Whether or not information and technology can improve our quality of life in cities seems a pretty fundamental question for the Smarter Cities movement to address - there's little point in us expending time and money on the application of technology to city systems unless we can answer it positively.
A group of scientists, technologists and urban designers discussed that question at the Urban Systems Collaborative meeting in London two weeks ago. As well as identifying examples where information and technology have improved quality of life - for example by alerting volunteer first-aiders to the occurrence of a heart attack and locating the nearest publicly-accessible defibrillator using an open data feed - we also discussed the limitations of information and technology.
Information is inherently uncertain; and whilst there are circumstances in which we trust our lives to automated systems to respond to it - such as antilock braking systems in cars - there are many situations in which it is more appropriate to make information available to human decision-makers. In those situations it is vital not only to make information available but to ensure that it's limitations are known and understood.
I've written a report of the Urban Systems Collaborative discussion on this topic on my blog. I think it's a crucial subject for "Smarter Cities" to address in order that we use technology to our genuine advantage as our world evolves. I'd welcome your comments on it.