While the topic of smart cities is vast and broad, the one thing that almost everyone who works in the sector can agree upon is that there is no one accepted definition of a smart city. To add to the confusion or perhaps clarification, I turned to the much-hyped technology of ChatGPT and posed the question, “What is a smart city?”
ChatGPT, accessible at https://chat.openai.com, defines itself as “…a large language model developed by OpenAI… trained on a diverse range of texts, from books and articles to websites and social media, using a state-of-the-art machine learning algorithm known as GPT (Generative Pre-trained Transformer).”
The first-of-its kind technology backed by Microsoft made a big splash with its debut in November 2022. In response, Google released its own version called Bard in February 2023. A source of both inspiration and controversy, these innovations are engaging a much wider audience than just general tech enthusiasts and disrupting assumptions about information, how we access it, how we source it, if we trust it and how this impacts society.
If this all sounds familiar, it should. For nearly a decade, the smart city community has grappled with the ethics, application and governance related to data analytics and artificial intelligence (AI). These topics are addressed in a Cities Today article titled, “Cities explore the potential of ChatGPT” which highlights current efforts by Singapore and Dubai to engage the technology. For a more U.S.-centric perspective, e.Republic Chief Strategy & Innovation Officer (CSO/CINO) Dustin Haisler shares his conversion with ChatGPT on GovTech related to the biggest challenges and opportunities for state and local governments.
The big takeaway is that there is much that we still don’t know. Could it be that ChatGPT is the force that finally normalizes the evolving unknowingness of emerging technology? Will large language models help us find the words when we are searching for answers for what the future holds?
So back to our original question. How does, in fact, ChatGPT define a smart city? Let us know if the response surprises, delights and/or concerns you.
ChatGPT replies to the question, “What is a smart city?”
A smart city is a city that uses technology and data to improve the quality of life for its residents, enhance sustainability, and increase efficiency in its operations. This is achieved through the use of various digital technologies, such as the Internet of Things (IoT), sensors, data analytics, and artificial intelligence (AI), to collect and analyze data from various sources. The goal of a smart city is to use this data to inform and improve decision-making across all aspects of the city, from transportation to energy management to public safety.
Smart cities may use technology to optimize traffic flow, reduce energy consumption, improve waste management, enhance public safety, and provide better access to public services such as healthcare and education. They may also incorporate citizen engagement through digital platforms and data-driven decision-making processes that involve input from residents.
Overall, the goal of a smart city is to create a more livable, sustainable, and efficient urban environment for its citizens, by leveraging technology to better manage and improve urban infrastructure and services.