The Modern Smart City Comes of Age

As smart cities dawn on the horizon, and we stride headfirst into a new era of urbanization and industry, we should learn lessons from the first industrial revolution about privacy and space allocation.

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Illustration: © IoT For All

This post picks up where my last left off: From Neolithic Privacy to Smart City Privacy.

The industrial revolution began in 18th century Britain. It caused a massive change in society that quickly moved outside of the British Isles. The revolution saw changes that touched across technology, society and the economy.

If data is to be the food of the smart city, energy was the food of the post-industrial revolution city. New energy sources created the means to develop new technologies such as machines like the “Spinning Jenny,” which revolutionized the textile industry. The industrial revolution was an outcome of the modern agricultural revolution, and distinct from its predecessors, that I have already discussed in my first post.

This industrial revolution, which began around 1750 in Britain, was based on technological advances and political changes; the outcome was increased food which increased population. Both revolutions are multi-faceted and complex, but they prompted societal changes, including increasing available money to buy manufactured goods, increased productivity, and ultimately a movement from rural to more urban living.

Between 1750 and 1830, the population of Britain doubled and the population was redistributed into urban areas where people could work en masse in the factories; that in turn, produced even more technology and products.

We are seeing history repeat itself today in the guise of Industry 4.0 or the ‘fourth industrial revolution’. This revolution in industry and manufacturing is part of the digital revolution that has touched much of our planet. The movement of new technologies, like automation and robotics, for example, is a natural one. Automation increases efficiency and gets things done more quickly. Automation is certainly not new in industry, as the inventors of the Spinning Jenny would attest. But these new technologies are upping the ante, opening a path towards innovation and optimization of productivity for all industry sectors like never seen before.

It’s inevitable that we would turn to technology to push our industrial capabilities onwards and upwards. And, Industry 4.0 is hanging onto the shirt tails of our connected world. A number of variables are creating the perfect storm for manufacturing and industry to morph into its next stage of development. The Internet of Things (IoT) mixed with improvements in efficiency and decreased costs of sensors, as well as robotics and AI, are creating a perfect storm of developments to create a new era in manufacturing.

The Spinning Jenny gave us the first truly industrial world, which has spawned a great, great grandchild in the form of interconnected machines that talk to each other and use machine learning and big data for improved automation. Alongside this, the collective psyche has viewed future living as a goal for society for decades. Hyperconnectivity, coupled with efficiency of processing, can make this ‘dream city of the future’, now a reality.

As we walk headlong into ever-increasing urbanization with interconnected industrial processes paving our way, is it possible to maintain the privacy that is inherent in our societies and settlements of the past? Or, will we make the same mistakes as Britain did when the workers moved into those cities of the first industrial revolution? Cities whereoften a single room was home to a family of five or six, who might even take in ‘lodgers’, to share the cost.

Instead, we must look at how to make sure that this fourth industrial revolution doesn’t tax disproportionately the residents of these new smart cities.

The next installment in my series on smart city privacy and its origins will be “Anatomy of a Smart City.” Stay tuned.

Susan Morrow
Having worked in cybersecurity, identity, and data privacy for around 25 years, Susan has seen technology come and go; but one thing is constant - human behaviour. She works to bring technology and humans together.