Will a networked smart city threaten urban anonymity?

Summary:The city of the future will be covered with sensors that can enable bridges, bricks and traffic signals to communicate with its inhabitants. But are there risks to this technological revolution?

The city of the future will be covered with sensors that can enable bridges, bricks and traffic signals to communicate with its inhabitants.

But are there risks to this technological revolution?

According to Nokia user interface design head Adam Greenfield, the smart city comes with its own share of pitfalls.

Speaking at the Supernova conference in San Francisco this week, Greenfield said that the ubiquitous networking of the smart city undermines the anonymity that fosters reinvention.

"Networked information technologies increasingly condition cities," Greenfield said.

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Can you know too much in a city? If technologies such as RFID remove the distinction of neighborhoods and landmarks, is the city still a city?

"We're entering a time where every brick and every window and traffic signal an addressable object," Greenfield said, noting the adoption of a new Internet protocol, IPv6.

In other words: soon you won't just be conversing with everyone in the city; you'll be conversing with the city itself.

(At this point, I should mention the Twitter account of London's Tower Bridge, which has its own API for when it is opening and closing and for whom. Example: "I am opening for the Dixie Queen, which is passing downstream.")

Greenfield argues that new city residents are needed to explain these new technologies to the masses. That means regulation comes into play, too.

For now, the concept is too early for cities to spend energy on. But it's worth consideration.

Isn't it?

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

Topics: Innovation

About

Andrew Nusca is a former writer-editor for ZDNet and contributor to CNET. He is also the former editor of SmartPlanet, ZDNet's sister site about innovation. He writes about business, technology and design now but used to cover finance, fashion and culture. He was an intern at Money, Men's Vogue, Popular Mechanics and the New York Daily Ne... Full Bio

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