Just in case you were wondering, there are important differences between smart cities and smart homes. As cities get smarter, they also become more efficient in everything from traffic management to utilizing public resources. But should cities go so far as to integrate their smart technology with individual homes? Or should they continue to maintain a line of distinction between public and private property?
Henderson, NV adopted a strategy a few years back to become a smart city. In the years since, they have seriously upgraded a ton of technology. The Henderson Fire Department (HFD) is one of just many municipal departments to have benefited from the technology investment. They can now do some pretty amazing things with data in real time, thanks to the drive to become smart.
If they wanted, it seems that the technology they now have access to could be linked to individual homes in order to give the HFD an upper hand in fighting fires and responding to medical emergencies. Yet the benefits of such a link might not outweigh potential problems. We just do not know at this point.
Sharing Data across Agencies
HFD personnel can now share all sorts of data within their ranks in real time. For example, a crew fighting a fire in downtown Henderson could instantly share video and audio with the chief. Commanders could manage firefighting efforts remotely as well. But it goes further than that.
Information can also be shared across agencies. A good example is a recent rescue during a flash flood. Apparently, there was a victim who had been swept downstream and was clinging to life on a storm drain. Firefighters searching for the man sent video back to a command center. Commanders were able to bring up a complete map of the city’s sewer system and compare it to the video data to figure out exactly where the victim was.
No doubt such technology is an awesome thing. However, bringing up a map of a municipal sewer system is one thing; bringing up blueprints of a privately owned residence is an entirely different matter. That is not to say the HFD already does so, but that the technology now exists to make it possible.
How Much Is Too Much?
Smart home technology is advancing as rapidly as commercial technology. According to Vivint Smart Home, residential home automation systems are so sophisticated these days that they can be accessed and controlled remotely. It stands to reason that if a homeowner could remotely monitor video cameras from thousands of miles away, so could the HFD.
The question is, how much is too much? Would it be worth the loss of privacy to give a fire department access to in-home video cameras under the banner of potentially saving a life in a house fire? Again, this is not to suggest that the HFD or any other fire department is pushing for this kind of control. Still, we have to ask ourselves where we want to go with smart homes and cities.
At some point someone is going to ask the question of whether or not it is appropriate to link smart cities with private residences. It is only a matter of time. If we are not ready with an answer, the answer might be provided for us in such a way that makes us very unhappy.
Smart technology can do a lot. It can make us more efficient, safer, and more comfortable. But there are trade-offs. The world needs to tread lightly as we learn our way around smart technology and all of its implications.