Deep Dive: The human hurdles to smart cities
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."
- Cities are the new data guzzlers
- Cities are writing privacy policies
- The generational gap in surveillance technologies
- The spotty 5G rollout
- The cities no one can afford to live in
- Scooters, cities clash over rider data
- Making cars pay to drive on the roads
- Take-offs and drive-offs
- The race to become "smart cities"
- 3 pictures that explain smart cities