People may be concerned that it opens them up to potential quarantine (with disruption and loss of income) if they use the app to its fullest extent. Obviously, this limits adoption in a society where even the notion of collective welfare is driven by the need to protect “me”, not the “other”.
Speculation fills the void left by a gap in communication and trust. This is seen in privacy concerns around the app, and also in the targeting of smart lamp posts by protesters in 2019. Even if these lamp posts served a useful social purpose, there was no immediate connection to quality of life, and so speculation – or worse, misinformation – took over.
What might a redefined vision of smart cities look like? It would target real social issues, using technology to make tangible improvements to quality of life. It would decouple the idea of a smart city from data-gathering and digital technology, and instead focus on the intelligent prioritisation of social needs.
It would make clear connections to the needs of individuals, households, and businesses, as well as society at large. If a vision cannot sell a technology to these stakeholders, then it will never see mass adoption.
Finally, it would focus on bridging divides, to build public platforms and create more equal playing fields. For example, take the issue of ageing.
Families want to care for elderly members but are often unable to, due to work. Yet elderly members also desire some level of independence, their own space and their own community. The government could offer affordable hardware to help households monitor the health and activity of elderly members. Digital platforms could be developed for housing estates to connect floors and buildings, providing a local community that can support elderly residents.