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Smart Services, Smart Factories, Smart Cities, and now Smart Nations: A Research Agenda on Effects of Compulsory Embeddedness
Authors: Sven Tuzovic (QUT Business School), Gabriela Beirão (School of Engineering, University of Porto, Portugal)
Advancements in digital technologies have been transforming the way consumers live, work, and play. In recent years, we have witnessed a rapid proliferation and use of so-called smart technologies. A technology is referred to as “smart” when it is an electronic device or system that can be connected to the Internet and used interactively (Foroudi et al., 2018). Service researchers have recently addressed the emergence of “smart services” (Wuenderlich et al., 2015). Smart services are seen as an important factor in the development of “Industry 4.0” (the fourth industrial revolution) and the creation of smart factories (GTAI, 2018). In urban planning, the topic of “smart cities” has gained increasing attention in order to provide solutions to the challenges of growing populations. A “smart city” uses data and technology to enhance economic development and performance, reduce costs and resource consumption, and improve sustainability and quality of life for its citizens (Snow et al., 2016). While many cities around the world are now labeled as smart city (Chong et al., 2018), Singapore has become the first country to introduce the concept of a “smart nation” which is a Singaporean government initiative introduced in 2014 with the goal to empower citizens and energize businesses (Smart Nation Singapore, 2018).
However, with the gradual implementation of the Smart Nation initiatives, there are new concerns raised by security experts that ubiquitous surveillance with extensive facial recognition technology, in particular with the new proposed “Lamppost-as-a-Platform” (LaaP), could undermine individual privacy (Aravindan, 2018). Given recent trends in China which is trying to implement a pervasive system of algorithmic surveillance in order to develop a “citizen score” of behavior, commentators have warned of the possibility of “gamified authoritarianism” (Stanley, 2015). However, the “sinister creep toward an Orwellian world” (Mitchell and Diamond, 2018) is not just emerging in Asia. Consider for example the increasing prevalence of wearable technologies in commercialized domains (Lupton, 2014; Tuzovic and Mathews, 2017). John Hancock, one of the largest North American life insurers, will soon stop underwriting traditional life insurance and instead sell only interactive policies that track fitness and health data through wearable devices (Barlyn, 2018). Moreover, existing customers will be transferred onto the new policies beginning in 2019.
The evolution of smart nations raises important questions. For instance, how can citizen well-being be increased if individuals are neither adequately informed regarding the scope of the data collection, transfer, and use, nor are they adequately protected from potential exploitative behavior. Research on smart services has called for the need to investigate consumers’ perceived embeddedness (Wuenderlich et al., 2015). This on-going project pursues the goal to go a step further and develop a research agenda to study compulsory embeddedness of smart government services.