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Smart cities have to be built around an opt-in model

ITProPortal spoke to Rashik Parmar about the increasingly interesting topic of smart cities. Rashik will be speaking at the NextGen Intelligent Cities Conference and Expo in Bradford on 15th July.

Which are the main areas in which we'll see advances from smart cities?

I would list the main areas that will benefit as: economic value from the city itself, jobs, sustainable use of resources, healthcare and education, safety and the feeling of being part of a community.

Are we also going to see advantages for business?

I do believe that there are advantages for businesses. These advantages include the fact that being located in a smart city will mean businesses will have a wide range of access to a better workforce, the right resources that will give them a long-term to a business and also, the city will be a better environment so that companies can thrive.

Are there any dangers from the advance of smarter cities?

There are always drawbacks of course. The biggest drawback we see is citizen behaviour in terms of expectation. Once you start to include more and more technology in the infrastructure, the city starts to make more things capable.

You end up in the issue of ethics and Big Brother and privacy, and these are tough questions to deal with, even things like the legal structures, the organisational structures. So the transformation isn't going to be very fast because we're going to have to live through these things.

Another question mark is the skill. Can we train the workforce to work with and exploit the smart city concept?

I saw in places like China and Africa that they are making real inroads into these problems and it seems the Western world is a bit slow at getting to terms with it all. The main issue is privacy and it needs to be dealt with very well.

What do you think some of the major adaptations will be that we have to make to deal with those problems?

It is going to be down to a number of things such as education of the citizens and learning how to adapt to it. Opting into these things is going to be critical. We must be very cautious and careful as we take these steps forward due to the other end of the scale being people, e.g. criminals, that will try to exploit these changes and of course the risk will always be there, it is never zero, it has to be something that is managed properly.