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2018 as a year of Smart City skepticism

Despite the rapid progress of Smart City solutions, 2018 was a year of Smart City skepticism, caused by a number of incidents with safety and data privacy. This, however, does not reduce the vast potential of the Smart City concept. It simply means that more care should be taken in 2019.

The alarming incidents, such as Facebook’ s data privacy revelations, the concerns over data use in the Sidewalk Labs project in Toronto, or Uber’ s self-driving car killing a pedestrian on a brightly lit road in Arizona, cause skepticism about private tech giants’ declared intentions to prioritize public good.

Of course, this does not mean that the blame lays solely at the companies themselves. Officials in many cities seem to struggle with the task of working with or regulating private actors with safety, environmental efficiency, and transparency in mind. This is especially true about the US, where “the framework for shielding citizens from unwanted data use and exposure is patchy at best, weak compared to the EU’ s new sweeping GDPR laws.’

The Smart City concept was essentially born during the last recession, when IT giants approached cash-strapped municipal or regional authorities, promising faster, more efficient and -most importantly- cheaper ways to run electricity, water and transportation system thanks to data driven “insights’. The rapid growth of Smart City technologies and solutions has shown that these promises have great potential, although they can come at a great cost.

It should come as no surprise that, even with good intentions, private tech companies tend to prioritize growth and profit over the presumed interest of the public. This, after all, is the reason for the existence and their fundamental nature. It is up to the cities themselves to upgrade with care and regulate Smart City initiative meticulously in order to protect their citizens while they enjoy the benefits of cutting-edge technology. This should be the message for 2019.

The original article can be found on CITYLAB.