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Weighing the politics of smart city tech

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 6, 2016
Atlanta mayor says tech vendors need to assure elected officials that supporting smart tech will be amenable to voters.

"These vendors are not going to give it up for free," he added.

Another big question for elected city leaders is how citizens might react to video sensors being installed to monitor traffic and crowds, which could raise privacy concerns.

AT&T Mobility CEO Glenn Lurie said in an interview after the panel concluded that city deliberations about privacy and how data is used should be upfront and that the technology used for city projects should be designed to protect privacy. AT&T's position is similar to most other vendors: it says that customers must opt-in to have their data shared, as in an app that tracks a person's location, and that data gathered will be anonymized if shared with third parties.

"Our number one job is cybersecurity," Lurie said. "We've been forthright about what our [privacy] policies are."

Lurie said that working with mayors on smart city tech won't be much different than approaching car companies for LTE wireless connections. On Tuesday, AT&T said it had reached a multi-year deal with Ford to be the exclusive LTE provider to new U.S. and Canadian cars, which will reach 10 million vehicles by 2020. The carrier now works with nine of 15 major car companies to provide wireless connections.

In all, AT&T signed 300 deals with companies for Internet of Things technology in the past year, and supports 25 million connected devices.

Red Bull is already using 3G wireless from AT&T and Wi-Fi to connect 200,000 drink coolers to monitor their location, temperature and other performance characteristics, Red Bull officials announced at the summit. Red Bull used AT&T's M2X Data Service, announced one year ago, to help build the cooler monitoring application.

AT&T Mobile and Business CEO Ralph de la Vega told developers in his morning address that "very few in the industry have near these assets."

"We're just scratching the surface of what we can do in the space," Lurie said. He noted that research firm Gartner and network-equipment company Cisco have predicted there will be 50 billion connected-IoT devices by 2020. That represents a "massive" $1.5 trillion financial opportunity by 2020, Lurie added.

Rosenworcel, the FCC commissioner, said she favors expanding the available wireless spectrum for commercial and industrial markets to "decrease the cost of access," which will increase city officials' interest in experimenting with smart tech.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich joined Ericsson CEO Hans Vestberg in describing ways their companies support IoT technology that can be used affordably by cities. Vestberg showed a plastic device produced by a 3D printer that can be used to incorporate sensors that monitor water pressure and contaminants.


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