The Atlantic Cities interviews Places contributor Anthony Townsend about potential problems with smart cities, including abuse of surveillance powers: "I don't think there's any level of alarm about this stuff that's unjustified."

It would have been hard to miss the messaging over the last five years: Major global tech firms like IBM, Cisco, and Siemens seemingly all adopted the same "smart cities" mission at the same time. And they weren't alone. Across the globe, technology companies of all sizes have taken aim at the burgeoning smart city market, a nebulous term that can include anything from complex networks of government-controlled sensors and cameras to a parking meter that sends you a text message when you run out of time on the meter.

For Anthony Townsend, research director at the Palo Alto-based Institute for the Future1 and an adjunct assistant professor of planning at NYU Wagner, the rise of the "smart city" concept is both the result of global economic forces and the culmination of decades of technological progress. But with his new book Smart Cities, Townsend also sounds the alarm that the real "smart" city of the future can't and shouldn't merely be a reflection of what large technology companies would like to sell to local governments. Recently we chatted with Townsend about his research and current work on smart cities.

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