Smart cities are depicted in movies as cities where people hover in space crafts, which makes us think the idea of a smart city is futuristic. A smart city is generally described as a city that makes use of technology to provide services to its inhabitants and solve its management issues. The cities collect data in real-time that allows them to better manage situations such as traffic, solar radiation, or the quality of air and water.
Benefits of smart cities
- Traffic management
The improvement of a city’s public network via smart technologies makes the network more appealing to its citizens by being usable and efficient. This means more people use the public transport system, reducing congestion and traffic on the roads. The use of ATMS (Advanced Traffic Management Systems) allows smart cities to reduce congestion and improve road safety as well as increasing the city’s efficiency.
- Public safety
The safety of a smart city’s inhabitants is enhanced by sensors and CCTV cameras placed around the city collecting data in real-time. The sensors sense when there are no people in the streets and reduce the amount of street lighting, which reduces energy and maintenance costs. If anything like a crime happens, there is reliable CCTV footage, which also means crime is reduced.
- Citywide Wi-Fi
The presence of citywide Wi-Fi in a smart city not only provides convenience to the public but also assists the city in running its infrastructure. The citywide Wi-Fi not only attracts customers to businesses but also helps in solving the predominant income inequality problems.
Data collection and analysis improves a city’s urban movement, which in turn reduces the city’s carbon emissions and helps to manage the city’s infrastructure in an economical, sustainable, and secure way.
Smart cities will eventually become a hundred percent digital, sporting surveillance cameras all over, and making facial recognition a fact of life. The ethical question that people ask is who owns this data and is it right to collect and keep the data in the first place?
Some of the valid privacy concerns include:
All the data collected over time means people’s lives are no longer private and you can be tracked immediately using facial recognition. Everywhere you go, there are CCTV cameras recording every aspect of your life. If this data were to fall into the wrong hands, the results would be catastrophic.
- Surveillance state
There is a thin line between normal surveillance and overboard surveillance. The normalization of surveillance eventually leads to a surveillance state, where a government thinks surveillance is a solution to all its societal issues. A surveillance state collects data on all its citizens without any regard for the citizens’ right to privacy. A surveillance state will ever admit to carrying out surveillance, and everything is done covertly.
How to protect yourself
You can reduce the impact of surveillance by protecting yourself by:
- Installing a VPN
The surveillance will not stop because you think it is unethical. You can install a VPN to ensure your privacy on either your phone or laptop and to hide your location and IP address, as well as encrypt all your communication, especially when you are on government Wi-Fi networks.
Smart city designs must be designed with the citizen’s rights as a priority. Endpoint security should be a major factor since smart cities depend on IoT devices such as sensors and CCTV cameras. A single breached device could lead to the city’s system being compromised and data exposed.
The concept of a smart city is not new, but we must be careful not to slip from a smart city into a surveillance state. The proper protection and guidelines must be adhered to ensure the citizens have proper security and their right to privacy conserved.