Smart Cities

Each and every day, technology seems to expand further and further into every aspect of our lives. Increasingly, things that have never before been computerized are becoming not only technologically advanced but also connected to the internet. Everything from your washing machine to your wristwatch is slowly being turned into a computer as advanced as a laptop, with similar capabilities as well.

Slowly but surely, internet enabled technology is beginning to encroach on every aspect of our lives, connecting us to our environment in an unprecedented way. The term commonly used to describe the phenomenon in which seemingly every technological device being used has wireless capabilities is the internet of things. This internet of things is merely a prelude however, to a world where every aspect of day to day life is monitored through wireless technology. Everything from waste disposal to traffic control systems will soon be a part of this internet of things, leading humanity into a world where science fiction has become a scientific fact. It has already begun in urban areas, which are being called smart cities.

Smart cities take advantage of the increasing prevalence of the internet of things in order to manage each and every aspect of modern life in the most efficient way possible. Using this technology allows both civil servants and ordinary citizens alike to monitor and interact directly with the evolving communities we now live in. Not only do smart cities allow each and every person to interact more closely with their local government and infrastructure, but also they change the way that resources are managed in urban areas.

By integrating communication and information technologies more fully into day to day life, smart cities allow everyone to respond to challenges more quickly and more efficiently than ever before. For example, because traffic is monitored to such a degree, each and every commuter becomes aware of any car accidents almost as soon as they happen. This helps prevent a build-up of traffic and onlookers who may present an obstacle to emergency services and improves the response time of the emergency services as well. 

The main defining characteristic of a smart city or smart community is a type of collective intelligence, where information is transmitted through the use of the now ubiquitous communication technology throughout the city, allowing the people who live there to act together in order to solve problems.

This is expressed in a variety of ways, but three of them have been formally defined and studied. The first is referred to as orchestration intelligence, in which cities create institutions and places for community-based problem solving and collaboration takes place with a defined goal in sight. The second form of intelligence is known commonly as empowerment intelligence, in which there are districts and open platforms being created in order to foster innovation in urban areas, without any real set goal in place. The third is called instrumentation technology, where city infrastructure is “made smart” by using real-time data collection and data analysis technologies in order to improve the quality of life and efficiency.

There are some concerns about the direction that these things are taking us, mostly about privacy and government surveillance. While there are numerous, obvious benefits to smart cities, many people have concerns about the power this new technological age will give to the governments who control this technology.