Tag Archives: smartcities

On smarter cities/better cities and the death of certain visions of the city

I am a fan of smarter cities. I was actually part of a group of technologists from IBM who wrote a detailed guide on how to design well performing systems for smarter cities. I was hopeful at the time that we could help governments make lives better for their citizens by using technologies wisely.

I think that is key: the technologies should help governments, not restrict them; the technologies should make the lives of citizens better, not worse. That key idea is what I thought of when I read this piece, Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever in MIT Technology Review. I don’t think Google had that as their key idea: if they did, they didn’t communicate it effectively. As a result, their vision of the future died, at least in Toronto.

Another vision of the cities that is dying is the suburban office park. There are many of them on the outskirts of places everywhere. The story of this one in particular is likely true for any park you encounter as you drive on the edge of a city like Toronto: Lonely Last Days in the Suburban Office Park – The New York Times.

As for other visions of future, WeWork is still hanging on in major cities. Perhaps that vision — of young professionals living and working in the downtown core –will endure for a while. To read publications like BlogTO, you would think so. We shall see.


Is it okay for a city to track … and other thoughts

This: Is it okay for a city to track what’s in your poop? – Macleans.ca, is a provocative question that headlines a good article.

Now for most people, the answer would be a loud “no!”.  But as you can see in the article, smarter cities lead to municipal governments gathering more information about you. Certainly in the case of smart meters, the government agency can tell alot about you just from when you use power. Digital technology and the need to better manage government resources can lead to further tracking, including to what is in your waste water. Expect to see more such tracking in the future.

Ideally for any information being gathered about you, there would be strict control over who has access to the information and what they can do with it. As well, there would be some accountability with regards to that information. I would expect there is a mixed record for much of that information, but the fact that I can only speculate tells me there is more work to be done with regards to accountability.

Read the article. It helps to be informed about such tracking so you can know how you can be tracked and how you can ask questions about such tracking to government officials and elected politicians.