I woke up yesterday morning to a rather unflattering article in the San Diego Reader about San Diego's Smart City deployment and Xaqt's implied involvement with access to citizen related privacy data. I hesitated to even respond to the article, but I believe Privacy and Data Governance is a critical conversation for Smart Cities, and one that Cities need to get right.

Despite the article containing factual inaccuracies about Xaqt's relationship with The City of San Diego along with using a quote from me that was over two years old and taken out of context, I think it poses some important questions about the use of the raw video data streams that are collected (of which, Xaqt has no access).

The questions about data collection, ownership and use that are raised represent the types of issues that cities need to grapple with and navigate as they deploy more "smart" infrastructure.

That being said, I often reference The City of San Diego as not just a great example for other cities to follow with respect to data transparency and publishing, but as THE EXAMPLE for other cities to follow.

For Starters:

  • San Diego has maintained a Smart City guide on their official website since the project started. It does a thorough job of describing the technology that was deployed and what data is collected (https://www.sandiego.gov/sustainability/energy-and-water-efficiency/programs-projects/smart-city)
  • The nature of the GE CityIQ platform lends itself well to publishing open access to the raw data-streams. Whereas similar platforms that cities have deployed from other vendors, such as Cisco's Kinetic for Cities, do not afford such a level of transparency or ease of integration from people looking to explore the data.
  • San Diego makes it straight forward for anyone to get an API key to access the non-video CityIQ data.

With Respect to Xaqt's relationship with the City and to the data:

  • Xaqt does not have privileged access to the data. We access it the same way that anyone else can through GE's well documented and public APIs. We've just been able to translate that into useful information that the City can use to improve city operations.
  • Our team published our own guide to CityIQ Data designed for non-technical people to understand what data is generated along with an Analytics Guide as to what Xaqt does with the data.
  • Lastly, since day-one, we've maintained and openly advertised a public version of the dashboards we've built on San Diego's Smart City data.
  • We have also not been paid $276,000 as the article states.

While there is no excuse for poor journalism (we were never contacted for interview), the article does represent views of an important constituency in San Diego and highlights what can happen when people are ill-informed or there are open questions not addressed by the City. This should serve as an example to other cities in their quest to "Get Smart".