Today more than 50 percent of the world population live in urban areas. And this number will even increase in the future. This does pose a problem, because, while it is nice living in a city and indulging in the many cultural possibilities it has to offer, the big accumulations of people in one place drive energy consumption, greenhouse gas emissions, traffic, crime and other costly trends.
The "Concept" of the Smart City
In order to combat these trends the concept of the so-called "Smart City" could be very helpful. While there is no real definition for it yet, it roughly means that a city's infrastructure, i.e. transportation, power generation, communication, among others, is being digitally connected and becoming "smarter" through learning algorithms. This goes for the level of a single technical device, but also for whole buildings and districts.
In addition, data is being used to drive up the quality of life by using knowledge from the field of urban development to plan quarters, parks and organise how people live together. (For example a city could subsidise aspects of a sharing economy such as car sharing or give citizens the opportunity to democratically participate in the planning of construction projects.) While originally the Smart City isn't a coherent project, most of these developments are occuring simultaneously and, thus, can now be brought together to reap their benefits and creaty synergy that can reduce traffic or energy consumption.
The true "Smart" City Arises from the Internet of Things
One of the biggest drivers of the Smart City is the Internet of Things. All of our devices are being connected and are becoming smart in some way. Our phones, of course, but also our cars, thermostats, and fridges. They are all online and have the capability to make our lives easier and more efficient.
For example: there is the vision of the fridge that knows exactly what you like to eat and keeps track of its contents. Once it lacks sufficient ingredients it will automatically order new food at your favourite supermarket. Robots will put together a box and place it in a self-driving car that delivers this, as well as many other purchases, to ordering households in the city. It will know at what exact time to arrive at each of them, it will be able to determine the most efficient route (including traffic data of course) and even learn from this experience for the next delivery. And lo and behold, in the evening you come home from work, and your delivery arrives at the perfect time. Of course, you are able to sign off everything on your personal smart-device or make changes should you not be at home at the planned time of delivery.
This example for an interaction of the Internet of Things might soon be mundane. But in one swoop it is able to reduce traffic, improve quality of life, and give the supermarket chain valuable data for its supply chain.
So what's the role of Digital Identity?
This is one of the questions you asked at Global Female Leaders 2017 via our app. And, technically speaking, digital identity is what makes it IoT even possible, because it is an accumulation of data computers use to attribute an identity to an external agent. That may be a device (like our fridge) or an application or a person.
In our case, however, we believe the question aims specifically at people's digital idenities. These can be interpreted in a technical way, but they also harbor a more qualitative meaning. If you look at our digital identity in a more traditional sense of the word, it can tell a lot about us as persons. And this is a double-edged sword.
- On the one hand this does make our digital identity the driver of a smart city on the level of the individuals. All of this data is used to make our lives more convenient, but it also comes together and regulates the organism of the city as a whole.
- On the other hand there is the question of privacy that accompanies the convenience. Tech-companies that offer us smart services truly have a lot of information about us. For example, Google can tell you every day how long it will take you to go to work, and it will do so if you don't disable the corresponding service. The first time it does that leaves many people with a bad feeling. And if you consider that data can be used for much more than "just" selling us better targeted ads, a perfectly connected and digitised city can be frightening for many who value their privacy.
What's the future of the Smart City? We don't know, and it probably depends on the specific country you are looking at. But we are very keen on finding out, since there is so many innovation happening simultaneously that could influence the future of our urban areas!