Smart cities? Tell it like it is, they're surveillance cities
Lots of lovely data, less of lovely privacy
Opinion A smart city is, inherently, a surveillance city, and citizens' privacy could potentially be the cost of the efficiency gains.
Could it be worth the trade-off?
A mass of sensors and systems monitor a city's infrastructure, operations and activities and aim to help it run more efficiently. For example, the city could use less electricity; its traffic run more smoothly with fewer delays; its citizens use the city with more safety; hazards can be dealt with faster; citizen infractions of rules can be prevented, and the city's infrastructure; power distribution and roads with traffic lights for example, dynamically adjusted to respond to differing circumstances.
These things are good for system administrators in their work and good in the generality, for citizens, who should see their city working better for them.
Meanwhile, in real life...
The Huawei Connect 2017 conference in Shanghai featured cloudy IT everywhere – some of those clouds were anchored over so-called smart cities.
Huawei smart city console
We note Huawei's exhibition showed lots of screens with video camera feeds being analysed and interpreted to show individual vehicles on the roads and individuals on the streets – though we've no way of knowing if the information can actually be joined up in the way envisaged above. For all we know it could have added privacy-protecting failsafes....MUCH MORE
Huawei, among others, has kit that can measure some of these things and cities have administrative structures that can use such information, so, of course, those companies, scenting big revenue opportunities, will be pushing the idea of smart and connected cities. And these cities will operate better for their citizens and administrators. But the city administrator's interests are not necessarily the same as the citizens' interests.
AI-enabled computing can recognise faces and vehicles. What city administration will be able to resist using these technologies to detect citizens infringing rules and regulations; jaywalkers where that is illegal for example; invalid vehicle parking; vehicle speeding; citizens entering prohibited areas; illegal gatherings; crowd control; and so forth....
And February 16's story from FindBiometrics:
The bigger market is all the data that municipal, regional and state governments will be collecting on citizens.Think Internet-of-Things gone wild. Or Sidewalk Labs in Toronto.
But I repeat myself (thanks Mark Twain*).
Here's a January 2018 press release from one of the research shops, ABI Research:
And things are moving pretty fast. Motley Fool had this on April 1:
SoftBank's £23.4 billion ($31.4 billion) purchase of ARM was a major, major deal and not just for the size of the purchase price.
And SoftBank thought the Vision Fund was the perfect place to store their $5 billion piece of NVIDIA.
*- Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself. –Mark Twain.
Smart City Report: Sidewalk Labs and Data In Toronto (GOOG)
"Nvidia's Slightly Terrifying Metropolis Platform Paves the Way for Smarter Cities" (NVDA)
Although this article is 11 months old it is a good introduction to one piece of what we were foreshadowing with Tuesday's "NVIDIA Wants to Be the Brains Behind the Surveillance State (NVDA)". In fact the camera surveillance integration AI is only one part of the Metropolis platform which is itself only one part of what the rest of NVIDIA's offerings will consist of....April 3
UPDATED—NVIDIA Wants to Be the Brains Behind the Surveillance State (NVDA)
The company just rolled out a $399,000 two-petaflop supercomputer that every little totalitarian and his brother is going to lust after to run their
surveillance-citysmart-city data slurping dreams.
The coming municipal data centers will end up matching the NSA in total storage capacity and NVIDIA wants to be the one sifting through it all. More on this down the road, for now here's the beast....