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Convergence and collaboration will lead to safer, smarter cities

Safe City initiatives are one of the best ways to build an efficient, proactive security posture that strives to enhance safety and propel increased collaboration between city officials, security leaders, law enforcement and first responders. These relationship-centric projects incorporate a broad network of tools and partnerships to achieve the kind of safety and security that today’s cities and municipalities strive to provide citizens on a regular basis. The tools in use within these systems play a vital role in this goal, but the relationships built through collaboration become the hallmark of a positive plan.

At its core, a Safe City program is built on three main factors: robust processes, collaborative relationships and technology. All three components must work in conjunction to build a successful Safe City program. It is critical that these pieces come together to solve the challenge of building a safer and smarter city.

Internal Processes

Cities face specific security challenges that are also significant business issues (yes, a city is like a corporate enterprise in many ways). There are costly and damaging disruptions if risk is not appropriately controlled. Where threats were once limited to physical acts, local governments are now often exposed to network breaches, identity theft, malware attacks and social media sabotage. Because of the growing risks from a wide variety of angles, cities should look at building a security program using input from various internal teams to create strong processes to navigate risk mitigation and security officials’ ability to address possible threats to the safety and security of citizens. Without processes—such as active shooter response protocols, a workplace violence prevention program and password protection policies—an organization’s security potential cannot be fully realized.

Security is no longer a siloed function. As a result, lines are blurring between those responsible for physical, IT and cyber security, causing a shift from simply protecting people to managing complex risks, such as network breaches, personal safety for traveling employees and pandemic planning. Therefore, organizational structures must align resources with the need to protect people, physical assets, networks and valuable data.

Agency Collaboration

There is also opportunity to expand the conversation across the walls of public agencies. Private businesses experience the same threats as public safety, including criminal activity, IT threats, theft and terrorism. When events occur, critical information that can be used to mitigate an incident can originate from multiple sources and locations.

After the Boston Marathon Bombing, for example, retail businesses shared video surveillance with the police, aiding in the capture of those responsible. This example demonstrates why public and private organizations are now forming partnerships that will enable them to share information more easily—with a goal to work together to proactively address situations and mitigate risks.

The value of these types of partnerships and collaborations is proven and is demonstrated in successful Safe City programs around the globe. In Guayquil, Ecuador, officials leverage situational awareness platforms to share information quickly with third parties, such as the justice department, which helps expedite and close investigations. This effort has propelled a partnership that is mutually beneficial, and provides a service to the community as a whole.

Advanced Technology

When it comes to technology, security management solutions, video surveillance, and security intelligence tools are valuable in helping cities collect data. Looking beyond traditional security solutions, the ways in which data is sourced is evolving—in today’s world, there is an amazing amount of information available through social media, Big Data analysis, the Internet of Things, GPS, traffic management, and countless other networked applications.

The downside of such an abundance of available information is knowing and identifying what information is relevant and useful. By combining systems and devices into one situational awareness platform or one ‘single pane of glass,’ it is easier to correlate data points and identify the most relevant information at any given time. Pooling data from multiple systems allows involved operators to accurately assess risk and identify threats, allowing cities to build public safety plans in a more proactive manner.

In Pune, India, situational awareness platforms are critical components of the city’s overall security plan, which was developed to deliver a proactive approach to traffic management and safety efforts while aiding response to threats. Local police and first responders use the system to correlate information from multiple sources into one solution and conduct effective 24/7 monitoring of the city. By using centralized security management software in its command center, the city realizes faster investigations, increased public safety and less crime.

Greater Awareness

If you look closely at the discussion points above, it is clear that the themes are the same across all three: convergence, integration and collaboration. High levels of safety is of the utmost importance to public municipalities, and to achieve safer, smarter security efforts, there must be a focus on incorporating people, processes and technologies together for the greater good (and to realize the business benefits of efficiencies across city infrastructures).

The combination of security teams, technology integration, and public-private partnerships allows cities and governments to be more focused, effectively identify threats, and quickly access relevant data to meet evolving requirements.

This article originally appeared in the April 2017 issue of Security Today.

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