Partnership for smart cities
Sensors and computer applications can be used to create smart cities with a high standard of living. In this project, an ethical framework is developed for such a city.
This ethical framework that has been developed reinforces the bottom-up approach of the smart city, and therefore counters the more dominant, top-down, technocratic approach in which things are done for people rather than with them. In addition to this ethical framework, a dynamic quality mark will also be developed for smart city platforms that meet the identified social-ethical and technological conditions. An app will also be developed to facilitate co-design with the general public.
It will not be long before most of the world’s population lives in an urban area. One way of guaranteeing a sufficient standard of living is to make these towns and cities ‘smart’, through the widespread implementation of information technology. In the smart city, sensors embedded in streets, houses, cars, clothing and even residents’ bodies collect information on traffic flow, consumer behaviour, energy consumption and other parameters. By combining all this information and subjecting it to computer analysis, an efficient, organised, streamlined and comfortable urban environment can be created.
Many companies are currently working together with government agencies and the general public to develop products and services that could be used in the smart city. Initially, people are often very enthusiastic about taking part, motivated by a vision of a better world. However, achieving this is easier than it sounds, as there is a risk that information will be misused or used for commercial purposes. It turns out that people have little idea about who does what with the information that they help gather. Meanwhile, negative reports in the media have resulted in unproductive mistrust between the general public, government bodies and the business community.
In this project, an ethical framework will be designed to ensure transparent interactions between the business community, government bodies and the public, so that the technologies required for a smart city can be considered legitimate by all concerned.
The researchers will make use of the following case studies:
- The Smart Citizen Kit, in which people wearing smart sensors contribute to local air quality monitoring. This case study builds on a documentary made by one of the researchers, which studies the social and ethical dilemmas surrounding the Smart Citizen Kit. The researchers will concentrate on the balance of power between the participating organisations and individuals.
- An initiative for the peer-to-peer exchange of renewable energy between households in Arnhem. This initiative was begun based on ideological convictions and aims to involve the local community in technology development from its inception. This case study will be used to further develop the ethical framework designed as part of this project. The researchers will also consider how the negotiations between the various stakeholders can be transformed into a socio-technological design that represents their values and interests.
Quality mark for platforms
In this project, engineers, social scientists and ethicists consider how values such as privacy, participation, property rights, distributive justice and the right not to participate can be built into the technologies that make the smart city possible. Examples are:
- the handling of data (intellectual property, the extent of data collection and the method used, ethical standards for professionals);
- algorithms to combine and analyse data (handling complexity, transparency, controllability, accountability, etc.);
- design and operation criteria for platforms, to share data and data analyses online and make them accessible to stakeholders (role distribution, accessibility, control, extent of centralisation).
The project outcome will be a quality mark for platforms that meet the social, ethical and technological conditions identified in the project.
The researchers will also develop new ways of involving people more closely in critically reflecting on their own digital world. They are working on an app that provides people with information on the ethical considerations on which a smart system in the city is based, as well as on ways in which to participate in its continued development.
One important criteria in this is that individuals, government bodies and businesses design the smart city together, as equal partners (co-design). This does not mean asking people for input now and again, but means ensuring continued engagement.
smart cities, co-design, information technology, quality of life, quality of life, smart city platform, smart citizen kit, participatory design, app development, citizen participation, bottom up approachOfficial project title: