Smart cities and smart decisions

Data is playing an increasingly central role in real estate; from how we choose where to locate a shop, how we make investment decisions, and how we design buildings. With tech players like Sidewalk Labs entering the sphere of city development, this is only likely to increase. However, with this comes questions of ownership and privacy. One might have thought that Google’s sibling company Sidewalk Labs would want to gain an edge in their Toronto scheme through keeping their data proprietary. This could for instance give them unique metrics on how people interact with real estate and move through the city, which could be capable of monetisation. However, in a bid to address trust issues, Sidewalk Labs announced this week that it is giving up the IP in any data collected through the scheme to a third-party agency ‘Civic Data Trust’ and making all of the systems run on open standards ‘to prevent vendor lock-in’. We live in an age where disquiet is mounting on how personal data is used. Whether you know it or not, you probably already give up your live location data (from which one can easily infer where you live) through the apps on your phone. As with many areas of technology, data is one where innovation is running ahead of governance. It is encouraging to see market leaders like Sidewalk Labs taking the ethical high ground on this issue.