cities would work, the privacy concerns which they drag in with them need to be addressed ASAP.

The Future of Smart Cities

Three essential arms determine where the smart city trend is going, and how fast too.

  • The citizens
  • The shareholders – investment firms, tech innovators, realtors, government
  • The regulators

The citizens need to feel safe in their backyards. If they think that the smart city initiative is threatening, they will kick against it. We have seen such happen in San Francisco where facial recognition was banned.

It could be argued that citizens could take matters into their own hands. For example, to download a VPN for data encryption, avoid public cameras… the list goes on. Why go through all of that when they can kick against the tech in the first place?

That is where regulators come in to ensure that the shareholders do not abuse their advancements, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Once that balance is struck, the smart city project can take off.

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