In this article we critically discuss the challenge of integrating contextual information, in particular spatiotemporal contextual information, with human and technical sensor information, which we approach from a geospatial perspective. We start by highlighting the significance of context in general and spatiotemporal context in particular and introduce a smart city model of interactions between humans, the environment, and technology, with context at the common interface. We then focus on both the intentional and the unintentional sensing capabilities of today’s technologies and discuss current technological trends that we consider have the ability to enrich human and technical geo-sensor information with contextual detail. The different types of sensors used to collect contextual information are analyzed and sorted into three groups on the basis of names considering frequently used related terms, and characteristic contextual parameters. These three groups, namely technical in situ
sensors, technical remote sensors, and human sensors are analyzed and linked to three dimensions involved in sensing (data generation, geographic phenomena, and type of sensing). In contrast to other scientific publications, we found a large number of technologies and applications using in situ
and mobile technical sensors within the context of smart cities, and surprisingly limited use of remote sensing approaches. In this article we further provide a critical discussion of possible impacts and influences of both technical and human sensing approaches on society, pointing out that a larger number of sensors, increased fusion of information, and the use of standardized data formats and interfaces will not necessarily result in any improvement in the quality of life of the citizens of a smart city. This article seeks to improve our understanding of technical and human geo-sensing capabilities, and to demonstrate that the use of such sensors can facilitate the integration of different types of contextual information, thus providing an additional, namely the geo-spatial perspective on the future development of smart cities.
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