Toward an Ontology of the Urban

The flurry of urban developments through digital transformation has given rise to product developments with embedded connectedness and digital capabilities. Therefore, characteristically and previously unconnected and non-sentient devices are becoming embedded with IP addresses making them discoverable; location scannable; identifiable; computable things. This status enables them to receive command, perform control and command functions, and the ability to communicate with other sensing devices like them in their own digital spectrum and space as internetworked things (InTwT).
Based on the capabilities of the Internet, there is an unfettered surface of space, time and distance, that has created a highly porous and susceptible attack surface that transcends the conventional reality of space, time and distance parameters. According to a research by Gartner, Inc.; by 2020, there will be about 20 billion devices connected to the Internet with 5.5 million new device connections occurring daily. Also, by 2025, smart cities will be a $1.2 Trillion USD market (Chastel, 2019).
This huge potential subsists as a consequence of the connectedness of these emergent smart city technologies and the transformation that they will create across the conduit of business, commerce and innovations, and for the community of people, their consumption of technology and the co-creation of value and further innovation that will ensue from them. This emergent digital transformation is riding on the waves of the acceleration of demand and a booming culture for smart goods and services. Thus, this wave of technology has brought to the purview of cities’, the concern and priority of issues of potential cyber threats, incursion and infiltration of malicious agents that will be enabled by the various threat vectors and vulnerabilities present to disrupt and destroy the critical infrastructures that are part of the socio-technical urban utilities and necessities.
It is evident that smart cities as an urban scenario advances an emergent reality that will blur the lines between at least two major realities – the physical space and the cyber space. And within the former, we have a set of objects and attributes that are distinct, as well as within the cyberspace that we now can have the virtual and augmented realities. The impact, consequent on the deployments of these ubiquitous technologies in our public spaces without the equivalent innovation in cybersecurity infrastructure is reckless.
The potential exploit of its inherent vulnerabilities will transcend any that we have seen so far in our personal and organizational domains. I do not know about you, but it portends a grim outlook to me. Furthermore, the basic concept of a smart city was to invest in urban technologies for economic, social and environmental improvements that will ease urban challenges. But when the technology now seems to overshadow the whole idea of the smart city concept, haven’t we lost the plot already?

Shade Adepeju-Joseph

Industry Analyst, Resilience Thinking Media Institute

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