Toronto wins some smart city award or other

Lists and awards for cities are absolutely everywhere these days and the Smart City concept is no exception. More often than not, there are all kinds of bullshit and hidden (or completely bogus) methodologies and criteria involved, some of which make the process of awarding of the FIFA World Cup look almost accountable and transparent by comparison.

Toronto Waterfront
Toronto Waterfront

Anyway, this is all a prelude to noting that Toronto has been named the ‘Intelligent Community of the Year’ by the Intelligent Community Forum (one of a proliferation of similarly-named think-tanks and boosters). The basis for the award is not, surprisingly, the smart qualities of the current (rehabbing) Mayor, Rob Ford, but the widely criticised and apparently never-ending Waterfront district development. It may be soul-less and have zero concern for genuine inclusivity, good urban design and sustainability but, hey, it’s got great broadband:

“The district is building infrastructure that will provide 12,000 new residences with 100 Mbps broadband to individual homes, and 10 Gbps networking to businesses. The sponsors say they have already tested 400 Gbps speeds, with the goal of providing design and media companies in Toronto with the highest transmission rates in the world.”

This really doesn’t give me much confidence in the concept of ‘intelligence’ or ‘smartness’ that is embodied in such awards and assessments, however it does help to confirm that Toronto will be the Canadian case-study for my new research project on smart cities.


Why does the Internet of Things look so… crap?

Interesting article on the Guardian website this weekend, which highlights what seems to me not so much either the genuinely socially revolutionary or the threatening aspects of the ‘Internet of Things’ and smart everything, but the general lack of inspiration in so much of what developers are presenting as visions. But why does the Internet of Things frequently look so banal and so… crap?

There seems to be a pervasive failure of the imagination in many popular portrayals of the future, as if imagining the future is always an exercise in nostalgia. The future really ain’t what it used to be, back in the day when energy was going to be too cheap to meter, when we wouldn’t need to work and everything menial would be done by robots, when we’d all have our own personal helicopter (or even spaceship) and, of course, when there would be an end to war. The breakdown of that post-WW2 optimism and with it the faith in either (actually existing) capitalism or communism to deliver, hasn’t been replaced by revolutionary fervour or a brave new visions, but pathetic ideas like toothbrushes that tell us how well we’ve cleaned our teeth. The future is being created by an unholy combination of committees of marketing hacks and security wonks and we need to take it back…