Smart City Startup Quayside Draws Fire Over Privacy And High Costs

Toronto is learning the hard way about Public-Private Partnerships with the likes of Google-linked  Sidewalk Labs. Smart City construction in its Quayside district is costly compared to traditional urban design, and data privacy is still an open sieve. ⁃ TN Editor

The Google sister company promised to transform a dilapidated stretch of the Toronto waterfront into the world’s most technologically advanced neighborhood.

Quayside would be outfitted with robotic garbage collection, snow-melting sidewalks and self-driving taxibots. Sensors would capture data on park bench usage, air quality and more, aimed at making the neighborhood more livable.

It was handshakes and smiles all around when Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and officials from Sidewalk Labs gathered here 18 months ago to announce the data-driven city of tomorrow. But internal discord and public criticism are threatening the project.

“I don’t think they look so happy now,” said Paula Fletcher, a Toronto City Council member. “This big idea isn’t going exactly the way it was planned.”

As in New York, where fierce opposition to Amazon led the online retail giant to cancel plans to build a second headquarters in Long Island City, a local movement here is growing to send Sidewalk Labs packing. Their concerns: money, privacy, and whether Toronto is handing too much power over civic life to a for-profit American tech giant.

The #BlockSidewalk campaign formed in February after the Toronto Star reported on leaked documents indicating that Sidewalk Labs was considering paying for transit and infrastructure on a larger portion of the waterfront. In return, it would seek a cut of the property taxes, development fees and the increased value of the land resulting from the development — an estimated $6 billion over 30 years.

Sidewalk Labs, a subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet, said it hadn’t shared the proposal because it was still being debated. But it was a tough look for a company that has come under fire for a lack of transparency around its business model and the question of who would own and govern the data and intellectual property at the heart of its proposal.

“It’s our job to remind everybody that ‘no’ is an option and that consent is important,” said Bianca Wylie, one of the leaders of #BlockSidewalk. “The way this process has been set up was not a question of whether we should do stuff like this, but how.”

Separately, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association is suing the city, provincial and federal governments to shut down the project over privacy concerns. Michael Bryant, the head of the group, said Trudeau had been “seduced by the honey pot of Google’s sparkling brand and promises of political and economic glory.”

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Smart Cities Are Already Becoming AI-Powered Dystopias

Societies are undergoing subtle yet massive changes because constant surveillance causes people to modify their behavior. You might nix certain activities that are thought to result in negative outcomes, and adopt new practices that are seen as positive. This is the wretched iron fist of Technocracy’s ‘science of social engineering’. ⁃ TN Editor

Separating the futuristic from the dystopian in the minds of the general public can be a challenge, particularly when trying to conceptualise a diverse technology such as AI recognition.

In today’s markets, a tangible example can be seen in consumer products such as the iPhone XS, with its Face ID facial-recognition unlocking. By and large, this has been warmly received, with the majority of complaints relating to UX and design, thanks to the removal of a fingerprint scanner, and the screen notch to accommodate the Face ID sensors. But what of more sinister applications?

The gradual progression of fingerprint identification into facial recognition could be seen as a soft introduction to more complex AI foundations, the likes of which are poised to be implemented across the infrastructure of the so-called ‘smart cities’ of the future. AI recognition R&D is rapidly progressing, and the near future will see the reach of the technology extend further.

Concentrated CCTV coverage in metropolitan cities such as London has long been a controversial topic, raising concerns of a ‘surveillance state’ among many civil-rights groups. As more sophisticated AI programs that make use of user recognition are developed, there is the theoretical potential of adapting this existing surveillance infrastructure to cater for AI recognition.

Public opinion of this technology has not been aided by reports of its introduction by British police forces. It was used in an attempt to spot suspects at the 2017 Notting Hill Carnival, for example, with a reported failure rate of 98%.

Although AI-based recognition applications go far beyond the targeting of police suspects, its association with surveillance at such an early stage of its introduction could greatly impact public perception. After all, there is no shortage of Hollywood portrayals of AI recognition technology acting as an oppressive public safeguard, as seen to great effect in 2002’s ‘Minority Report.’

Binary District Journal spoke to Terence Mills, CEO of and Moonshot, to explore the possibilities of AI recognition in the coming years. Mills works heavily in the AI space, as well as sitting on the Forbes Technology Council, and is perfectly positioned within the industry to see how new iterations of the platform could be received by the larger consumer market.

Hollywood scripts aside, what are the prospects and implications of AI recognition in the smart cities of the future?

Consumer-Based Recognition as it Stands

Apple’s facial recognition software is widely seen as a stepping stone from which the public will associate subsequent developments in similar AI technologies. Mills agrees: “I think what’s going on is extraordinary. It’s going to really pave the way for what we do in the future.

“We’re already seeing it in the ability to buy things on your iPhone or online and authorise a purchase via facial recognition. I think biometrics is probably the next step – we’re pioneering a lot of work around the ability to generate and invoke purchases via voice recognition.”

Citizen Tracking and Targeting

The implications of a person’s exposure to constant identification aren’t restricted to the state’s use of the technology. At a consumer level, there is the potential for users to open themselves up to entirely new levels of targeted advertising through retailers’ use of AI identification in stores.

“AI technology puts you in a particular place at a particular time as a consumer – the company knows you’re there because you’ve used their AI technology to get there, whether that be a theatre, in an airport, on an aeroplane,” Mills explains.

“Think about it – they know you’re there for the next two or four hours or whatever. So, if they decide to, they can sell your data to somebody who wants to proactively market you. Do I think that limits the development of AI? I don’t. Do I think people are going to want to ensure their privacy has been thought about? Absolutely.”

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opportunity zones

8,700 ‘Opportunity Zones’ In U.S. Targeted For Smart City Infrastructure

There are 35 million people living in Opportunity Zones throughout America who have no idea that Chinese-style surveillance is about to descend upon them. This investment scheme gives huge tax breaks to any company who invests in infrastructure in these areas. ⁃ TN Editor

Is there no end to Big Brother’s desire to turn America into a mirror image of China?

An article in Go Erie, revealed how the Feds are classifying parts of cities as “Opportunity Zones” or as I call them “Opportunity Surveillance Zones” (OPS ).

The U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service are using Opportunity Zones to help law enforcement turn sections of cities into federally funded surveillance zones.

Mayor Joe Schember’s administration is using federal grants to turn Erie, Pennsylvania into an OPS.

“The downtown smart city pilot project was announced in April 2018 and focused on downtown and Perry Square. New LED lighting, video surveillance cameras, and free Wi-Fi were installed in an area encompassing State Street, between Sixth and 12th streets.”

In three years, the city of Erie, Pennsylvania will be transformed into a massive surveillance city equipped with facial recognition cameras, license plate readers and spying public Wi-Fi zones.

“According to Schember, that would include security cameras that could read license plates and have facial-recognition capabilities; energy-efficient LED street lights; and free Wi-Fi in public spaces throughout the Opportunity Zone tracts. The intent is to make those areas safer and more attractive for investment.”

Using facial recognition to make areas of the city safer, where have I heard that before?

It sounds eerily similar to a story, I wrote about last year.

The story was about Riverhead, New York politicians, claiming that police drones would revitalize downtown and “create a community connection.”

While the script may be the same, OPS’s differ slightly because they allow law enforcement to use facial recognition to identify suspicious people.

Karl Sanchack, the Innovation District’s CEO, said cameras will help “provide a general sense of flow for traffic,” and they will contribute to safety and security. They can also help identify “specific license plates of interest” for Erie police in high-crime areas, he said.

Feds are creating 9,000 surveillance zones in U.S. cities

Over the next 12 months Schember plans to create eight OPS’s in the Erie region that have been certified by the U.S. Treasury Department.

Wouldn’t it be nice if this story ended in Erie, Pennsylvania? Sadly that is not the case.

The Feds have big plans for OPS’s; in fact they plan on turning thousands of cities into mini-surveillance zones.

According to a Treasury Department press release, the Feds plan on using Opportunity Zones to spy on 35 million Americans.

“Nearly 35 million Americans live in the communities designated as Opportunity Zones.This Administration will work diligently with states and the private sector to encourage investment and development in Opportunity Zones.”

The enormity of this Federal surveillance program is revealed in another press release that says, “the Treasury Department has certified 8,761 communities in all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. Nearly 35 million Americans live in areas designated as Opportunity Zones.”

Because who doesn’t want to be spied on by facial recognition cameras and license plate readers?

The National League of Cities says, that what makes Opportunity Zones so exciting is, “there are few rules as to where the money can go.” Which is a perfect excuse for letting law enforcement turn our cities into Chinese-style surveillance networks like San Diego and Detroit.

We must not allow politicians and law enforcement to use Opportunity Zones as a vehicle to increase government surveillance.

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Global IoT Market To Reach $330 Billion By 2025

The Internet of Things in Smart Cities is growing at a rate of almost 23% per year, causing a feeding frenzy of Big Tech firms clamoring for their share. However, this is largely an artificial market created by Big Tech firms themselves, none of whom qualify as legitimate urban planners. ⁃ TN Editor

Zion Market Research has published a new report titled “IoT in Smart Cities Market by Component (Solution and Service), by Application (Lighting, Traffic, Utilities, Public Safety, Environmental Monitoring, and Others), and by End-User (Information and Technology, Telecommunication, Government, Automation, Energy, and Others): Global Industry Perspective, Comprehensive Analysis, and Forecast, 2018–2025’’. According to the report, the global IoT in smart cities market was valued at around USD 79.3 billion in 2018 and is expected to reach approximately USD 330.1 billion by 2025, at a CAGR of slightly above 22.6% between 2019 and 2025.

The worldwide development of smart cities is trending majorly. Smart cities are formed by the integration of advanced technologies, such as geospatial technology, the blockchain, Internet of Things (IoT), and artificial intelligence, among others. Internet of Things (IoT) holds prime importance as compared to other IT technologies. In smart cities, IoT provides the perfect platform for uninterrupted communication of data that is generated from smart electronic devices.

According to a study, by 2050, more than 70% of the global population is anticipated to live in cities. This instantaneous urge of urbanization is constraining the existing infrastructure and has resulted in the rapid development of smart cities. To cope up with the rapidly emerging demand for smart cities, the worldwide adoption of IoT solutions is trending for communication enhancement, cost reduction, and advancement of services. Moreover, the rising number of smart connected devices is expected to create new growth opportunities for the IoT in smart cities market in the upcoming years. The worldwide smart city spending accounted for nearly USD 14.85 billion in 2015. However, the security and privacy issues related to IoT may hinder the IoT in smart cities market growth globally. IoT solutions are highly preferred for accurate communication and management of data generated from connected devices in smart cities.

The global IoT in smart cities market is segmented on the basis of component, application, and end-user. The component segment is majorly classified into solution and services. The solution segment includes security, remote monitoring, analytics, network management, and RTLS. By application, the market is classified into lighting, traffic, utilities, public safety, environmental monitoring, and others. Public safety is expected to grow remarkably over the forecast timeframe. By end-user, the market includes information and technology, telecommunication, government, automation, energy, and others. The information and technology segment is projected to dominate the market in the future.

North America is anticipated to dominate the global IoT in smart cities market in the future, owing to the significant presence of leading market players, strict government regulations, various technological advancements, and huge investments made for technological adoption. The U.S. is projected to hold the largest market share in the region, as it is the corporate headquarters of many prominent market players, such as IBM, Cisco, Intel, Microsoft, Honeywell, Schneider Electric, and Quantela. Furthermore, the penetration of smart electronic devices, such as smartphones that rely on IoT solutions, is primarily contributing to the IoT in smart cities market growth. Nearly 715 million units of IoT-based consumer electronic devices were installed in the U.S. recently.

The European IoT in smart cities market is mainly driven by the early adoption of innovative technologies. The European Union is taking substantial initiatives in smart city development for improvisation of urban lifestyle, which has concurrently escalated the market demand for IoT solutions. In 2017, nearly 33.1% of smart cities projects were pioneered by Europe, by initiating more than 84 projects. Moreover, the influence of IoT solutions for smart cities is peaking in the region. The European IoT sector is expected to account nearly USD 2,103 billion in the future.

Asia Pacific is likely to witness rapid IoT in smart cities market growth in the upcoming years, owing to the rising number of smart cities initiatives and various developments witnessed related to IoT solutions across the region. IoT solutions for smart cities are increasingly being adopted in developing Asian countries, such as India and China, for various applications including smart lighting, smart parking, smart waste management, and smart traffic management. In the region, South Korea holds a substantial market share due to the growing adoption of IoT devices. In 2016, South Korea accounted for nearly 18 million IoT connected devices and has the region’s highest number of IoT connected devices.

In Latin America, IoT solutions are significantly adopted for traffic management in smart cities. This can be attributed to the increasing automotive concentration and the implementation of various IoT-based traffic solutions in the region. The growing IoT spending is likely to play a vital role in driving the region’s IoT in smart cities market. Numerous programs have been initiated by the government for traffic control due to the increasing rate of vehicle congestion across the region. The escalating IoT spending is significantly driving the IoT in smart cities market in the Middle East and Africa. Over the forecast time period, 15% growth in the region’s IoT spending is anticipated.

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Smart Cities Going Green Because… It Costs Less?

Technocrats building Smart Cities are using the same corrupted logic as global warming zealots, that their inventions are cheaper than any other solutions. In fact, Sustainable Development drives up costs in every category of urban living. ⁃ TN Editor

Our cities are getting smarter. Look around any modern metropolis, and you’ll see hundreds of Smart devices. Devices that provide better convenience, increase our safety, enable connectivity anywhere, reduce our traffic jams, improve our economy – all with a view to improving the quality of life for all.

But with this tech revolution comes a need to change how our cities are powered – to get rid of all that cable and wiring that brings with it costly and disruptive construction. These smart devices are digital, and require very little electricity – that old security camera that needed 200W, now runs on your phone, and needs perhaps 1-10% of the power that it used to.

Wiring each IoT device to the power grid is the most expensive part of our electricity grid – particularly when you have hundreds or thousands of them in a city. And it’s the reason why so many people are wondering why their energy bill keeps going up, even as the benefits of new renewable energy should be reducing those costs.

As these three Smart Cities show, greater connectivity is changing the way we power our cities in North America.

Toronto, Ontario

As in most cities, grid power is costly – Toronto is no exception. Government deficits at all levels are forcing “downloading” of budgets and costs. Pressures in one cost area are forcing power agencies to revisit costs elsewhere and are starting to allocate elsewhere. As an example, one city in Ontario found that they were experiencing a 1,400% increase in their streetlight electrical bill from 2005 to 2019.[1] These cost implications are so great that it is even pushing some power utilities into bankruptcy, as was recently experienced in California.

That is why Toronto has started to switch to solar-powered Smart City street lights instead.  For instance, on Bloor Street West, the Business Initiative Association installed solar-powered Smart City poles with LED lighting, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, as well as other IoT devices.

As these poles are 100% solar powered, they didn’t need to be connected to the grid, resulting in an estimated savings of $1.4 million CAD in cable trenching and one-time grid connection costs. And the Smart aspect – remote monitoring and management of the systems – means that the BIA makes sure they stay on even during a polar vortex!

In another part of the city, Google -affiliate Sidewalk Labs has also identified Toronto as a test-case for the city of the future, built “from the internet up.”

Under the proposed plans, Quayside, in an undeveloped area of the Toronto waterfront would integrate smart technology throughout its infrastructure. Sensors would measure factors like traffic usage, air quality, noise and building occupancy. Energy efficiency technologies would significantly decrease the burden placed on the grid. And off-grid solutions are a logical and natural part of such an eco-system.

By collecting all of this data, performance improves over time. For instance, when the next polar vortex does hit, weather sensors would tell the pavement to heat up to melt the snow. It sounds like something straight out of a sci-fi movie from the ‘80s!

The ability to build a Smart City from the ground up means that Sidewalk Labs will be able to incorporate solar and wind power into the design. The company aims to move towards reducing neighborhood emissions by 75 – 80% through solar power generation and energy monitoring systems, among other factors.

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Total Data Domination: 5G, IoT, AI Surveillance And The Smart City

In 1932, Aldous Huxley foresaw a Scientific Dictatorship in his book, Brave New World. In 2019, Huxley’s dystopian future is appearing right before our eyes, but few recognize it. ⁃ TN Editor

By Patrick Wood

People who have a modern smartphone normally think of 5G as nothing more than a progression from 3G and 4G. Offering fewer dropped calls, faster data transfer, and more convenience. 5G is the fifth generation of wireless technology.

This thinking barely scratches the surface. There must be a greater reason why CEOs of major cellular carriers are breaking their necks to railroad the fastest implementation in history of a new communication standard.

This reason has little to do with your personal cellphone and everything to do with the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) where all electronic devices will be connected together in real-time. Collectively, the IoT is the core technology used to implement Smart City makeovers.

“Real time” is a magical tech term. 5G is at least one order of magnitude faster than anything before it. It is comparable to everything being connected directly by fiber-optic cable where as soon as you touch the send key, your data transmission is received at the other end, faster than a blink of your eye.

Let’s do some math. 4G can transfer data at 100,000,000 bits per second (which is 10 megabits per second). That’s really fast! However, 5G blows out the same data at 10,000,000,000 bits per second, or 10 Gbps (Gigabits per second). This is 100 times faster than 4G. Secondly, 4G has a typical “ping” factor between 10ms and 50ms (milliseconds) that measures the time needed in order to send a single packet of information. 5G drops that time to 1ms.

In spite of the cutthroat American race between wireless providers like AT&T, Verizon and T-Mobile, China has declared that it intends to emerge as the global leader on 5G rollout to its own 1.4 billion citizens. China is also mass-producing the technology to sell to the rest of the world.

In the U.S., 5G is being heavily promoted by the Trump Administration. The Federal Communications Commission issued a ruling in September that blocks cities from charging higher fees for installing 5G infrastructure. Loud protests have been registered from the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National Association of Counties, the National Governors Association and the Nation Conference of State Legislatures. Why? Because the FCC’s actions are unconstitutional and cities are being stripped of the little sovereignty they have left. Thus far, the FCC is undeterred in its position.

Smart City technology is brought to us exclusively by Big Tech corporations in the name of Technocracy and Sustainable Development. With the advent of sophisticated Artificial Intelligence (AI) programs, massive amounts of data collected from sensors of all types can be analyzed in real-time, displaying the results in a multi-dimensional model. What are sensors? Cameras, microphones, self-driving vehicles, license-plate readers, cell phones, Bluetooth devices, Smart Meters and all connected devices in Smart Homes.

Thanks to real-time connections between autonomous vehicles, road censors and central computers equipped with AI, they will be able to navigate any and all roadways with authority and impunity. They will also inform on you every inch of the way.

In China, where all of this massive surveillance is weaponized against civilians, Technocrats have implemented a Social Credit Score assigned by algorithm, to all 1.4 billion inhabitants. By 2020, China intends to have 600 million facial recognition cameras installed, or about one camera for every 4 citizens. All of them will transmit their images in real-time to central computers running sophisticated AI programs. Each person in the big-data database will have their personal data pulled from every conceivable location in the nation. By the time that they know who you are, what you are, what you do, what you think and what you intend to do, their AI algorithms will calculate and assign to you a Social Credit Score that will limit or expand whatever privileges you will have from that time on.

The Social Credit Score system is coming to America as well, unless we somehow convince our own officials that this is a horrible idea that will utterly destroy the American dream.

Nothing has changed in the 85 years since Technocracy, Inc. defined its original mission in 1938:

Technocracy is the science of social engineering, the scientific operation of the entire social mechanism to produce and distribute goods and services to the entire population.

Scoffers may argue that history does not mean anything and there is no relevance to modern times. If they understood history, they would not say such a thing. For instance, consider ‘ride-sharing’ schemes where nobody owns a vehicle and everyone shares a common pool of community owned autos. This idea is not new. Technocrats had it in their sights as early as 1934:

The Automotive Branch of Transportation would provide a network of garages at convenient places all over the country from which automobiles could be had at any hour of the night or day. No automobiles would be privately owned. When one wished to use an automobile he would merely call the garage, present his driver’s license, and a car of the type needed would be assigned to him. ‘When he was through with the car, he would return it either to the same garage or to any other garage that happened to be convenient, and surrender his Energy Certificates in payment for the cost incurred while he was using it.

I will suggest that the modern world cannot be even remotely understood except in terms of Technocracy and its inevitable outcome: Scientific Dictatorship. Every major meme in global geo-politics, economics and globalization, devolution of national sovereignty, etc., is dancing to the Technocrat drumbeat.

As to today, 5G is about to deliver the ultimate tool for total control over Americans, and it has nothing to do with your cell phones getting a speed upgrade.

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build smart city

Google Thinks It Is Entitled To Tax Funds To Build Smart City

 Sidewalk Labs is already resisting public backlash in Toronto where it is building a Smart City. This was originally a private investment, but now the company wants its cut of city taxes to pay for it.  ⁃ TN Editor

Alphabet’s Sidewalk Labs proposed taking a portion of Toronto property taxes, development fees and increased land value to build a smart city on the eastern waterfront, The Toronto Star reported.

According to internal documents obtained by the Star, Sidewalks Labs plans to argue it is “entitled to … a share in the uptick in land value on the entire geography … a share of developer charges and incremental tax revenue on all land.”

This money, which would amount to an estimated $6 billion over 30 years, would otherwise go to the city, according to the Star.

Sidewalk Labs, which aims to create more sustainable and affordable cities through technology, has received significant push back to its project in Toronto after initially being heralded as a catalyst for innovation. Similar to the push back Amazon received in New York City that ultimately led the company to decide to abandon its plans there, local leaders have questioned the company’s intentions and pressured it to make concessions.

After locals became concerned about how Sidewalk Labs would use the the data it collects on their public spaces, the company promised it won’t control the data collected there, the Star reported in October 2018. Even after that promise, a prominent privacy expert on the project’s advisory committee stepped down from her role, calling the proposal, “not acceptable,” the Star reported.

In an interview with the Star about the company’s proposed funding, Sidewalk Labs CEO Dan Doctoroff said the company wants to take a fair cut of revenues once Toronto itself is prospering from the impact of its work.

“We’re going to be spending a lot of money in advancing the infrastructure,” Doctoroff told the Star. “And where we do that and there are new property tax revenues or developer charges, we only want to get paid back a reasonable return for our investment in that infrastructure.”

Read full story here…

Google’s smart cities from CNBC.

New ‘Smart Region’ Scheme Is Regionalism To Dictate Smart City Makeovers

The Phoenix area Smart Region Initiative is a pilot program to see how much sovereignty can be stripped from member cities without a mass uprising by disenfranchised citizens. With no elected officials, SRI seeks domination over 22 cities and 4.2 million people to dictate uniform implementation of Smart City policies and technology.  ⁃ TN Editor

Imagine a perfect day in metro Phoenix: no traffic congestion and autonomous vehicles glide commuters through the streets, hitting nothing but green lights. The air is clean, there’s a sustainable supply of water, and everybody has access to great health care, nutritious food and the latest technologies. Sun Devil Stadium is packed with a roaring crowd, and the fans move efficiently through short lines at the concession stands and restrooms.

That picture may seem far-fetched in a region where rapid population growth seems to be stressing resources and infrastructure. But it’s all part of the vision of Dominic Papa, a third-year student at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University.

Papa is the co-founder and executive director of the Institute for Digital Progress, a nonprofit aiming to improve the Phoenix area by transforming the region into a major hub of smart-city technology. It’s an ambitious project that relies heavily on innovation — and collaboration.

But first and foremost, what exactly is a “smart city”?

“The running joke is, you ask 10 mayors what a smart city is, you’re going to get 12 answers, because no one knows, and they’re going to change their answer after hearing everybody else’s,” Papa said. “But I would say, from a community’s perspective, it is leveraging emerging technology and data to provide more efficient, more effective services and a higher quality of life.”

A key component is what Papa calls “innovation sandboxes,” where research and pilot programs are encouraged. For an example, he points to the testing of autonomous vehicles.

“We saw what Governor Doug Ducey did by opening up Arizona, and our streets, to autonomous vehicles, and the massive economic impact that that brought to our state,” Papa said. “It’s really taking that concept and drilling down to a micro-level. So how can we open our region or ASU, our campuses, to allow for industry, entrepreneurs and even researchers to leverage our infrastructure as a proving ground to build, test and validate emerging technologies?”

Collaboration is one of the key elements, and the institute has been working in partnership with ASU, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Maricopa Association of Governments, and cities and towns making up the Greater Phoenix region in order to create a Greater Phoenix Smart Region.

“It’s 22 cities and towns, the county, ASU and industry partners coming together to intentionally accelerate our development into a smart region,” said Papa, explaining that workforce development will be a key element. “A smart region is going to demand a public-sector workforce that is educated to develop, deploy and maintain these technologies within the cities themselves. Together, ASU and IDP will train city employees on emerging technologies and digitization strategies. The goal is to create the nation’s leading public-sector workforce of the future, right here in Greater Phoenix.”

ASU at the center of it all

ASU will serve as the heartbeat of the smart-region project, playing a critical role not only in educating the future workforce, but as a research hub as well. And helping to lead those efforts is Di Bowman, a professor at ASU Law and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, who also serves as the co-director for ASU’s Center for Smart Cities and Regions.

“ASU already has the concept of a smart campus and has been working across the different facets of the campuses to create the smart-campus environment,” Bowman said.

For example, Sun Devil Stadium is not only hosting football games, but also doubling as a research laboratory.

“One thing they’re doing there, which may seem to be more about entertainment than technology testing, is using facial-recognition software within the suites area,” Bowman said. “Guests have their faces scanned and are then matched with their celebrity doppelganger, which isn’t always the same one. So while it may seem kind of whimsical and fun — which it is — the fact that Arizona is a border state and we have an international airport suggests that this technology, once proven to be effective, could be deployed in the state by agencies to enhance public safety, which is really exciting. If, by initially deploying and testing the technology in our stadium, we can prove it is efficient and effective, we can begin to then imagine how ASU could potentially partner with entities such as Phoenix Sky Harbor to test the technology from a security perspective.”

And that’s not all that’s being tested at Sun Devil Stadium.

“You know when you go to a stadium and they hand out prizes for the section that cheers the loudest? That’s all fake right now,” said Papa, explaining that ASU partnered with Intel to develop a groundbreaking noise-detection system. “Sun Devil Stadium is the first stadium to actually use real-time noise captured through sensors to choose the correct section that was actually the loudest.”

Papa said through a phone app, ASU can then alert the fans in that section that they’ve won a prize and can pick up a free T-shirt or soft drink at a certain location within the stadium. The app could even direct spectators to the shortest concession stand lines.

Bowman said campus testing could also help the region manage its most precious resources, including water.

“We know from our discussion with political leaders across the state that water is, and will remain, a challenging issue to manage — especially given the rate at which the region is growing,” she said. “Knowing where water is being used, where it is being lost, and the volumes associated with each, allows decision makers to make better investments in and around water usage. ASU buildings and, in particular, the dorm buildings, could be utilized for pilot programs around water metering. Nobody knows how much water is really being lost in the system, so finding out more about water loss and usage could help us be smarter consumers of water and better utilize that as a resource. There is also a great fiscal reason for doing so, too.”

Papa said the university’s evidence-based research role in the smart-region project aligns with ASU President Michael Crow’s focus on community impact and scalability.

“ASU has the unique advantage of having campuses, with students, scattered throughout the region that act as cities in and of themselves,” he said. “If we can rapidly test innovative new technologies on these campuses, continuously measure their impact, and ultimately validate them, we can then implement these solutions into the 22 cities and towns through the smart-region initiative. Furthermore, because all cities face similar challenges, we can then export these solutions to cities and regions around the world. The smart-region framework allows us to solve urban challenges at scale and accelerate technology commercialization, ultimately creating jobs and economic growth.”

And that, Bowman says, is what a university is all about.

“It’s about doing research, it’s about deploying technologies, it’s about bringing in students across all areas of study and giving them opportunities to develop solutions and experiment with them, whether that’s in a laboratory scenario or on campus,” she said. “And we also have the capacity — which cities and towns don’t necessarily have — to examine different technologies, analyze data and work out whether what is being proposed really is the best technology for meeting the challenges within our communities, including whether or not it is acceptable to the public, or whether we need to redesign and develop more. That’s exciting.”

Political factors

The push to develop and implement smart-city technology has something that so many other issues are lacking: bipartisan political support.

“That’s why we’ve been able to gain so much momentum in this area, and especially in this region,” Papa said. “Because for the left, the Democrats, this has a huge social aspect, specifically around quality-of-life and digital equity aspects. And for the right, the more conservative and Republican side, it’s about leveraging technologies to create efficiencies in government, thereby using less taxpayer dollars to deliver higher-quality services. Smart cities really hit on everyone’s ideals.”

But rapid advancements in technology can be frightening, stoking fears about privacy and safety. Eliminating red tape to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship must be balanced with just the right amount of regulatory precautions.

“I’m a person who continually stares at, and evaluates, the effectiveness of regulations in light of new and emerging technologies,” Bowman said. “My focus has, and continues to be, working out how the public sector can allow useful technologies into the market in the quickest and most efficient ways without endangering public health and safety. It’s about finding effective regulatory tools and strategies that have the necessary checks and balances that can then be streamlined in such a way that they’re not unduly burdensome.”

Papa said that’s why it’s exciting to have ASU Law play a role in the project. Especially with the law school now located in downtown Phoenix, in close proximity to the Arizona Capitol and Phoenix City Hall.

“This initiative is something that no one has tried at this scale probably ever before,” he said. “We’re talking about the fourth-largest county in the country, the fastest-growing in population, 22 separate jurisdictions, all fairly large, actually saying, ‘We’re going to work together to do this.’ It’s true that seemingly insurmountable challenges require unprecedented collaboration and no one has tried it at this scale before. There’s a new metropolitan revolution occurring in the Greater Phoenix region, and it’s being built around innovation and driven by collaboration. And while there will obviously be challenges, the potential benefits of it are incredible.”

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Study: Self-Driving Cars Could Increase Urban Congestion

The sales-pitch for self-driving cars is that it will decrease urban congestion. Apparently, the developers and marketers of self-driving cars never thought it through, or if they did, they just lied about it. ⁃ TN Editor

Self-driving cars will likely jam up downtown streets by cruising at slow speeds rather than parking, according to a new analysis published in the journal Transport Policy. Using game theory and simulated traffic models, report author Adam Millard-Ball found that the vehicles will be incentivized to circle streets rather than pay for parking.

According to Millard-Ball’s model, even as few as 2,000 self-driving cars in downtown San Francisco could slow traffic to less than 2 miles per hour.

Millard-Ball, an associate professor of environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz, compared the situation to drivers moving slowly at airport pickups. “Drivers would go as slowly as possibly so they wouldn’t have to drive around again,” he said in a statement. “Unless it’s free or cheaper than cruising, why would anyone use a remote lot?”

While there’s optimism that autonomous vehicles (AVs) could solve traffic problems by driving more efficiently and coordinating with other vehicles and infrastructure, the study also shows that the peculiarities of self-driving cars could create more problems. Not only did Millard-Ball determine it would be cheaper for the cars to not park, he found that moving at slower speeds was even more cost-effective, factoring in the costs of electricity, depreciation and maintenance. The cars, he said “will have every incentive to create havoc.”

Other analyses have found that AVs would generate more traffic simply by putting more cars on the road. An analysis by the World Economic Forum and the Boston Consulting Group found that people replacing transit trips with autonomous vehicle rides would mean a 5.5% increase in travel times in downtown Boston (in outer neighborhoods, the analysis projected less congestion because people would rely on shared AVs rather than personal vehicles). The BBC reports that a 2017 British government study also found AVs would increase congestion in the short term.

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US Conference Of Mayors Launches Smart City Institute

The USCM is an NGO that draws membership from all cities with at least 30,000 population. It’s purpose is to spread Sustainable Development, aka Technocracy, policies to every corner of America. Thus, America is going ‘smart city’; if you don’t like it, it can only be stopped at the city level. ⁃ TN Editor

A formal institute for smart cities has been launched by the US Conference of Mayors (USCM), during its Winter Meeting in Washington DC.

Steve Adler, Mayor of Austin, revealed it will help engage mayors around the three I’s: innovation, infrastructure and inclusion. One of the goals of the institute is to allow mayors to define their needs from a smart city.

“This is usually defined by vendors but in this space, mayors come together to define their priorities,” said Neil Kleiman, a professor at New York University’s Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, who has been one of the founders of the new group.

Mayors can bring their challenges to the closed meetings and one of the goals is help them find a clear path forward for their initiatives and to then connect mayors with effective solution providers.

Greg Fischer, Mayor of Louisville, said that technology can be harnessed in ways that not only benefit citizens but which also can rekindle civic trust in government.

“Our ability to crowd source data has been very important around localised air pollution,” said Fischer. “With a GPS-enabled inhaler we can identify where pollution is most intense in the city and send out alerts for people with asthma to stay away from those areas.”

The key to using technology to build better cities is to fight against what Fischer called “digital red lining” by providing high-speed low-cost Internet and refurbishing hardware.

“We need to get digital inclusion into our policies. Your home is your city and not just the four walls you occupy.”

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