The nebulous smart city label
While Sadowski and Pasquale have joined a number of social commentators questioning where the smart city phenomenon is headed, they also condemned the broad way the term "smart city" has been defined.
"Major corporate players work hard to push smartness as an ideal and to pull city leaders and investors into the smartness orbit," they state in their paper. "[They] have worked hard to create this market and to shape it in certain ways. Yet, with this massive growth and capital investment, the label 'smart city' is nebulous.... This ambiguity does a lot of work for smart city proponents and purveyors. The label.... [gives] them discursive cover in case they need to distance themselves if something goes wrong or doesn't deliver on a promise."
Smart city proponents, naturally, see things differently. They say it's a little like the early days of the PC or the way that people first envisioned social networks like Facebook. A desktop computer was originally seen as a better tool for typing reports than an electric typewriter, but the machine later became the all-important, expansive portal to the Internet. And before Facebook exploded to global prominence, few could envision how important intimate mobile connections would one day be to millions of people.
"The exciting part is that we don't know what we don't know" about smart city technology, said Rick Usher, assistant city manager for Kansas City. Notice, he called it "exciting."
Sign up for Computerworld eNewsletters.