Published on July 27th, 2020 | by Emergent Enterprise0
COVID-19 has Opened the Floodgates for Smart Cities
Sometimes justification for an action comes from an unexpected place. This is the case for municipalities and states who want to launch IoT-fueled smart city components to their communities. As Nate Berg reports at FastCompany the global pandemic is allowing localities greater freedom to research the appropriateness of IoT technology because it results in collecting different types of critical data in a non-confrontational way. No touching, no encounters – usually just monitoring. This “safety” makes people more open to having their everyday actions monitored closely which has been a debate within smart city tech solutions. It will be critical for governments to find the right balance between valuable data and personal privacy.
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The conditions created by the pandemic will make it easier for local governments to adopt technological solutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic will be “a lubricant for the smart city,” according to one urban planning expert.
From banal city service digitization efforts to ubiquitous urban surveillance systems, the smart city may be materializing faster than expected, says Klaus R. Kunzmann, a professor emeritus and the former head of the Institute of Spatial Planning at the Technical University of Dortmund, Germany.
In a recent article for disP—The Planning Review, Kunzmann argues that the conditions created by the pandemic will make it much easier for local governments to pursue smart city solutions in areas such as traffic control, crime prediction, and data sensors.
Kunzmann says the pandemic has increased peoples’ exposure to top-down government guidance—from social distancing requirements to official virologists interpreting data. This exposure, he says, will subtly create more openness to suggestions and plans proposed by city leaders. Combined with the imperative to quickly rebuild devastated local economies, Kunzmann argues that the door will open widely to the kinds of efficiency-focused solutions offered by companies such as IBM and Siemens. “Individual convenience will outweigh privacy concerns,” he says.
Particularly in Europe, he suggests that new trust in the public sector will accelerate these developments. “Urban strategies to support smart-city development will certainly benefit from the regained public power,” says Kunzmann, who has taught in universities throughout Europe, the U.S., and Asia and has advised the European Commission, the Council of Europe, and the OECD. The coronavirus led to an increased reliance on digital services, as more people began working remotely. He argues this experience let many governments see how they could rely more heavily on digital options for services that would have typically occurred in person.
Europe in general may be more open to top-down projects and smart city systems since it has been successful in implementing rules to get the coronavirus pandemic under control. Governments were quick to impose lockdowns, closures, and mask requirements and saw infection rates fall as a result.