Cities Workshop 3 - How Scary is Smart?

Friday, February 22nd, 2013 | Debates

There is great excitement about the idea of smart cities without there being much agreement on what it means or what might be worrying about the idea. It is also an idea where built-environment people are trailing behind technology people. The debate day is about developing a shared sense of what smart cities might mean across the whole spectrum of city experience—develop and developing, growing and shrinking and manufacturing vs services economic base— which questions the technology answers and which it hinders and, if benefits come with risks, what is it, if anything is that built environment professionals can do to make this part of the future flexible, open and inclusive.

Suggested reading for ‘How Scary is Smart’ - a growing list

The day involved examination of three themes each with several speakers and audience discussion allowing enough time for ideas to go back and forth and be developed by everybody.

Theme 1
How smart are our cities? What is the vision (what is the problem they solve)? Are we talking about more than just parts of a city or people in parts of a city with smart phones? Is smartness to do with resilience, infrastructure talking to people, sustainability, a purer form of democracy, looser- or tighter-coupled systems or something else?

Theme 2
Education and governance: in the UK the movement from an industrial to a service economy has seen the rise of more individual (Thatcherite) less community focused values. What is the direction of travel on this axis for smart cities? Do they require or imply an altered value set? Does this disruptive technology put a lot of power in the hands of governments, city councils or corporations? Are the checks and balances to such a system in the very technology itself through empowered users or is the battle lost before it has begun.

Theme 3
Interplay between physical and virtual systems. Cities are physical systems that exist on all parts of a spectrum that runs from evolution to master plan, they can be optimised for particular purposes or can be lose, flexible and sub-optimal for many purposes, but they can’t easily be changed. Virtual systems with cities extend the options, changing, to some extent, the cost and time scale to which cities can adapt to new challenges. What can go wrong with this approach?

The Cities Workshop was organised by Buro Happold in association with the Edge and the London Embassies of Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands

Suggested hashtag #smartedge

Report - How Scary is Smart workshop
How Scary is Smart - Collected Comments
Smart Cities 2013 - Mind map 19.2.13
Smart Cities 2013 - Speaker profiles

Conference review - “Smart technology is very likely to be mainly deployed to help us pick our way through our crumbling infrastructure” - 23.2.13

For Information and a detailed report on the previous City Performance Workshop in October 2011 go to the City Workshops page

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