Things that caught our eye

Smart Cities – Exclusionary by Default?!

14 Jan , 2015  | by:

I’ve been interested in the concept of Smart Cities for two reasons: For one, part of my dissertation is based on the assumption that Smart Cities are the way governments in the near future are going to want to go. If that happens, government bodies will be collecting more and more data from civilians, thus, posing a threat to data protection. Secondly, because I think Smart Cities could entail great opportunities for us to live in a sustainable community, if regulated appropriately. But one problem remains:

“The smart city is full of barriers. First you must be able to connect to the network. Then you must show your credentials by logging in. It’s like showing your passport to take a walk in the park.”, as Dr. Anthony Townsend points out.

Much like inequality, usually people look to the legilsator to solve issues such as exclusion. But I am a strong defender of the idea that if everything we do, think, use, buy, eat and so on, is connected (“Internet of Things“), then the way to solve problems arising with this network of everything is not just to take a regulatory approach. We need interdisciplinary solutions.

Townsend’s presentation, he held as part of Delft University of Technology’s 173rd Dies Natalis, was titled: “Can engineers build inclusive Smart Cities?” and his answer was: YES. He showed three approaches which could help solve the exclusionary concerns Smart Cities entail. Therefore, providing three areas that could be improved by engineers without any help of the legislator:

  1. Open Information Architectures: “We need to make data architectures open to drive innovation. Modularity and inter-operability are key — so that anyone can build new applications on top of at little or not cost.”
  2. Transparent and Interpretable Models: “By transparent, I mean that the assumptions embedded in simulations and predictive models, automated infrastructure, and decision-support systems are open to public scrutiny. By interpretable, I mean that machine learning techniques have advanced to such a state that the way they produce results is beyond human understanding.”
  3. Engineering Ethics Education: “Ethics is only just taking hold in engineering and business schools — in the United States, the latest accreditation guidelines for engineering schools — for the first time — requires students receive merely ‘an understanding of professional and ethical responsibility’.”

I will leave you with that and hope to have given you some food for thought. Enjoy Townsend’s full presentation and others on Smart Cities here.

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