Smart Technology being integrated into our cities covers all sectors that are crucial to the running of everyday life, whether this covers energy, privacy, governmental running or traffic issues such as smart parking meters and smart car parks. In order for these technologies to run effectively they require a lot of data to be collected and analysed through emerging methods such as artificial technology.
Although in the end the information extracted from this data is going to be beneficial universally, some concerns have arisen as to how this data is going to be responsibly managed and how the privacy of our data is to be respected and upheld. Today we’re going to look at some of the concerns that have been brought up and how we can manage these concerns.
What are the concerns that have been brought up?
A lot of the data that is collected to help with smart city technologies is related to transport. Whether this is a self-driving vehicle picking up data that makes it more effective in learning about its environments and certain hazards, to monitoring how much traffic is going through a city and how many parking spaces are taken up. These are just some of the concerns that have been brought up: –
- The reliance on technology – as with the wider world in general the increasing reliance on technology does make our day to day lives easier however, if this technology were to fail for any reason, this would bring everything to a halt. That is exactly what happened in San Francisco in 2013 when a software bug hit the centralised computer system of the subway and shut down the entire subway network essentially trapping some commuters underground. In 2006 in Los Angeles another incident happened where two traffic engineers hacked the traffic management system creating a gridlock that went on for over a week.
- Use of our private information – another major privacy concern was how the data being collected about us was going to be used. This became an even bigger concern with the introduction of smartphones that have GPS technology – many smart parking applications will track your real-time GPS location in order to find you the most convenient parking space to you. Now that’s all well and good but over the course of a couple of years they can find out where you go to each week, how long you spend there, and it is this information that is collected on a personal level that concerns people.
- Artificial intelligence – As we have already touched on, the introduction of analytical software such as AI is vital in understanding the vast amounts of data that are collected in order to develop efficient smart technologies within cities. However, as we expand technology in our cities further and wider people are concerned that this could start to monitor all different aspects of our lives that some may perceive to be totally unnecessary.
How can these concerns be managed?
The best way to alleviate these concerns and to effectively manage the data being collected through these smart city technologies is through a strict set of regulations that prevent the abuse of anyone in a position of power to access this data; and also, to have a framework to assess which types of data are required and which aren’t. These can be broken down into three simple steps: –
- What kinds of data needs to be collected?
- What is the purpose of collecting this data and is it relevant, beneficial and ethical?
- Who is collecting this data and are they properly trained and aware of governmental regulations and privacy concerns?
In relation to smart parking systems in city centres we need to closely look at the smartphone application. Yes, it will need to collect GPS data in order to effectively suggest the nearest convenient parking spot to you, and it also needs to be on all day to mark when you’ve arrived and left so that it can show the parking spot as vacant for the next person. But outside of this is the GPS location still to be collected by the application? And finally, the data that is being collected by the application how is this going to be used?
There are two ways to look at how it is being used, the responsible way would be to store the data short term so that you can simply tell when a car parking spot is available, however, storing the data long term can provide vast data sets to which insights can be made as to which are the most popular parking spots in town and during what times of the day. From this information additional car parks could be built if needed in areas that are high in demand but lack car parking spaces.
The concerns that the public has in regards to privacy and how data is going to be governed going forward with the evolution of smart technology is totally understandable. The vast amounts of data being collected can as we’ve mentioned give us valuable insights going forward to make dramatic improvements to the running of our smart cities however this data can also become quite invasive if it is looked at on a personal level as opposed to a city-wide level.
As suggested, a central privacy framework needs to be established to dictate what types of data are being collected, for what purpose and who exactly will be collecting this data and how will it be managed. Once all of these questions have been answered only then can some of the concerns that have been brought up in recent years regarding privacy concerns start to be alleviated allowing for the data to be sensibly used and the general public to have peace of mind that the data is being used for the greater good and the benefit of all those working and residing within the smart city parameters.