Smart Cities Require IoT Data to Boost Efficiency, Sustainability

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2015-09-14 Print this article Print
Smart Cities

The job of delivering the data for the smart city is part of what's behind Bechtel's role in the Smart Cities initiative, which is headlined by the Smart Cities Week taking place in Washington. This is the first time that Smart Cities Week is taking place in the United States. Previous conferences have all taken place in European cities due to the belief by many that cities in the U.S. were less interested in efficiency.

Whether that belief is well-founded or not, Bechtel and its partners, which consist of a Who's Who of global corporations, brought the conference to Washington. Smart Cities Week is put on by the Smart Cities Council, the chairman of which is former PC Week editor Jesse Berst.

The idea behind making a smart city work is to find out what parts of the city work best, and encouraging people to use those parts. The way to find out what works is to instrument as much as possible and that means monitoring devices that play a role in efficiency. And yes, that means an even greater expansion of the Internet of things (IoT) than we're already seeing.

"The downside is that you have to enter into the conversation of privacy concerns," Kimball said. Adding to the complexity, there are cultural differences relating to privacy, including how much sharing of what type of information is acceptable to people. For example, some people may object to the reporting of how much water you use for your shower and some may not.

Kimball said that, in general, people tend to accept some loss of privacy in data sharing when it helps public safety or an improvement in services, especially if there's a way to prevent misuse of the data. But there's still the question that has to be dealt with, "How do you deal with the Big Brother stigma," he said.

Right now, Bechtel is involved with the planning and construction of some of those major smart city projects, including the Dubai 2020 and the Mall of the World, also in Dubai. It's worth noting that the builders of the Mall of the World say that they're not building a shopping mall, but instead are building a city. Perhaps this vast mall in the dessert will be the world first real Smart City.

But whether it's a vast complex centered around a mall, or a newly built city, or an ancient city such as London or Barcelona, both of which are on lists of cities that are well on their way to becoming smart cities, the need for data is vast and the need for analysis is even greater.

But perhaps the benefits are equally great and it's the occupants of such cities who will decide that.


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