Skip Navigation

Call for Papers: 'The smart city'

The smart city: Will data science and information technologies re-shape the city and how we use it?

Editors: Susan Christopherson, Amy Glasmeier and Michael Kitson

Sensors, smart phones, and point specific data flows are giving researchers and business enterprises new means of tracking human use of and movement through the urban environment. The development of data science and the application of information-driven technologies to urban management underpin the concept of the “smart city”. Major actors, including firms such as IBM, Cisco, and Siemens, international development organizations such as the World Bank as well as cities themselves see the ability to generate and harness “big data” as the frontier of city management. The potential for devising solutions to major urban management problems is driving investment and demonstration projects using smart city technologies. Advocates argue that this new technological capability enables more effective management of the city, including emergency services deployment, transportation systems optimization and energy use. They also argue that these applications will produce user satisfaction, and the ability to create “secure cities”. In addition, the pursuit of this new frontier is seen as creating new professional collaborations across cities around the globe. And an important bi-product of this development, advocates argue, is that these investments will create new jobs and increase demand for improved skills.

Detractors point out that becoming a “smart city” raises concerns about privacy, the prospect for technology “lock in”, competition for scarce resources between existing and new public services and the diminished influence of local decision-making given the specialized skills required to operate these new systems. The availability of new data streams has implications for privacy and governance, including political opposition. Smart city technologies employ cameras and sensors and yield oversight of public and private spaces. The vast volumes of data produced require specialized processing which in turn exposes public action to unsupervised oversight. Another concern relates to the design of smart city systems, which are comprised of customized applications of specific vendor products, subject to technology “lock in”, with attendant legacy effects and resulting barriers to exit. Finally, these systems are costly. Given scarce public resources, smart city investments may force hard choices among existing services such as basic needs including schools, hospitals, and water supplies.

Experiments are underway to examine how these information technologies affect people and their use of the city and how people respond to the urban environment based on the types of information they can access.

This issue of CJRES will address both optimistic and sceptical perspectives on the practical and ethical implications of “the smart city” and engage authors in the development of a research agenda.