Axios – Momentum for smart cities projects, which has been fed by big promises from industry and big hopes in government, is slowing down in the face of a wave of public skepticism. Driving the news: Alphabet-owned Sidewalk Labs, which has proposed a futuristic smart-city development for Toronto’s waterfront, has pledged not to sell personal data collected at the project or use it for advertising to assuage privacy concerns. Instead, if the plan is approved, local government entities will take the lead on managing data.
Context: “The U.S. has a general optimism that technology can make our lives easier if used in right way. But that’s countered by mistrust of intentions or capabilities of state and local governments,” said Todd Daubert, chair of the communication and technology practice at Dentons, a law firm that works on smart city developments. There’s also distrust of the tech companies that see cities as a huge market for selling their data-guzzling tools.
- Sidewalk Labs originally proposed an independent “urban data trust” to manage the data collected in Toronto’s Quayside project.
- But residents and city officials were uneasy about how it would work, and lack of clarity around Sidewalk’s business model spurred opposition.
- The company has now pledged to minimize data collection and to build only about 25% of the technology systems used.
- Sidewalk’s concessions “shows that Waterfront Toronto was able to stand up to Big Tech — not kick them out but not be bullied by them either,” said Alex Ryan, SVP of partnerships at MaRS Discovery District, an innovation hub in Toronto. “People don’t want it to be just Big Tech doing this development.”…