On September 12 the Reverend Rees launched the city’s Smart
City Strategy at the ‘Bristol – Sweden Future Cities Summit’. This five-year
strategy, “sets out how Bristol City Council will support Bristol’s smart
city journey” and, “aims to ensure smart city projects will provide
opportunities to more people and communities to assist in the city’s inclusive
growth and help towards solutions to issues such as public safety, traffic
congestion, energy poverty and health and social care”. But what is a
‘Smart City’ and what are ‘smart city projects’ and why do we need them?
When you see the word ‘smart’ prefixing an object it means one thing. Deploying the internet – originally devised by the US military as a weapon – to collect as much behavioural data about the ‘Smart’ device owner as possible so that the data can be used to predict, suggest and, increasingly, control the user’s actions. Often through ‘nudging’ victims into better corporate citizenship if not outright threatening them with extra-judicial sanctions.
It began with the smart phone. A mini computer in your pocket beaming detailed behavioural data about your life back to unaccountable tech firms and their government and corporate partners. This is the ‘big data’ you hear about or what Google call ‘data exhaust’ as if it’s a harmless waste product without value. If you’ve got one of these phones, then you’re likely to be providing real time information to unaccountable corporations about where you are and what you are doing. And, rest assured, this information is being stored and analysed by tech companies, the government, security services and various corporate third parties.
The smart phone has been so successful at collecting your data and making tech corporations money through the ruthless competitive dynamic unleashed by big data that there’s a huge economic imperative to produce more ‘smart’ products to collect more data about you and your family. Silicon Valley has given this all out assault on your life and privacy a cuddly name, ‘The Internet of Things’.
Cars, homes, public services, exercise aids, finance, shopping, health products, utilities, white goods and much more are all in the firing line for a ‘Smart’ makeover. Google even owns the tech to know what’s in your smart fridge. (Imagine visiting your GP and being told you have been struck off because you had too many pies in your fridge contrary to your ‘Smart Health Agreement’?)
However, to collect this huge amount of behavioural data from the digital crap being foisted on us, you need a ‘Smart City’ infrastructure. A dense mesh of 5G transmitters and receivers throughout the city that can upload and manage the huge amounts of real time behavioural data the ‘Smart City’ prophets require for their big data society.
This is sold to you as “innovation” that will create “jobs and sustainable growth” while delivering personal benefits such as faster internet speeds to download a movie to your handheld screen or the quicker uploading of holiday photos for gran.
Don’t be fooled. The internet is a weapon and the smart city aims it at you.