Sunday, November 25, 2018

The City of the Future Is a Data-Collection Machine (sensors; IoT; data centers etc)

From The Atlantic:

In Toronto, Alphabet, Google’s parent company, hopes to create the sensor-filled metropolis of tomorrow.
In Silicon Valley, to make a device “smart” means to add internet connectivity, allowing it to collect, send, and receive data, often while learning and adapting to user preferences. The technology industry has invested wholesale in the idea that “smart” means better, and so we have smart speakers, smart thermometers, smart baby monitors, smart window shades, and smart sex toys, all perpetually collecting rich user data to send back to company servers.

Soon enough, we’ll have a smart city: Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, is building one “from the internet up,” with help from a series of private-public real-estate partnerships in the downtown Toronto neighborhood Quayside (pronounced Key-side). 

It is not the first smart city—municipalities around the world have adopted smart infrastructure like artificial-intelligence-enabled traffic lights—but it might be the most ambitious. The project’s 200-page wish list of features is astounding. The “vision document” imagines not only the revitalization of a 12-acre plot that has sat largely vacant since its heyday as an industrial port, but its transformation into a micro-city outfitted with smart technologies that will use data to disrupt everything from traffic congestion to health care, housing, zoning regulations, and greenhouse-gas emissions. Long before flying cars, smart sensors won’t just be in our mattresses or our bidets, they’ll be embedded in the walls of our homes and the concrete beneath our feet.

But all those data require mechanisms to collect them, and the march to an “always on” city has drawn an onslaught of accusations against Sidewalk Labs and its real-estate partner, Waterfront Toronto, for dismissing privacy concerns and misinforming residents. In the past month, four people have resigned from Waterfront Toronto’s and Sidewalk Labs’ advisory board over concerns about privacy and lack of public input.

“People have to know that privacy is the default,” said Ann Cavoukian, who served for 16 years as the Ontario information-and-privacy commissioner and who is a professor at Ryerson University, where she leads the Privacy by Design Center for Excellence. “Meaning, they don’t have to ask for privacy; we’re giving it to you automatically.” Until October, Cavoukian was an adviser on the Quayside project, but she resigned after Waterfront Toronto and Sidewalk refused to unilaterally ban participating companies from collecting non-anonymous user data.

Nearly every city-fixing proposal from Sidewalk Labs combines civil engineering with some element of data collection—what the vision document calls “ubiquitous sensing.” Quayside reduces carbon not just via a thermal grid, but by embedding each home and office with Alphabet’s Nest smart thermostats, which use “occupancy sensors” and predictive modeling to autonomously adjust temperatures throughout the day. It mitigates traffic congestion by not only designing a more walkable city, but by employing a series of always-on cameras in public spaces that use computer vision to analyze traffic patterns....MUCH MORE
HT: FT Alphaville's Further Reading post.

Sidewalk Labs Toronto Update: "Google’s smart city dream is turning into a privacy nightmare"

"Are New York’s Free LinkNYC Internet Kiosks Tracking Your Movements?" (GOOG)
Good ideas gone whack-job.
Or, as a hard-bitten, some might say cynical, journo once wrote:

"The Urge to Save Humanity is Almost Always 
Only a False-Face for the Urge to Rule It"
—H.L. Mencken*

"Google Strategy Teardown: Google Is Turning Itself Into An AI Company As It Seeks To Win New Markets Like Cloud And Transportation" (GOOG)

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