With the introduction of Big Data, supercomputing and artificial intelligence, not only have technology and industry-related fields changed in a major way but indeed many other aspects of how we approach the world as a society. One of these aspects is the conceptualization and creation of cities and urban spaces.
What is a smart city?
The automation and enhancement of urban services and spaces happen when groundbreaking technologies and instantaneous data collection are incorporated in the processes of (re)creation and (re)envision of cities. In this process, the city gets infused with the so-called “intelligent design.” Smart cities are a consequence of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
For a discussion about smart cities, you can watch the following Ted Talk by Professor Saskia Sassen, who is a Robert S. Lynd Professor at Columbia.
The Fourth Industrial Revolution (check out the book by Professor Klaus Schwab in the links below), also called the Digital Revolution, is a seismic change in all human endeavor. This change is mainly originated in relation to data; how data gets collected, processed, analyzed, and used is bringing an exponential shift in industry, science, art, and it is all converging in urbanization in a mass scale; within thirty years, 68% of the world population is expected to live in urban areas (you can read the UN report here).
According to urban-hub.com, there are three main components of smart cities: “… sensors, networks, and mobile-based engagement. This trio, enabled by the Internet of Things (IoT), forms the backbone of any smart city concept and gives rise to the myriad of initiatives that can boost efficiency and improve lives”. According to the blog, “The technology disrupting urban living today undoubtedly has the potential to improve quality of life”. The blog makes reference to Barcelona and Montreal as two cities that are incorporating Data Science to solve urban challenges.
Similarly, techrepublic.com mentions how “Rapid urbanization is leading to smarter cities that improve the lives of citizens through technology.” To read both blogs you can follow the links below:
A Word on Big Data for the Interdisciplinary field of Urban Cultural Studies
More and more geographers, anthropologists, linguists, historians, sociologists, political scientists, and other fields of human and behavioral sciences make use of massive amounts of data to gain new insights into their own field. This has been in part motivated by the large amount of computational power available to researchers, but mainly it has been the data itself that has allowed for this revolution. The four ‘Vs’, or the characteristics of the data in the field of Big Data: volume, variety, velocity, and veracity, are the guiding principles for data collection that are already impacting our very lives.
This is only possible because the field of Big Data has pushed the boundaries of privacy, confidentiality, and ownership of information. With these new ways of collecting data, a caveat must be mentioned: large amounts of data may be de-humanizing in several ways, and the researcher must always keep in mind that behind the sets of numbers and information there are always human beings on the line. Hence, I believe that there are also new opportunities of re-defining research in this new era and humanizing it in a way that it is respectful of the lives of the people behind it and that is useful for the common good.
How will smart cities and the fourth industrial revolution carry on our cultural legacies and mold and shape our very own identities? The answer to these questions will soon be knocking at our door.
If you are interested in smart cities, consider looking at the following resources:
- This “Smart Cities – Management of Smart Urban Infrastructures” MOOC on Coursera: “Learn about Smart Cities within the context of management of urban infrastructures. The introduction of Smart urban technologies into legacy infrastructures has resulted in numerous challenges and opportunities for contemporary cities and will continue to do so”.
- This information about Klaus Schwab, Honorary Professor at the Geneva School of Economics and Management (Université de Genève)
- This book about the fourth industrial revolution by Professor Schwab.
- The Smart Cities Council website and about page.