(EXTREME TECH) – The smart city is not a pipe dream, but it is a big, intimidating problem. We’ve become very good at networking together devices and their people. But modern cities are uniquely monstrous entities, often with millions of individuals creating billions of variables each and every day. It’s not just about tracking and coordinating all these variables in an efficient way; it’s also about doing so safely and securely. If you think cyber war is a threat today, wait until it could shut off power to whole areas or individual homes, bring all transportation to a grinding halt, and even mess with the city gardeners! As we inherit the advantages of automation in civil planning, we gain the disadvantages as well.

But there’s one up and coming software technology that was specifically designed to coordinate lots of things safely and securely: the blockchain, which was first brought to the public’s attention through its use in the Bitcoin cryptocurrency. Also known as a cryptographically secured distributed ledger, a blockchain keeps a cloud-based copy of organized information (basically a spreadsheet) and continually performs the tough computational work of encrypting it all in close to real time. That sounds like exactly what we need, and in fact cities in China, the United Arab Emerates (UAE), and elsewhere have been eyeing the technology to deal with their smart-city needs.

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