Anatomy of a Smart City (Part II)

This article represents part II of "Anatomy of a Smart City," which comprises one of the chapters of our ongoing series on privacy in smart cities. This installment describes the verticals that make up a smart city and discusses how they might impact (and be impacted by) privacy.

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A city skyline
Illustration: © IoT For All

This post continues where the last left off: Anatomy of a Smart City (Part I).

Work, Transportation and Buildings

Working and doing business in a smart city should be about creating opportunities for business and better working conditions. However, in concurrence with the shift to smarter cities, the whole area of work is changing. Robotics and automation are going to cause a shift in the type of work we do. Jobs across the skill spectrum will be disrupted. For example, at the time of writing, fast food chain, McDonald’s, replaced 2,500 workers with self-service kiosks. And the first Amazon Go shop has just opened in Seattle which negates the need for a human shop assistant altogether. PWC is predicting that around 30 percent of UK jobs will be affected by robotics. Coupled with this, remote working is increasing. The World Economic Forum has looked into the trends in employment as Industry 4.0 continues, and roles such as data scientists and engineering specialties such as nanotech and robotics will blossom. So too will communication-based skills like intergovernmental relations and policy creation.

Whatever job an individual does, if they interact with a smart city, either remotely, or directly, they will have the power of smart.

Getting to Work and Moving Goods

Smart transport is an integral part of the smart city. Optimization of transport and reduction in pollution are two of the key goals that can make a city smart. Smart parking, transport management, congestion control and improved access are just some of the goals of an optimized transport system. Modern cities are struggling with transport. New York governor Andrew Cuomo described the summer of 2017 as being “the summer of hell” and declared a state of emergency at the Metropolitan Transit Authority in terms of transportation issues for the city. New York transports around nine million people a day in and out of the city. New York is not alone; many of the world’s cities are at breaking point with their transport systems, many of which are old and not built for the types of capacity needed with the growing population.

Smart systems of transport offer hope for this problem. Smart transport connects up all of the components of the transport system. The integration of technologies such as smart vehicles, advanced sensing systems, video vehicle surveillance and radio frequency identification traffic light systems are used to manage and control traffic. To do so effectively, the city needs to know our every move.

Being at Work

Once you get to work, the smart building will open its smart doors and welcome you into its comfortable cradle of work. In a survey by WorkTech Academy on the types of facilities people expect in a smart office, features such as automated control of temperature and circadian lighting system came out on top. Smart buildings are already being designed and built.

The smart building is a microcosm of the smart city. It can be thought of as its own “Building Internet of Things,” each aspect of building life connected to the next to optimize its usage and interaction with its human occupants. To achieve the type of smartness, each aspect of the building infrastructure is connected and able to apply data analytics to its everyday workings. The human occupants are also connected to the smart building. The old days where a worker would “clock in and out” are long gone. The smart building knows not only when you are in it, but where you are at any given time. It knows if you take your coffee black. It knows when you take a toilet break. It may even use your Fitbit data to check out if you need to start using the stairs more than the elevator.

Being Disabled in the Smart City

According to The World Bank, 15 percent of the world’s population have some form of disability. Smart cities offer a perfect opportunity to make services accessible for all citizens, as long as these data are available and analyzed.

Infrastructure

All of this connectivity, data transfer and analysis can’t work using magic. There has to be a robust and effective infrastructure underlying the smart city. The smart city is built upon data. Data is collected from a myriad of devices and sensors, such as the Internet of Things (IoT) devices, video/drone surveillance, smart grids, other sensors, virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) devices, etc. And the collected data is often aggregated to give a wider spectrum view of the city, its peoples and its services. The Smart Cities in China report describes the infrastructure needs of the smart city as being “four everywhere” which equates to:“sense everywhere, connect everywhere, data everywhere and service everywhere”

Data collection and aggregation are like a beating heart of the smart city, the privacy impact of which we will explore later.

Environment

The World Health Organization (WHO) 2015 study into the biggest global causes of death, showed that health issues such as heart disease, stroke and lung diseases were of most concern. And in 2015, a new cause of death entered the top ten in 2015, road traffic accidents. In a further report by the WHO into sustainable cities, they cited this earlier report and set out that most of the top ten global killers could be prevented using good urban planning and policies. The report noted that many of the diseases were a direct result of poor air or water quality. In addition, the United Nations found that in 2015, cities were consuming 75 percent of the Earth’s resources and creating 80 percent of the greenhouse gas emissions.

Worth noting is that as mentioned in previous posts, our Neolithic ancestors who moved into settlements perhaps had similar ecological drivers as we do today.

One of the most powerful aspects of a smart city is the attendance of environmental control. Enerdata’s global energy analysis shows that energy consumption is steadily increasing, as you would expect with an increasing population. Smart energy gives us hope for a more controlled use of energy as our population soars. But not without a lot of data sharing…

Smart water allows the city to gather data on the usage patterns, flow, pressure and pollutants within the water infrastructure of the city. Water management is a crucial and critical infrastructure problem for any city, not just in smart cities. In the smart city, data analysis will provide the information needed to more effectively manage our utilities.

Increasingly, we are also seeing water-based climate challenges, such as flooding or drought. Smart cities need to have in-built resilience to natural events such as monsoons, snowfall and hurricanes, using data to more closely control the city’s water and sewage management systems. Examples like Chicago’s use of City Digital which uses underground sensors to measure rainfall and storm runoff are likely to be used as templates for smart city management of water.

Economy

Cities are drivers of economic growth. According to “The New Climate Economy” cities produce 85 percent of the world’s GDP; the smart city encapsulates the use of innovation and technology to build resilient economies and take this to a new level. The Smart Cities Council believes that investment in smart infrastructure will result in prosperity for everyone. The challenges of over-population such as pollution can be overcome using smart approaches which feed into general improvements in the economy. Investments into smart utilities also have a positive impact on the economy through efficiency of use as well as being able to respond quickly to natural disasters such as hurricanes. A paper by Kumar, et.al. laid out the building blocks of the smart city system which include a “smart economy.” According to the paper, the smart economy is composed of a number of components which include, “enlightened entrepreneurial leadership, strategic investments on its strategic assets, highly values creativity and welcomes new ideas.”

The economy then, is intrinsically linked to the activities of the smart citizen and applying the science of data.

Smart City Government

Ultimately, smart cities require smart governance to allow the component parts to work well. According to the Smart Cities Council, there are four key requisites for good smart city governance:

  • Strong executive leadership
  • Stakeholder involvement
  • Governance
  • Integration

Each of these being based upon the management of the data needed to make the smart city tick. Smart data and smart governance are intrinsically linked. And this series will explore how the governance of these data needs to be based upon the respect for personal data, no matter what form that takes.

With Eyes Wide Shut

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away — Philip K. Dick

The smart city feels part of a long tradition amongst human beings of creating places of settlement where we could live and work together. It is a natural progression of the latter part of the 20th and 21st century to build our new cities on the foundation stone of technology. Technology is our hope for solving the world’s population explosion and the increasing urbanization of our citizens. But technology needs food to make it work, and in the case of the smart city, this food is data. In taking the smart city forward, we need to not lose sight of that most precious of human rights, privacy. Just because we think privacy doesn’t matter doesn’t mean to say we are right.

This has been the first part of my work on privacy and smart cities. In the next section, I will look more closely at the drivers behind the evolution of our smart cities, what factors play a part in the building of a connected smart city system and what the privacy implications are within those factors, and why personal privacy needs to become a factor in smart city development.