This summer, NPR's Cities Project has been looking at how cities around the world are solving problems using new technologies. And though there's great promise in many of these "smart" city programs, New York University's Anthony Townsend remains skeptical.
Townsend, whose book Smart Cities is due out in October, tells NPR's David Greene about the causes, benefits and potential dangers of the smart city boom.
When the 911 phone system was established, it gave citizens a fast, easy way to reach police in an emergency.
But it also created a logistical challenge for law enforcement: Police departments get so many calls, 911 can be as much a burden as a boon. Many calls are non-emergencies, and responding can take police away from situations where they're really needed.
Surveillance cameras, and the sophisticated software packages that go with them, have become big business. Many small- and medium-sized cities across American are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on cameras and software to watch their residents.
Aside from the occasional ferry down from England, the old Spanish port city of Santander doesn't get too many foreign visitors. So imagine the locals' surprise when delegations from Google, Microsoft and the Japanese government all landed there recently, to literally walk the streets.