Imagine if a city could connect its entire infrastructure to truly become a “smart” city, like the ones portrayed in science fiction movies and books. In China, Alibaba launched ET City Brain in Hangzhou, connecting Hangzhou’s traffic grid, police and emergency vehicles and systems, and public transportation systems to create a more efficient city by utilizing data from street cameras, social media, Wi-Fi probes, cell phone carriers, and more. In addition to ET City Brain, Alibaba is also working to develop Medical Brain, Environmental Brain, and Industrial Brain. Combined, these projects would create an all-encompassing smart city.
In addition to these projects, China also has various social-ranking technologies, ultimately creating social accountability, and incentive to follow the law and act in the interest of the government.
Although the benefits of an interconnected city are great, there are many concerns to consider. From a technical perspective, one must worry about potential attacks on and shortcomings of such a system, including, but not limited to: the failure of a centralized system, a DDOS or ransomware attack, over-reliance on algorithms, an attack on training data, and data breaches. From a policy standpoint, data privacy laws could create large road blocks, and the questions of who is responsible for the data at hand and how it is being used also rest to create huge problems. This paper explores how projects like this are possible in China, but not in America, and the different concerns that come along with such projects.