by Thomas Osburg, Feb 14, 2020

The pull of the metropolises is unbroken – worldwide and in Germany. The population of the large German cities has increased by more than 10% in the past decade. This development is already pushing many cities to their limits – affordable housing is scarce, the flow of people and goods is slow, the environment is characterised by high levels of pollution and the infrastructure is becoming increasingly porous.

One answer to these challenges would be the consistent networking and digitalization of metropolitan areas. Such intelligent cities use data and digital technologies in innovative ways and can thus reduce emissions, reconcile modern living and working, make mobility more comfortable and efficient and improve the health of the inhabitants. In short, smart cities collect data, evaluate it using algorithms and, in combination with modern technology, improve the quality of life of their residents and protect the environment through the efficient use of resources.

In addition to high investment costs, the main obstacles are fear of data misuse and the violation of personal rights in a totally networked world. Especially in Germany, the fear of Big Brother is great. Surveys show that more than half of the Germans are afraid of the collection of personal data in connection with smart city development.

There is therefore a clear conflict of goals: intelligent traffic management is based on the fact that vehicle data can be analyzed by as many road users as possible. And the prevention of traffic jams protects the environment. At the same time, many people shy away from disclosing their movement profiles, at least anonymously. There is even more concern that health data could fall into the wrong hands. Researchers are now certain that big-data analyses could significantly improve the chances of detecting and curing serious diseases at an early stage.

Companies, local politicians and numerous other stakeholders still have a long way to go to convince citizens of the benefits of Smart Cities. After all, without trust in the correct handling of personal data, there will be little progress in making people’s lives better.