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Video Game: The Dark Side of the Smart City

The so-called “smart city” of the very near future can have centralized controls to send power where it’ s needed, adjust street light timing for optimal traffic flow, and provide city operators with all the information they’ll need to keep the city moving along smoothly and safely. This might happen in an ideal world.

In a less-than ideal world, that centralized network can collect information about city residents for the benefit of private companies, and the entire system will be vulnerable to hackers with intentions both sinister and deadly.

It is this less-than ideal world that’s the setting of a soon-to-release video game set in Chicago that imagines a dystopic near future where the controls of the smart city are hacked and can be used for both good and bad. Announced by maker Ubisoft this week at the Electronic Entertainment Expo video game conference, the premise of “Watch Dogs” springboards off the Northeast blackout of 2003 ‘“ a real-life multi-state power outage that left millions in the dark.

A promotional video invents a backstory, claiming it was caused by a disgruntled power utility employee’s nefarious computer virus. This, the video suggests, is just the beginning of what can go wrong in an increasingly networked urban environment. Computer controls have led to what the game calls “central operating systems” ‘“ the “smart city” systems major high tech corporations are now marketing to cities all over the world. In the game, these systems provide centralized control over the infrastructure of the city. “A computer now controls a major city,” says the narrator of one of the game’s promotional videos. “But who controls the computer?”

Watch the Introduction Trailer

The protagonist of this game is one of the hackers who’s been able to take control of the smart city.

Watch an excerpt of the video game

Source: The original article by Nate Berg of the Atlantic Cities here.