As technology has evolved, so, too, has the Internet of Things (IoT). Devices nowadays connect to the web, and in a sense, they’re all connected to each other: phones, computers, smart home devices. All of these devices connect to the Internet and constantly send and receive information.
Cities are no exception. Data collection represents a major part of the tech industry. Are there better ways to collect data and improve the lives of citizens than implementing tech into the city itself? Budapest and other Hungarian cities are on their way to becoming smart cities, but what does this mean for their citizens?
Well, while there are benefits, there are also plenty of issues to discuss. Let’s start by talking about the benefits of smart cities.
One benefit of converting a regular city into a smart city is the increase in quality of life for its citizens. Smart cities across the globe share some similar initiatives, such as establishing city-wide public Wi-Fi hotspots, areas to charge electric cars, and other projects that are not only innovative, but helpful to the populace. In Hungary, efforts are invested in building an intelligent transport system and launching an effective 5G network.
Also, smart cities often leave smaller environmental footprints than regular cities. Combating climate change is an important part of the 2020’s, so leaving smaller footprints is a noticeable improvement.
Businesses flock to cities they deem sufficient, and smart cities have a track record of investing in smart cities and doing business inside them. This means more money for the city, which means more funds for projects and improvements to the quality of life of citizens.
Smart city initiatives and policies may seem small at first (going green, using smart traffic lights, installing cameras on streets), but the idea is to build upon them over time in order to benefit citizens.
Hungary is leading the smart city push right now, and that push will only grow stronger.
However, smart cities face resistance against citizens aware of the privacy risks surrounding the concept.
As cities inch closer to becoming smart cities, the privacy of citizens decreases. Why? Well, there are a few reasons. For one, smart cities may use the risk of crime as a way to set up smart cameras, sensors, and other pieces of technology that can spy on citizens.
Nowhere has this been displayed better than in October 2019, where Alphabet Inc. announced their now-cancelled Sidewalk Toronto Initiative, which focuses on converting Toronto into a smart city.
However, privacy concerns quickly arose due to the nature of the project. Alphabet Inc would collect tons of data, from traffic light data to camera data to sensor data—they would see and hear everything.
It’s clear smart cities have a future—privacy concerns won’t change that. The benefits smart cities bring to both citizens and the environment cannot be ignored. But neither can the negatives. Fortunately, there are ways for citizens to protect themselves in a smart city, though they require work on the user’s end.
For one, it’d be a smart idea to have a VPN on your device for any public network the user connects to. Public networks are a big source of data, not just for companies, but for cybercriminals as well. A VPN will encrypt any data a device sends out or receives, meaning it remains private.
It’s also important citizens practice proper cybersecurity etiquette in general, no matter where they are. They shouldn’t give out personal information in public, neither should they access sensitive information while on public networks. Being conscious of security is the number one way to prevent any data leaks or data collection.
Rest assured, as smart cities become commonplace, privacy laws will come into effect and services will begin prioritizing privacy. Until then, however, it’s up to citizens to protect their data.
There’s no stopping the growth of smart cities. Most major counties contain at least one, and their influence is undeniable, their benefits visible. But with this influence comes loads of privacy concerns centered around their citizens.
As smart cities grow, it’s important for citizens to do what they can to protect their privacy.