It would be useless to write about how technology has shaped modern society because it’s obvious. All our news is consumed through the Internet or TV, the biggest corporations are the ones behind the technology, and our current ways of life would be unsustainable if electricity suddenly disappeared.
While most areas exhibit these traits, some areas live by them. Areas that, without technology, would become shells of what they are, as they stand as a testament to what the future looks like.
These are what we call, “smart cities”.
The Idea of a Smart City
Rural living is becoming a thing of the past, with 60% of the population expected to live in cities by 2050. Due to this—and the growing world population—cities must adapt to the growing number of citizens under their wing, and if they do, it’ll be with the Internet of Things.
You may have heard of the Internet of Things (IoT) concerning smart devices, such as Amazon Alexa, but IoT is much more than a device or a consumer trend. With IoT, everything becomes connected. The city can become connected.
A smart city takes IoT and implements it everywhere they can. For example, if there’s a bunch of potholes on your street, you currently have to write letters or make phone calls to your local government for the chance that they’ll fix it. Or, if you’re in a smart city, you can open up an app and report it. This is the goal; that everything can be done through the use of technology.
In a smart city, sanitation would know when certain dumpsters need to be emptied when the sensors tell them, citizens could report issues with the tap of a phone screen technology would be implemented in a way that leads to a better quality of life throughout.
With all the positives that smart cities bring, there doesn’t seem to be any certain negatives. Just like finding out your favorite VPN is offering a coupon; smart cities seem to only bring positives. However, smart cities definitely have their set of negatives, and that’s because you can never be too secure in this day and age. With everything being connected in a smart city, what can you hide?
The Risks of a Smart City
In 2014, video game developer revealed Watch_Dogs, a new IP that puts you in the shoes of a hacker in a world inhabited by smart cities. Every city is run by the operating system ctOS, and as it turns out, ctOS has mountains of data for every inhabitant.
While this is just a video game, the concept of cities and tech companies knowing everything about you is very much real. Smart cities, while the next evolution of cities, present a new risk in the form of privacy.
A recent example of this is Toronto’s smart city project that was planned earlier last year with the help of Google subsidiary Sidewalk Labs.
The project laid low news-wise until data privacy expert Ann Cavoukian resigned due to data and personal information not being deidentified. Once data came through, third-party companies and the government could access all the information.
That project has been put on hold, and so has the concept of smart cities as a whole. A smart city must promise to be transparent about how data will be used, and the use of the data should not have to be hidden.
There are other issues that are introduced in cities run by technology, such as DDoS attacks causing interruptions between systems, man-in-the-middle attacks, a system like a traffic light being hacked, etc., but these will haunt any form of technological evolution and there’s no true way to guarantee invulnerability from these.
However, citizens should be promised that their data will be erased as soon as it’s put in. Why should the government know the specifics of what I’m purchasing or my preferred restaurant? I can’t use a VPN for my credit card or my GPS, so I’m not left with many options in a smart city that don’t rely on trust.
Smart cities won’t be the hallmark of the world for a long time, I’m afraid. Governments and companies have a hard time respecting data privacy now, so I could only imagine what would happen if smart cities became standard.