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Funding and privacy are the real challenges facing smart cities

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A smart city is this seemingly ubiquitous term for the data-driven urban and suburban environment that our society is heading toward in the coming years. We spoke with University of Delaware (UD) policy scientist Troy Mix last week, and he told us to think of it as a Nest thermostat of sorts, but on a bigger scale. Smart cities will use data analytics to adjust to the needs of their citizens. That could dramatically improve the convenience of everyday living. Getting there, of course, poses some unique challenges, and they might not come from the side of engineering. “Solving the technology piece is probably easier than solving other issues,” said Mix.

The coordination and rollout of smart city technologies is one of those issues. Funding the programs and, importantly, the privacy concerns those programs impose, can be causes for concern. “Dealing with privacy concerns around all [citizens’] data being collected and telling people where [citizens] are at any point in the day” could be a big hang-up, said Mix. “It’s really a perfect project to work on across engineering, social sciences and the public policy world” Mix continued. “And, in particular, across the urban planning world that I’ve been involved in. It’s definitely something that the university’s going to focus on.”

That last bit is a certainty. Former Vice President Joe Biden and UD recently announced the Biden Domestic Policy Institute. Some of the goals of that institute are to “expand the school’s offerings in the areas of smart cities, environment and energy, social justice, and disaster management.” Smart cities landed top billing in that list. We think that could mean that big things are on the horizon for Delaware, data and tech in the coming years.

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