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Building a Smart City

Smart cities are rising up—and construction companies are going to be tasked with building the city of the future. But often, as contractors know, it can be more nuanced than that, as local governments have regulations and directives for how to fuel smart city growth. Of course, all of this need to be done while keeping citizens’ best interests in mind. So, how exactly will this continue to unfold in the months ahead?

A new report from the ITIF (Information Technology and Innovation Foundation) suggests in order to reap the benefits of the smart city, while still maintaining trust with citizens, local governments will need to balance the interests of innovation and privacy. The organization is in charge of analyzing the legitimate and overblown privacy concerns stemming from municipal data collection. It also offers recommendations for federal, state, and local policymakers to make smart cities a reality.

The research looks at different areas including the energy grid, water management, trash cans, lighting, and more, narrowing in on how technology can generate cost and time savings, as well as productivity, public health, and safety. It also explores how technologies can help reduce emissions—something Peggy Smedley talks about a lot.

Still, even with all the benefits technologies offer to cities and homeowners, there are still concerns that remain. Privacy advocates have concerns over smart cities and communities that share data with private partners or worry that communities will engage in government surveillance of individuals. This is why balancing safety and privacy is a top priority for many.

In order to move forward, the report has many recommendations.

First, cities and communities should make cybersecurity a priority. This can be done by setting high security requirements for procuring internet-connected devices, encrypting smart city data, conducting regular risk assessments, and transitioning to cloud computing.

Second, cities and communities should engage in vendor management when partnering with private companies to provide smart city applications.

Third, state lawmakers should regulate law enforcement data collection.

Fourth, cities and communities should anonymize any personal data they collect to reduce the potential threat to individuals’ privacy.

Finally, cities and communities should not require third parties to turn over sensitive personal data about their users as a condition of operating in the city.

The hope is in the future smart cities will improve residents’ quality of life, while still maintaining a level of privacy and security. Certainly, data and analytics will be central to managing public transportation, improve traffic, and so much more, but it needs to be done in a way that makes sense for citizens. Now, comes the time to build it all.

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