Smart Cities should not come at the price of our privacy and individual choice

  • Julie Snell
  • 05 September 2018
  • Posted in: Science & Technology, Planning & Development

Over the last few years, we have seen significant research, development and trials in the Smart City arena with some reaching live implementation. Apart from a relatively small number of exceptions, we are still to achieve significant scale and roll out of solutions that are really changing citizens lives at the grass roots level.

We have learnt so much about how technology can help us make a step change in the way we provide city services, protect and improve people’s lives, but we continue to come up against hurdles that are slowing down and even preventing scale. Data and how we obtain it and how we use it has not traditionally been centre stage of these trials, as a result so many exciting and promising opportunities are yet to achieve scale.

The next stage of smart city evolution really needs to focus on the core issues that as a democracy we have been used to observing and take as a given: personal choice and the right to privacy.

Every smart city project means we are gathering more and often new streams of data. We are now blending this data and getting better information with which to make decisions. So, we need to ask ourselves, have we considered and gained the correct permissions? Have we given people the choice to share their data with us? This goes so much deeper than GDPR.

We have the arrival of a fast-growing number of IoT devices that are gathering and transmitting data, have we made sure this is captured and used responsibly?

Here in Bristol, we are taking this to the heart of our smart city evolution. We are moving forward with a strategy that will enable us to scale our smart city solutions responsibility.

We have adapted and expanded the way we manage our smart city initiatives. Our projects are now engaging with a much wider research and development skillset, especially from our academic partners in the legal research and ethical studies areas who will work alongside our technical development and business analytics teams.

We start with our people and make sure we are focused on real problems that need addressing, for example, healthcare, communities, social inclusion, economic growth and we will deliver them responsibly utilising a mix of technology, process modification, policy review and behavioural change in collaboration with our partners across the city.

This means we need to look at the end to end case. Clearly there is the core budget and business case that underlines the reasons, i.e. where are we at the start of the project, what are our costs of failures etc. Our step change is ensuring the in-depth study of the legal, ethical and policy issues.

To make our cities prosperous and inclusive where everyone is proud to live and respected, we have to protect our individual right to make our own decisions. To do this, we must all consider this as core to each smart city initiative.

  • smart
  • smart cities
  • Article Author

About Julie Snell

Julie Snell is the Managing Director for Bristol is Open, a joint venture between University of Bristol and Bristol City Council developing an open programmable city. Julie has 16 years' experience in the telecoms industry, including the early technology start-up of the UK Mobile and Wi-Fi, where she was part of the BT Openzone Public Wi-Fi leaders…