Who Should Manage the Automated City?

As cities increasingly turn to automated systems to maximize cost and efficiency, Will Doig asks who should man the controls.
April 23, 2012, 7am PDT | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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As cities and technology companies increase their efforts to gather, analyze, and utilize the data inherent in "a trillion connected and instrumented things", from cars and appliances to roadways and pipelines, Doig sees the smart-city movement at a major crossroads.

Along one path is a model of top-down control being pursued by technology companies such as IBM and Cisco who are "going all-in on smart cities, with designs that supposedly do everything from end traffic jams to prevent disease outbreaks to eliminate litter...Indeed, the goal of these companies is not just to participate in the evolution of smart cities, but to connect and control virtually everything with massive operating systems that will run these cities in their entirety."

Another path utilizes the bottom-up and open source potential of "maximizing the urban interface" amongst citizens their governments. Such an approach is reflected in technologies like SeeClickFix, "an online platform that lets people report local infrastructure problems, from leaky hydrants to dangerous intersections."

Although Doig asks which of these futures smart cities should shoot for, there are clearly advantages and challenges to each, and both are likely to guide the ways our cities work in the coming decades.

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Published on Monday, April 23, 2012 in Salon.com
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