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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

It turns out that one of the biggest hurdles to the dream of hyperconnected "smart cities" isn't technology — it's humans.

The big picture: Making cities smarter is more of a business model and governance challenge than a technological one.

  • Aligning the interests of everyone involved — city councils, residents, telecom firms, utilities, app developers — is often a political quagmire.
  • And discussions are happening with the backdrop of increased skepticism of big tech companies — many of which are trying to sell tools to cities.

A foremost pain point is who controls the data generated by millions of sensors and cameras.

  • "The last thing we want is a smart city of surveillance. Freedom goes out the door," says Ann Cavoukian, former information and privacy commissioner for Ontario, Canada, and a city privacy expert at Ryerson University.

Rising housing prices are another hurdle. Some of the largest and most expensive metro areas — such as New York, Seattle and Los Angeles — have been among the most hospitable to smart city discussions. But Americans are finding it harder to afford these areas in the first place.

  • Mid-sized cities — such as Columbus, Kansas City and Phoenix — are harnessing smart city projects to attract attract workers and the startups and big companies that want to employ them.

The smart city movement is driven in part by tech-savvy millennials who have different expectations for their communities.

  • But for many cities, managing homelessness, hiring teachers and fixing crumbling highways will have to come before developing a smart parking app.

"Younger generations are more demanding of their leaders," said Sameer Sharma, who oversees Intel's smart cities initiatives. "They want governments to be more responsive."

Go deeper:

Go deeper

House passes $1.9 trillion COVID relief package

Photo: Screenshot via C-SPAN

The House approved President Biden's $1.9 trillion COVID relief package on a 219-212 vote early Saturday morning, sending it to the Senate for a possible rewrite before it gets to Biden's desk.

The big picture: The vote was a critical first step for the package, which includes $1,400 cash payments for many Americans, a national vaccination program, ramped-up COVID testing and contact tracing, state and local funding and money to help schools reopen.

10 hours ago - Health

Biden says it's "not the time to relax" after touring vaccination site

President Biden speaking after visiting a FEMA Covid-19 vaccination facility in Houston on Feb. 26. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden said Friday that "it's not the time to relax" coronavirus mitigation efforts and warned that the number of cases and hospitalizations could rise again as new variants of the virus emerge.

Why it matters: Biden, who made the remarks after touring a vaccination site in Houston, echoed CDC director Rochelle Walensky, who said earlier on Friday that while the U.S. has seen a recent drop in cases and hospitalizations, "these declines follow the highest peak we have experienced in the pandemic."

Updated 11 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Coronavirus dashboard

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

  1. Health: Most COVID-19 survivors can weather risk of reinfection, study says — "Twindemic" averted as flu reports plummet amid coronavirus crisis
  2. Vaccine: FDA advisory panel endorses J&J COVID vaccine for emergency use — About 20% of U.S. adults have received first vaccine dose, White House says — New data reignites the debate over coronavirus vaccine strategy.
  3. Economy: What's really going on with the labor market.
  4. Local: All adult Minnesotans will likely be eligible for COVID-19 vaccine by summer — Another wealthy Florida community receives special access to COVID-19 vaccine.
  5. Sports: Poll weighs impact of athlete vaccination.