Smart Urban Intelligence

S.U.I. stands for Smart Urban Intelligence and caricatures the growing tendency towards computer-controlled surveillance of public and private spheres. This project, by Japanese artist Ryota Kimura, is based on the SUICA, the RFID-equipped cards that are used in the Tokyo subway system. S.U.I. reads out the data from such cards and interprets them in an arbitrary, prejudiced way. I’d like to add immediately that i was very happy to find this work at ars electronica. I wish i could talk with Ryota Kimura more than i did yesterday but his english is not great and my japanese is inexistant. I keep hearing in talks about media art in Asia that Japanese artists do not have a critical approach to technology like we do in the West. It might be right for many case, but as this project shows we shouldn’t generalize so easily.


S.U.I. is a “fictive service in the very near future.” Reading actual data in a real SUICA smartcard for a railway ticket, it displays on a screen the history in the card in the form of motion video and of visualized route map in real time. At the same time, a bot as “the agent of the service” automatically analyzes the data and interprets it in an arbitrary way. He makes extremely shortsighted presumptions, mixes fictive things with the real fact related to the card, and so on.

The bot speaks about the following things: Card holder’s “living place;” his or her “favorite place” to visit, and the related intrusive recommendation; records of his/her “returning home,” of “staying out overnight” etc; a very shortsighted assumed “profile,” something not worth bothering about each station in the history, etc.

As the artist writes: I hope people become more aware of the growing situation, that is “administration of individual body by the RFID technology,” and of the problems it potentially contains through this work.