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Sustainable cities: big data, artificial intelligence and the rise of green, "cy-phy" cities
Scardovi C., Springer International Publishing, Cham, Switzerland, 2021. 231 pp. Type: Book (978-3-030684-37-2)
Date Reviewed: Mar 9 2023

The book’s central theme is the fashionable “smart city”; however, it is difficult to define the genre of the book, for example, it was published under business management. The book is rather a kind of empirical philosophy that overviews vast areas of human life in constructed environments, either in physical space (meat-space) or in cyberspace. The book is not about statistical analysis, although it contains illustrative infographics that represent a qualitative analysis of the phenomena. The concept of smart cities in the book is an integrating notion of the various phenomena that permeate people’s business, economics, technology, and social lives.

According to the imagined future, a smart city will provide a comfortable environment by reacting to issues such as pandemics and war. To enable the cities to handle the recent crises, the concept of “cy-phy” cities is introduced to consider the sustainability and environmental, social, and governance (ESG) aspects of operations. The author refreshes the notion of cybernetics in this context; that is, the cyber-physical cities do not only exist in cyberspace, but the control, monitoring, and governance through cyber/information technology (IT) tools in the physical and cyberspace takes place through recent, complex IT toolsets, for example, artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML), big data analytics, and Internet of Things (IoT)-related solutions.

The first chapter introduces the notion of info-telligence, which means advanced data analytics on the available data. The chapter outlines the development from smart cities to meta cities to cy-phy cities. The third chapter discusses the problems of info-intelligence in relationship to data privacy, European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and personal identifier data. The development of cities leads to companies, especially in the finance industry, that exploit the accessible IT and network technologies (5G). Typically, financial institutions and banks, in association with e-business and e-commerce companies, exploit customer data. The customers receive free services in exchange for their data, or the data in the paid service is exploited to generate revenues for the banks and allied companies. In addition to IT networks, various IoT applications play important roles.

The illustrative example is Ali Baba and Ant, both Chinese companies that profit from customer data through the use of fintech services. Another area is e-health, where the digital giants and their subsidiaries want to make money from info-intelligence within the frameworks of cities. Chapter 6 discusses the development of enterprises that morph into cy-phy companies that exploit info-intelligence, including the health management of individuals.

The author is an expert in financial economics. In chapter 7, he investigates the economic situation of real estate before COVID-19 and after COVID-19. The chapter outlines a futuristic scenario about integrated buildings and cy-phy cities. Chapter 8 analyzes the issue of open data in relationship with open cities. The benefits of using open data in the context of cy-phy cities are assessed, which includes opportunities to make a profit from open data and comply with the constraints enforced by regulation.

The book concludes with chapter 9, which contains a panel discussion on the challenges faced in the Milan area from the viewpoint of the development of cy-phy cities.

An appendix deals with recent IT buzzwords and hot topics, including data analytics, augmented reality, and edge and cloud computing. It raises the issue of producing healthy food in a sustainable environment, for example, hydroponic farming.

The book is thought-provoking and provides food for thought. Researchers from a wide spectrum of disciplines (business, management, economics, and computer science) will find it useful.

Reviewer:  Bálint Molnár Review #: CR147560 (2305-0056)
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