The concept of smart city seems to encompass a broad range of sociotechnical initiatives, including community-based healthcare, digital electricity, housing affordability and sustainability, next-generation infrastructure, noise pollution, quality of air and water, robotic furniture, transport and mobility, and urban planning. The smart city is not a technology as such, more like an assemblage of technologies.
Within this mix, there is often a sincere attempt to address some serious social and environmental concerns, such as reducing the city's carbon footprint. However, Professor Rob Kitchen notes a tendency towards greenwashing or even ethics washing.
Kitchen also raises concerns about civic paternalism - city authorities and their tech partners knowing what's best for the citizenry.
On the other hand, John Koetsier makes the point that If-We-Don't-Do-It-The-Chinese-Will. This point was also recently made by Jeremy Fleming in his 2021 Vincent Briscoe lecture. (See my post on the Invisibility of Infrastructure.)
Meanwhile, here is a small and possibly unrepresentative sample of Smart City initiatives in the West that have reached the press recently.
- Madrid with IBM
- Portland with Google Sidewalk - cancelled Feb 2021
- San Jose with Intel - pilot programme
- Toronto with Google Sidewalk (Quayside) - cancelled May 2020
Daniel Doctoroff, Why we’re no longer pursuing the Quayside project — and what’s next for Sidewalk Labs (Sidewalk Talk, 7 May 2020)
John Koetsier, 9 Things We Lost When Google Canceled Its Smart Cities Project In Toronto (Forbes, 13 May 2020)
Ryan Mark and Gregory Anya, Ethics of Using Smart City AI and Big Data: The Case of Four Large European Cities (Orbit, Vol 2/2, 2019)
Juan Pedro Tomás, Smart city case study: San Jose, California (Enterprise IOT Insights, 5 October 2017)