Drawing upon Michel Foucault’s approach to power and governmentality, the paper explores the regulatory dynamics inherent in contemporary data-driven forms of regulation and management-at-a-distance of urban systems. More specifically, channelled through Michel Foucault’s concept of ‘security’, the paper portrays ‘governing through data’ not only as fundamentally reality-derived, relative and plural in scope and scale, but also as inherently flexible and fluid in aim and functioning. This in turn raises a series of critical questions with regard to the novel possibilities of differentiation and prioritisation, the actual adequateness, and the very implications of contemporary governing through data.
Empirically speaking, the paper focuses on the study of two high-profile pilot projects in Switzerland in the field of smart electricity management: iSMART and Flexlast. Both projects rely on massive efforts of data generation, interconnection and analysis, thus allowing the critical investigation of the rationales and problems inherent in the management of urban systems through data.