“Arthur C Clarke articulated a vision of the future where… new telecommunications technologies played a crucial role in London’s success” (Townsend, 2013. P6). The use of telecommunications and machines are everywhere they automatically engage in our lives as they blend into the background and we rarely give them a second thought. In essence this is the smart city. The development of the wireless network has seen its growth out strip that of fixed technology. Wireless technology seems to make our lives easier as cited by the catapult future cities website. Whether through communication or accessibility many of us have “at least two additional things connected to the internet” (Townsend, 2013. P3).
However, while we use the convenience of the wireless technology everyday we rarely think about the data gathering process that allows those who own the technology to gather information of our movements, from purchases to who we communicate with and how we move around the city. An immediate example I can think of is that in my place of work every staff member and student has to swipe in and out to enter the college premises. While this seems like a clear development of the clocking in and out machines mainly used in factory environments during the 20th century, technology has allowed the employer to go one step further. The college has just occupied a new building. While I joked with my peers last week about there being no hiding place in the new build made of nice shinny glass it also dawned on us that as staff members our location could also be tracked in the new build as we have to swipe in to every room we use. Yes it is a cool idea that I no longer have to carry a heavy bunch of keys with me to access a classroom or an office but how much of this design was put in place because of this convenience and how much of it had a big brother element to it? This data gathering activity has been a highlight of IBM’s Think Academy smart city on a smaller scale, gathering data of this kind will allow senior managers to monitor how often rooms are being used in the new build with a thermostat control in each room it could also let them know what temperature we like to work at and if we look further one has ask whether the computer network is connected to the system and how much monitoring of the system is connected to the swipe of a card and our computer login?
As technology develops the nature of our society changes as we grow into this new era of the smart city we need to ask, “what do we want a smart city to be?” (Townsend, 2013. P15).
Catapult, F.C. (2017) Home – future cities catapult. Available at: http://futurecities.catapult.org.uk/ (Accessed: 13 February 2017).
Hight, C. (2012) ‘Book review: Understanding digital CultureMillerVincent, understanding digital culture, sage, London, 2011, ISBN 9 7818 4787 4979, 254 pp., £21.99. Distributor: Footprint’, Media International Australia, 145(1), pp. 171–172. doi: 10.1177/1329878×1214500133.
IBM Think Academy (2014) How it works: Smarter cities. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yJVK25wWvbE (Accessed: 13 February 2017).
Townsend, A.M. (2013) Smart cities: Big data, civic hackers, and the quest for a new utopia. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company.