Oliver Rack: A strategic outlook: Smart cities need smart citizens

21/08/2013 - 20:58
Smart cities need smart citizens
Post-PRISM and future Ubiquity Computing will challenge societies and demands stronger competence building, smart citizenship and digital ethics for societal adoption.
A strategic outlook by Oliver Rack, Mannheim/Germany
The future ubiquity computing, IoT, smart cities, the resulting (bronto-)data opportunities and technological user challenges will be touched in many questions of competence, capacity and budgets – but particulary in legislation, ethics and societal adoption.
IoT is strongly connected with big data and cloud computing and will be a great deal in the future growth of the digital universe. According to estimations of the International Data Cooperation (IDC) by 2020, nearly 40% of the information in the digital universe will be "touched" by cloud computing providers — which means that a byte will be stored or processed in a cloud somewhere during its journey through the Internet. Over 50% of cloud relevant data will partly come from consumer devices, medical technology or embedded systems – like micro controllers and sensors – and mainly originate from surveillance technology. Currently only a tiny part of the digital universe has been explored for analytic value. IDC estimates that by 2020, as much as 33% of the digital universe will contain information that might be valuable if analyzed.
This means that the lion’s share of cloud touched data may be valuable for further expertise – possibly regardless its primary intention or custodial need. The share of data in the digital universe that requires protection is growing faster than the digital universe itself, from less than a third in 2010 to more than 40% in 2020.
This may turn out to be a good policy
Observations of analysts already show approaching examinations: A study by Mailyn Fidler from Stanford University analyzed EU's position in the international power politics respective IoT as "reculant" unless it can guarantee legislative standards will benefit its internal IoT communities. Not to mention that global data distribution will enforce EU-laws as global standards of course. The study underlines that the EU considers privacy a societal priority and has a history of regulating technologies to prevent privacy risks, as its Data Protection Directive indicates. There is no difference in IoT.
The EU, China and the United States each take distinct approaches to the opportunities and risks of the emerging IoT. The EU insists on the need for societal parameters relating to IoT, China stresses the development of their own technical standards, and the US currently trusts in its traditional strength as a technological innovator.
The study also reasons that the EU, faced with the IoT approaches of the US and China may stand behind its social parameters and emphasis on new international governance mechanisms as a way of asserting alternative power. In any case this may turn out to be a good policy: a growing count of developed countries and their democratized societies will increasingly demand self-determination by individuals including informational self-determination. Branches who can convince societies of their innovations have certainly advantage over competitors following other strategies.
Incalculable is the loss of economic potentials if future privacy-touched ICT innovations won't be societal adopted
So in longterm regulations creating customer’s trustfulness can prevent economic harm on industries. The recent controversy on privacy fraud caused by PRISM gives just a breeze impression on potential backlashes – even in a running prosperous market: The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) estimates a loss for US cloud companies in the following three years due to "PRISM-Fallout" from about 35 Billion US-Dollars. Neelie Kroes, European Commissioner for Digital Affairs, stated the problem quite succinctly: “If European cloud customers cannot trust the United States government, then maybe they won't trust US cloud providers either. If I am right, there are multibillion-euro consequences for American companies." Incalculable is more than ever the loss of economic potentials if future privacy-touched ICT innovations won't be societal adopted.
Since ICT potentials in general are of global interests their emerging societal challenges will be too. This demands but also triggers an extensive stage for international and cross-boarder collaboration in developing and offering strategies and tools to include societies in future evolution, avoid a digital devide, built up a technology culture and help consumers to transform themselves to prosumers – as core component of responsible research and innovation (RRI).
There won't be truly smart cities without smart citizens
Technological changes like IoT and especially data exploration will be as invasive to our ethics as certain kinds of biotech matters and nuclear usage. Unlike those in ICT citizens have at least a chance to incorporate themselves, participate, learn and anticipate.
So best way to prepare society and to pre-incubate this trends by "just in time motivations" is to scale down this issues to an inclusive  and intermunicipal framework for local citizen and local administration to experience usage, develop skills and discover risks and chances in IoT and ICT in general. "Local" therefore since it sounds conducive to scale down complex opportunities to a local level wich makes them better understandable and in addition to this could generate identification more easily. "Intermunicipal" because it's wise to share knowledge and to compare findings.
In a close up there are already fascinating passions around wich form intersection between technology, society and culture and wich are playing this future with all their heart: citizen scientists, (open) data geeks, selftrackers, urban activits, hackers, coders, data driven journalists, artists and designers giving data, applications and devices a delighting beauty.
To cluster those stakeholders and their knowledge for community use could encourage deeper involvement in technologies by general public, build an urban tech culture, tighten community cohesion and work as collective awareness platform for future challenges in a positive, grass-rooted and sustainable way. There won't be truly smart cities without smart citizens.
To avoid the risks of delay for Europe's emerging IoT ecosystem potentials due to a lack of societal orientation and to efficiently achieve the EU's goals in protecting its citizens  the roll out of those mentioned broadly based and cluster-like implements for knowledge driven citizen attendance to IoT innovation is strongly recommended.
It’s up to societies an their decission makers to bring this knowledge and cultures into huddle – together with pro’s and government staff and pick the chance of a truly smart digital evolution.
Digital competence for lifecycle energy balance
According to the research paper "gadgets and gigawatts" by the International Energy Association, the electricity consumption of computers, cell phones and other gadgets will double by 2022 and triple by 2030. A need for an additional 280 gigawatts of power generation capacity is estimated – not considered the efficiency loss of utility stations (65%) and the required electricity used to run networks and server farms. But this is just the tip of the iceberg: 
Much more important is the energy required to manufacture all this electronic equipment. A study by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) calculated that the total energy use of a computer is dominated by production (83%) and only 17% is used for its operation. A handful of microchips can have as much embodied energy as a classic car and nowadays even cars a packed with digital technology. Furthermore gadgets have an extremely short lifecycle. If digital products would last a lifetime or at least be used as long as possible, embodied energy would not be such an issue. Most computers and other electronic devices are replaced only after a couple of years, while they are still perfectly workable devices. Addressing technological obsolescence and competence to maintain devices would be the most powerful approach to lower the ecological footprint of digital technology.