The participants of a global technological conference Sooner Than You Think: Smart Cities, organized by the Bloomberg agency and the Skolkovo Foundation within the Open Innovations forum discussed the technologies of “smart cities.”

When she was opening the event, Bloomberg managing editor Torrey Clark-Shirnina confessed that she “only relatively recently could spend half a day in the line to pay the apartment bills or to receive documents.” “Today the situation in Russia has drastically changed. Technology can influence traffic jams, electricity bills and a number of other issues important to the inhabitants of the city which they face every day.”

The digital economy program, aimed at strengthening the high-technology infrastructure, jumpstarted the development of “smart cities” in Russia. Moscow is in the top 50 most innovative cities in the world, and every year it gets a higher position in that list.

It is important to observe the balance between innovations and demand of the society, noted in his greeting Chairman of the Skolkovo Foundation Arkady Dvorkovich, “We are already very actively implementing and using new technologies. On one hand, it is the responsibility of the government to support the development of “smart city” programs. On the other hand, it is important that the people themselves are prepared for these technologies, understand them, and that these technologies could be useful to them. Here at “Skolkovo” we introduce startups to large companies, assist in their cooperation and in making their ideas come to fruition.”

In course of discussing the technologies for making cities more efficient, the speakers asked not to forget about the bottlenecks of the infrastructures being created. Head of Threat Intelligence Department at Group-IB Dmitry Volkov, speaking of ensuring the safety in a smart city, compared technology with fire: “With the help of fire one can cook dinner or burn down the house.” “This is a similar situation.” When used correctly, technology helps people and makes their lives easier. There are, of course, many dangers.”

Face recognition technology, widely used for, among other things, fighting crime, makes banking services more fast and convenient. For example, financial services can be accessed without using a password. But does this convenience come at a price of violating the boundaries of private life?

According to WhatsApp Founder Yaroslav Goncharov, the problem is in the ignorance of the procedure of face recognition, “We don’t need to hide behind laws, we need to explain to people what it is, what information on them we are keeping, for how long, and what happens to it after. Making this knowledge available – this is the main priority.”

“Face recognition is good technology that has long been in use. But it’s one thing if it’s privately owned devices, it’s completely different if you want to pay for a coffee using this technology or to access the forum. At that point, it becomes global surveillance and matters of private life arise. People need to feel safe. They need to have a choice – I, for one, love technology and gladly gained access to the forum by having my nametag scanned. But some people don’t like it and they are entitled to that right, we can’t force them to accept it. When it comes to technology, the most important thing is how the person feels when using it, it’s them who has to be at the center of the system,” stressed MegaFon Operations Director Anna Serebryanikova.

Self-driving vehicles were also a point of discussion at the conference. With the development of 5G networks, the age of global autonomous driving is relentlessly nearing. We need to be prepared for technological flaws and to promptly deal with them, so that the technology could continue its development at a rapid pace. The Sooner Than You Think conference was also attended by Intel Area Director in Russia Natalya Galyan, Director General of VimpelCom PJSC Vasyl Latsanych, BMW Group Russia President Stefan Teuchert, President of Cognitive Technologies Group of Companies Olga Uskova.