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The “age of smart cities” is upon us, and yet no one appears to know what that means. Although interconnected technologies, like sensors, kiosks, and autonomous vehicles, promise to transform the urban landscape, their potential is largely undefined. What public value do they offer? What relative costs and benefits do they pose? How will they alter the organization and operation of urban life? BARI is seeking to answer these questions in a hands-on way by helping the City of Boston to navigate them, and in turn generating lessons that policymakers and technologists around the world can use to inform their efforts in this space.

In May 2017 we hosted an event attended by a diverse group of experts from the public, private, and academic sectors. That conversation identified four questions regarding smart cities that require additional attention: two regarding design—1) How do we effectively incorporate community voices into the conversation? and 2) How do smart cities technologies interact with and alter basic social and behavioral dynamics?; and two regarding implementation—3) What business models are available and how do they reflect a city’s values? and 4) How does data governance balance the effective utilization of new information against privacy? These form the basis of the project moving forward.


Dan O’Brien* (Northeastern University), Justin de Benedictis-Kessner (Northeastern University) *-Contact: