Tag Archives: urban big data

New paper: Urban science: a short primer

Rob Kitchin has published a new Programmable City working paper (No. 23), ‘Urban science: a short primer‘, on SocArXiv.

Abstract: This paper provides a short introductory overview of urban science. It defines urban science, details its practioners and their aims, sets out its relationship to urban informatics and urban studies, and explains its epistemology and the analysis of urban big data. It then summarizes criticism of urban science with respect to epistemology, instrumental rationality, data issues, and ethics. It is concluded that urban science research will continue to grow for the foreseeable future, providing a valuable means of making sense of cities, but that it is unlikely it will become a new paradigm, producing an integrative approach that replaces the diverse philosophical traditions within urban studies.

Download here


Two invited talks in Boston on smart cities

Rob Kitchin gave two invited talks in Boston last week concerning Programmable City research.

The first was at UMass Boston, sponsored by APA-MA, BSA, MAPC, MAPD, MACDC, BRA, Mel King Institute, and was entitled ‘Planning in the era of smart urbanism.  The slides for the talk can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/robkitchin/planning-in-an-era-of-smart-urbanism

The second was at the launch of MIT’s new Institute for Data, Systems and Society and was entitled ‘Ethics and risks of urban big data and smart cities’. The slides for the talk can be found at: http://www.slideshare.net/robkitchin/the-ethics-and-risks-of-urban-big-data-and-smart-cities  A video of the event can be found at: https://idss2016.mit.edu/

Reflecting upon hackathons by their participants

Thomas James Lodato and Carl DiSalvo give a good overview of what hackathons are in their recent article:

Hackathons are rapid design and development events at which volunteer participants come together to conceptualize, prototype, and make (mostly digital) products and services.

Coupling with the rapid pace of conceptualising a product or service, prototyping and making do with limited time and resources during the event, is the competition with other teams for the prizes, ranging from cash rewards to a spot in an incubator programme that could potentially transform the initial idea at a hackathon into a startup success.

We often see coverage of the winning teams, their ideas and sometimes their presentations before the judging panel. However, we do not necessarily know how participants reflect upon their own experiences, problems they encounter along the way and adjustments to their goals and strategies under time pressure.

In this blogpost, we try to give a glimpse of these aspects by asking participants how and what they did in the Global Data Fest/Smart City Hackathon which took place in Dublin between 6 – 8 March, 2015. The videos were taken before the teams presented their ideas to the judges, which means they did not know who were going to win and thus the conversation was not about their ‘winning experiences’. Instead, the videos are about how they took into account of all sorts of challenges and the advice they received from the mentors to finish their project. In doing so, we also wish to create cultural memory for the participants and for one the various pursuits of transforming Dublin into a smart city.

Here they are!

Project: Life Tracking

Project: EmuLUX

Project: CityBuzz

Project: BikeRack

Project: Bintel

Project: BedCount

We thank the participants and also David Prendergast from Intel, who also gave a talk for our seminar series, for making the videos happen.


New report: Getting smarter about smart cities: Improving data privacy and data security

report launchAs part of ‘EU Data Protection Day’ a new report – “Getting smarter about smart cities: Improving data privacy and data security” – was launched today by Dara Murphy T.D., Minister for European Affairs and Data Protection.  The report, commissioned by the Data Protection Unit, Department of the Taoiseach (Irish Prime Minister) and written by Rob Kitchin (of The Programmable City project), is the first publication by the new Government Data Forum, a panel of experts drawn from across industry, civil society, academia and the public sector. The Forum advises Government on the opportunities and challenges for society and the economy arising from continued growth in the generation and use of personal data.  The report is available from the Department of the Taoiseach website or click here.

Executive Summary
Many cities around the world are seeking to become a smart city, using networked, digital technologies and urban big data to tackle a range of issues, such as improving governance and service delivery, creating more resilient critical infrastructure, growing the local economy, becoming more sustainable, producing better mobility, gaining transparency and accountability, enhancing quality of life, and increasing safety and security. In short, the desire is to use digital technology to improve the lives of citizens, finesse city management, and create economic development.

In this context, a wide range of smart city technologies are being deployed within urban environments, including city operating systems, centralised control rooms, urban dashboards, intelligent transport systems, integrated travel ticketing, bike share schemes, real-time passenger information displays, logistics management systems, smart energy grids, controllable lighting, smart meters, sensor networks, building management systems, and an array of smartphone apps and sharing economy platforms. All of these technologies generate huge quantities of data, much of them in real-time and at a highly granular scale.

These data about cities and their citizens can be put to many good uses and, if shared, for uses beyond the system and purposes for which they were generated. Collectively, these data create the evidence base to run cities more efficiently, productively, sustainably, transparently and fairly. However, generating, processing, analysing, sharing and storing large amounts of actionable data also raise a number of concerns and challenges.

Key amongst these are the data privacy, data protection, and data security issues that arise from the creation of smart cities. Many smart city technologies capture personally identifiable information (PII) and household level data about citizens – their characteristics, their location and movements, and their activities – link these data together to produce new derived data, and use them to create profiles of people and places and to make decisions about them. As such, there are concerns about what a smart city means for people’s privacy and what privacy harms might arise from the sharing, analysis and misuse of urban big data. In addition, there are questions as to how secure smart city technologies and the data they generate are from hacking and theft and what the implications of a data breach are for citizens. While successful cyberattacks on cities are still relatively rare, it is clear that smart city technologies raise a number of cybersecurity concerns that require attention.

To date, the approach to these issues has been haphazard and uncoordinated due to the ad-hoc manner in which they were developed. However, given the potential harms to citizens and the associated costs that can arise, and the potential benefits at stake, this approach should not be allowed to continue. The challenge is to rollout smart city solutions and gain the benefits of their deployment while maintaining infrastructure and system security and systematically minimising any pernicious effects and harms. This is no easy task, given the many stakeholders and vested interests involved and their differing aims and ambitions, and the diverse set of technologies and their complex arrangement.

This report details the development of smart cities and urban big data, highlights the various privacy and security concerns and harms related to the deployment and use of smart city technologies and initiatives, and makes a number of suggestions for addressing trepidations about and ills arising from data privacy, protection and security issues.

It argues that there is no single solution for ensuring that the benefits of creating smart cities are realised and any negative effects are neutralised. Rather, it advocates a multi-pronged approach that uses a suite of solutions, some of which are market driven, some more technical in nature (privacy enhancement technologies), others more policy, regulatory and legally focused (revised fair information practice principles, privacy by design, security by design, education and training), and some more governance and management orientated (at three levels: vision and strategy – smart city advisory board and smart city strategy; oversight of delivery and compliance – smart city governance, ethics and security oversight committee; and day-to-day delivery – core privacy/security team, smart city privacy/security assessments, and computer emergency response team).

These solutions provide a balanced, pragmatic approach that enable the rollout of smart city technologies and initiatives, but in a way that is not prejudicial to people’s privacy, actively work to minimise privacy harms, curtail data breaches, and tackle cybersecurity issues. They also work across the entire life-cycle (from procurement to decommissioning) and span the whole system ecology (all its stakeholders and components). Collectively they promote fairness and equity, protect citizens and cities from harms, and enable improved governance and economic development. Moreover, they do so using an approach that is not heavy handed in nature and is relatively inexpensive to implement. They are by no means definitive, but build on and extend work to date, advance the debate, and detail a practical route forward.

The report concludes that a core requirement for creating smart cities is the adoption of an ethical, principle-led approach designed to best serve the interests of citizens. In other words, being smart about how we plan and run cities consists of much more than deploying data-driven, networked technologies; it requires a smart approach.