We are pretty sure we will also love data-meets-cities.
So-called smart cities have been a thing for years now, but most of the successes have not been visible to the public. Most smart city benefits have been in infrastructure: sensors that measure and optimize energy usage, real-time adaptive systems that manage traffic, better data collection for air quality and weather. But we can see how retrofitting around massive legacy systems must be frustrating: the product of new construction is almost always more efficient than renovation.Enter the visionaries with deep pockets, namely Google and Bill Gates, who are developing greenfield approaches to smart city development. It’s tempting to buy in, figuratively, at least. After all, we want cities that run well—low impact on the environment, well-oiled transportation infrastructure, affordable housing—and it’s exciting when we see innovations like LinkNYC changing the urban landscape around us. But is there a cost beyond the economic investment in innovation?
Why make cities smarter? Because all those little inconveniences of city life add up to a huge impact on the nation’s prosperity. In this story, experts from a range of disciplines lay out the risks that cities face. Some seem obvious: problems of income inequality and a lack of middle class families; others are more obscure, like the dangers of unequal access to urban broadband. What’s clear across all of them: the way cities run is a glaring indicator of how our country runs, too.
The Quay to the City
The future is here, people. Google is building a city. It’s going to be a pre-planned, data-driven community in Canada called Quayside. Proponents believe it will be more successful than other designed cities because it will be driven by real human behavior rather than philosophic or architectural theories. A quick Google search for the plot of any dystopian novel should reassure us that nothing could possibly go wrong.
It turns out that Google isn’t the only internet behemoth to venture into real-world cities. Bill Gates also has plans for a small city in Arizona. This development, the prosaically named Belmont, does not yet have a power-on date, but it will be built around a high-speed communications infrastructure and optimized for driverless cars.
Beyond the logistical nightmare of constructing a working city, there is also, of course, the problem of privacy. Today, cities like Barcelona and London are experimenting with real-time data that can take advantage of specific, personal knowledge. This could open up millions of people to hacking as well as upset the balance of knowledge between powerful corporations or government institutions and normal people. The good news: at least the internet makes it a lot harder to burn all the books.
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