Dashboards and new information

While the worlds’ cities go gaga over the whole idea of a Smart City and wow city governments over the capability to develop ‘dashboard’ views of cities, from seeing traffic jams, predicting upcoming power outages or water pipe issues, I hold a slightly different view towards the idea that assimilating lots of information is always a good thing.

I think it is important to have specific use-cases for data and to design suitable data silos for the use-cases. Mindless big data mining may generate insights retrospectively but it should not be the default way of using them. If you think that being able to respond quickly to large amount of unordered, rich information is advantageous, then think about the stock market. The people who take fewer actions with stocks tend to do better than those who are too active. Having the ticker moving constantly can be exciting and appealing – it gives that concrete sense of ‘knowledge’ or visibility of the ground.

But it is an illusion. Consider autism – it reduces a person’s ability to function by overwhelming a person’s senses. Smart cities can still be an important vision to make the lives of people in cities better. But city dashboards that shows city authorities many things at one goal and makes for a fancy place to visit do not make lives better.