Our cities face huge problems of mobility, energy, pollution, public safety, poverty and exclusion. ‘Smart City’ technologies (sensors, smart cameras, wearables and drones) are meant to tackle these problems and make our cities more sustainable and liveable. As a result, our public space is transformed into a hybrid physical-virtual space. Applications and platforms are being developed for access to all the city has to offer. Neighbourhoods and roads are being redesigned based on the data collected. If designed well, this development can bring a new golden age for cities, but if designed badly, it can lead to dystopian cities with continuous surveillance, growing inequality, segregation and the loss of democratic control. So what are design rules for turning the smart city into a human city?

Pieter Ballon is Associate Professor in Communication Sciences at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel, Belgium. He is the Director of research centre imec-SMIT (Studies in Media, Innovation and Technology). In 2016, Pieter Ballon was nominated Brussels Smart City Ambassador by the Brussels Region government. His book Smart Cities (Lannoo Campus) was published in February 2016 and became a Belgian non-fiction bestseller.