Smart city concept with downtown Chicago cityscape skyscrapers
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“Smart City” is a concept to use cutting-edge technology to solve social problems in a smart way. Chicago has been one of the most successful Smart Cities. For the future, Chicagoan should know about the potential problems. Is there any solution?

“Welcome to the ELI’s Finding Chicago Global Perspectives Podcasts Series for AEPP 2022. I’m your host, Wataru Takagishi, and I’m currently enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Law School. Today we will explore the topic of “Make Chicago a better Smart City.”
I had high hopes for Chicago’s public transportation system. When I stayed in LA before coming to Chicago, everyone praised and was like “Oh Chicago! Public transport there is convenient”.
Before arriving here, I checked a well-developed route map of Chicago bus with excitement.
On my first date, I installed the Ventra app and waited for the bus in the downtown area in Chicago. Yeah, I was excited.
But to my surprise, my bus did not arrive on time. I researched the same route again on Google Maps, but it showed that my bus has gone past my bus stop. I was like, “It’s impossible! I was keeping looking at the street the whole time.”
In the end, I took the other bus arriving 30 minutes later. This event was so shocking to me.
I am from Tokyo, Japan. In Tokyo, public transportation is really punctual. I was not used to delays of public transport, so I was really shocked by the delay and asked my professor at the University. I was like, “How do Chicagoans check the time of bus coming?”
The most accurate way, according to her, is to use the estimated bus arrival time displayed at the bus stop. The following day, I watched the time on the display. Yes. It was really convenient. This is recent technology. This technique reminded me of an article I had read before when I was in Japan, which said Chicago is one of the advancing smart cities in the world.
Generally, smart city is a concept to use cutting-edge technology to solve social problems in a smart way and build better cities.
In Japan, a smart city project called “Woven City” is really famous. Toyota, a big automobile company joins “Woven City” project and self-driving car technology is involved. Here IOT, Internet of Things, technology to connect various things to the Internet is a key to success. When I researched Japan’s Smart city projects before coming to the US, I also noticed Chicago is one of the smart cities in the world and IOT is its strong point.
Now going back to the time display in Chicago bus stop. This technology made me more interested in Chicago’s efforts to build smart city.
This is the start of my podcast.
Smart cities make us dream.
Please imagine. What if local buses service were linked to Google Map? And what if the exact location and time is identified? Bus commuters like us would have more morning time instead of just waiting for the buses outside. In fact, the CTA has been working to apply IOT to bus fleet management, according to Traffic Technology International.
Another example is public safety. Chicago has an image of being unsafe.
But what if we can precisely predict where and when dangerous cases would happen? This gives me the hope of walking Chicago streets at night without any fear.
Smart cities are wonderful, but can we just wait to get the benefits?
The answer is no.
We cannot just wait because Smart city projects always come with difficulties. I can assume two issues. The first one is the privacy of the residents, and the second one is the matter of priority. Let me elaborate.
Smart city technology is supported by the collection and analysis of vast amounts of information. Lots of data. Let’s say, traffic jams. If we want to solve the problems of traffic congestion, we need to know when and where such kind of traffic jam occur. And to achieve this, monitoring is essential. However, monitoring often conflicts with the privacy of the residents in the area.
For example, the smart city project in Toronto is said to have failed mainly because the residents opposed it out of their concern about the privacy. Some media including MIT Technology Review reported this.
We need to give up? I don’ think so. I believe we can overcome this. We can manage this with careful explanations. Before collecting the data from the residents, showing the purposes and scopes, you can make it.
Another issue is priority. Priority to what to solve.
Off course, time and money for the smart city project are limited, on the other hand, social problems we should solve vary, like environment, public safety, education, public hygiene, medical care and so on. The thing is, not all social problems can be solved at once.
Therefore, the government will decide which problems to solve on a priority basis. Sometimes the government cooperates with universities and private companies and they discuss what is urgent. But I think it is important for residents to get involved in the decision-making process. It is their own problem.
And, we should keep in mind that some smart city projects can create a revenue. Starting smart city projects costs but it may produce money. Kiosks in Kansas City, Missouri, is a great example. Kansas City installed kiosks throughout the city with maps and local event information for local residents. Installing kiosks takes money. But kiosks can be the places for many companies place an advertisement. It means kiosks generate money. This is a kind of new way of thinking.
Smart cities are truly a dream plan. And please remember, Chicago residents should be proud that Chicago is one of the leading smart cities.
I hope that Chicagoan will join smart city projects more actively. It can be a shortcut to making Chicago a better smart city.
Thank you very much for listening.
City Tech Collaborative (Nov 4, 2021), “Case Study: Transit Capacity Management”
Tom Stone (Nov 9, 2021), “Chicago transit-occupancy system wins IoT Deployment of the Year Award”
Jonathan Spencer Jones (Jun 11, 2021), “Toyota’s Woven City – a future smart city prototype”
John Greenfield (May 26, 2022), Here’s the CTA’s explanation for the infuriating “ghost” bus and train problem
Jayna Locke (Oct 09, 2020), “Top 12 Smart Cities in the U.S. – Smart Cities Examples 2020”
Builder ”6 Common Reasons Why Smart Cities Fail” retrieving Sep 15, 2020 from
Karrie Jacobs (June 29, 2022), “Toronto wants to kill the smart city forever”
Mehmet Yildiz (Jul 6, 2021), “What Does It Take To Be A Smart City?”
Meghan LeVota (Jul 11, 2017)Smart City update: Living Lab set to launch, TV show may highlight KC innovation