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In just a few short years, we’ve come to expect miraculous things from our phones. It’s not enough to order a ride, anywhere, anytime. Consumers have become accustomed to seeing the car make its way toward them in real time.

Consumer technology has advanced so rapidly that any systems lagging behind stand out glaringly. That disparity is one reason cities are under pressure to adopt smart city projects, which use sensors, connected devices, and data to improve municipal systems. So said a panel of smart city experts, on stage at the 2018 GeekWire Summit.

“Consumer tech makes a big difference in the expectations of the average citizen on what’s possible,” said Tara Prakriya, a Microsoft general manager in Azure’s connected vehicles department. “If I’m able to dynamically order my Starbucks, well then why shouldn’t I be able to dynamically do other things?”

As a technology policy advisor for the City of Seattle with a background in smart cities, Kate Garman hears questions like that all the time.

“If I can see where my Uber is, why can’t I see where my snowplows are, for example,” she said, picking up where Prakriya left off. “Or my ambulances.”

Garman thinks “it’s a healthy conversation for cities to push their envelope a little bit.”

But whether they’re government initiatives or products developed by private tech companies, convenience often comes at a cost. Washington State Chief Privacy Officer Alex Alben cautioned that there are inherent risks any time personal data is collected.

“Smart cities initiatives have to be really careful going forward because the technology is just begging to personalize everything,” he said. “Facial recognition technology is here.” Alben is concerned about reports of law enforcement agents using facial recognition technology to sift through thousands of concertgoers. “That kind of technology scares me a little.”

Alben, Prakriya, and Garman assessed the risks and rewards associated with our increasingly digitized cities in a wide-ranging discussion. Watch the video above for more from their conversation and see all of our GeekWire Summit coverage here.

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