Downsides and problems of Smart Cities
The growing need to augment and automate a wide range of legacy productivity, distribution and consumption platforms has driven the establishment of ‘Smart Cities’ globally. These smart cities can be new cities or new communities within existing cities. They are also needed because of the fast population growth and urbanization. Now is the perfect time for cities and government to replace outmoded and inefficient platforms and develop, test and implement new technologies.
BMI’s ICT research team notices that there have been a lot of Smart City projects going on in the last couple of year. These projects are mostly in Asia and in the Middle east and new economic and business hubs are being forged in countries as diverse as South Africa, Brazil, China and the UAE. The cities that are trying to become Smart Cities are contracting leading telecom and technology companies such as Cisco Systems, Nokia Siemens Network and Huawei Technologies. They need to develop new internet-friendly infrastructures that fit perfectly in the Smart Cities. Public and provate sector businesses will also contribute to the development of Smart Cities because they want to be fairly represented.
A downside of the development of Smart Cities is that they can be used as political tools, useful to win votes. And they can also be used as early casualties of financing squeezes despite the potential economic growth contribution.
Another problem is that there is no system that has the technological consistency and compatibility needed to create this Smart Cities. The projects that have been carried out to date are mostly created by national or local government and public or private sector agencies, each with their own agenda and biases. So there is a huge lack of technological consistency and compatibility.
So since there is no standard in place, the need is here to create some sort of super system. But technology providers have different views on how to implement these super-systems. This can create problems since this means that Smart Cities will emerge while being incapable of supporting even the simplest new innovation technologies.
It is hoped that the Smart Cities Europe 2012 summits will help deal with these issues. BMI believes that the broad agenda set out by key players means that everyone is starting to understand the importance of fully integrating future-proof infrastructure into new cities. Technology and application developments in real-life hothouses will lead to similar solutions that can be applied to existing cities. This will lessen the deleterious effect of peak demand on transportation, energy generation and consumption, etc. An example of this is the smart traffic systems created in Asia. These helped the development of Transport for London’s iBus system.
So they are on the right way to solve the problems facing Smart Cities, but they also need to think about data privacy, since this is now being treated as an after-thought. Everybody seems to be thinking it is somebody else’s problem, but it affects several people. Since the majority of the systems will probably be routinely deeply interconnected into the future, a simple virus could shut down the national grid, crash aircrafts or send nuclear reactors critical information. So it is very important to think about the risks that are associated with Smart cities.