A Duke University study shows that residents are uncomfortable about the increasing number of smart technology devices being deployed in urban areas.
So-called “smart tech” refers to devices that can collect real-time data on daily life. While we’ve become accustomed to smart technology in our homes, it is increasingly being used to collect public data, allowing cities to log foot traffic, driving and parking patterns, and even garbage collection.
Advocates say this makes cities safer and more efficient. But a survey conducted by Duke University shows that city residents worry about how smart tech might influence how their neighborhoods are perceived.
One example is the use of gun detection devices, which are currently being utilized in over 135 U.S. cities, including Durham.
Some respondents believe the tech could exacerbate racial disparities in policing, and fear that the devices are being disproportionally installed in Black and brown neighborhoods.
The study also shows that people in lower-income brackets expressed more ethical concerns than those at higher-income levels.
Pardis Emani-Naeini is a Duke University computer science professor. She says those who are manufacturing and deploying smart city technology need to think more about the implications for city residents.
"People are concerned about smart city technologies, both about privacy and ethical implications of this, and people would like to have transparency and autonomy," says Emani-Naeini.
Researchers hope their findings can influence how smart city technology is designed and utilized.