Uber highlights the ‘political dimension’ of smart cities, warns Arup

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The “political dimension” of the Internet of Things (IoT) is now becoming apparent as city authorities and citizens are forced to wake up to the social changes connected technology brings.

That’s according to Léan Doody, associate director at consulting engineering firm Arup who, speaking at Computing‘s Internet of Things Business Summit 2016 today, suggested that the realities of IoT are now moving slowly beyond mere local authority posturing to changes that affect society.

“Government is now looking at smart cities to help with economic development of cities, how we can create jobs, attract technology hubs and companies, and make indigenous companies more successful. That’s a big part of what we can see from this [now],” Doody told delegates.

“We’re also now seeing the political dimension – the disruption caused by a lot of these companies. Uber is a just a technology platform, but the effect on the taxi network has been huge. Traditional taxi companies often have the support of the mayor, and this all has huge implications,” Doody continued.

Doody also referenced mayor of Rio de Janeiro Eduardo Paes and his concept of “polisdigitocracy”.

“It’s the idea of the online and offline use of technology to encourage debate and a two-way exchange of views between citizens and politicians,” Doody reflected, citing how Paes’ work has flagged up another issue for citizens: the correct use of data.

“I think the other aspect is the disruption caused by different technological inventions. Uber is one example, but also in privacy we’re going to see more and more pushback from citizens in terms of how their data is used, because at the moment citizens don’t really know. I think we’ll see more activity around that once citizens and politicians wake up.”

However, Doody did add that the ongoing effect of IoT as a “signifier” of progress is still strong, with 25 mayors attending US music and technology festival SXSW “because they wanted technology to come to their cities, and see technology as a way of signifying they’re technologically accomplished and that this can lead to a good way of life”.

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