Thinking Smarter About Smart City Security

Thinking Smarter About Smart City Security

The world is quickly urbanizing, and people are flocking from suburbs and rural areas to cities more than ever before. By 2050, 68 percent of the global population will live in cities, and while concerns like public safety and security are top of mind, the integration of internet-connected devices (IoT) and convergence of physical and cybersecurity promise improvement and better support for safe urban living and improved mobility.

From smart transportation like driverless vehicles and smart parking management, to smart thermostats, fire and water detectors in buildings, to gunshot detection and supply chain management— IoT-enabled smart cities have the opportunity to increase security, public safety and overall quality of life in large urban settings. In fact, the IoT in the smart cities market is projected to be worth $219.6 billion by 2023. However, these devices and systems also come along with security and data integration challenges that require proactivity and strategic partnerships, defined by collaboration between private and public entities.

IoT Security Challenges

To tackle a big challenge and opportunity like IoT security, it’s best to start out small by considering the different aspects of cyber and physical convergence. Because every device has a hardware and a software component, they must be approached holistically. '

One integral part of improving smart cities involves the effective use of smart communication and alert systems. From natural disaster evacuations to security lockdown alerts, smart alert systems create value by giving advanced warning to the public and improving first responders’ and emergency response times. IoT devices can detect storms and dangerous activity and send warnings to the public quicker and more efficiently, boosting public safety.

Other IoT devices like video surveillance can enhance safety through heightened intelligence, leading to a better overall safe economic climate through facial recognition, license plate detection, weapon detection and environmental monitoring in smart buildings. IoT devices, such as self-driving cars and shuttles, connected intersections, smart parking and drone deliveries in the future, can play a role in smart city planning through improved transportation and citizen mobility. There are many encouraging advanced technology developments underway, such as LiDAR sensor technology testing and usage, and the DHS Next Generation First Responder (NGFR) Apex programs.

With more than 2 billion motor vehicles set to hit the world’s roads by 2040, solving overcrowding on roads is important to prevent congestion and save lives. Drones can assess traffic accidents from a new angle to help detectives and give police officers a better perspective and accurate investigation data. 5G capabilities, in addition to C-V2X communications, can deliver direct communications between cars and other smart objects in a city—warning vehicles of traffic, accidents, crowded intersections and more.

While all of this new technology can help secure smart cities, the technology itself poses security risks that must be addressed before implementation. Because there are software components to the devices, they must be updated often. These updates help to prevent vulnerabilities, which hackers are known to target for access to private data and information. Other solutions include security built into the design process, patching, effective cloud-based device monitoring and more.

The Three P Approach to Smart Cities

From public health to affordable housing, municipalities are building innovative partnerships to modernize infrastructure and improve the overall quality of life in America’s cities. Past experience demonstrates how cities can overcome traditional barriers to financing smart cities by investing in new technology and infrastructure and bringing critical players and budget sources together to create economic development.

Enter Public Private Partnerships, also referred to as P3. Private entities can reap the benefits of smart cities by investing and working in partnership with the local government and law enforcement agencies to share information and resources.

A good example of a P3 approach to IoT security are sensors. Sensors that are deployed for smart city initiatives can be integrated with public safety sensors, enhancing situational awareness through big data analytics. However, the growth in smart city big data and the criticality of smart city systems will make them targets for more advanced persistent threats (APT), or newer threats to confidentiality, integrity and availability. Success will require strong coordination across IT, OT and Physical Security decision makers.

Another benefit to a P3 approach, as pointed out by Itai Dadon, Director of IoT at Itron, is that in many cities, the research itself on the ROI of the major infrastructure upgrades required to support IoT applications is a substantial investment in itself and takes a long time. Therefore, many leading cities have needed to rely on P3 arrangements to accelerate their smart city deployments.

Thinking Smarter for Big Results

IoT-connected smart cities provide many opportunities to improve security and safety while supporting urbanization and improving mobility. In establishing private-public partnerships focused on solving problems like infrastructure and cybersecurity, cities and corporations can work together to prepare for all security risks and opportunities in order to ensure a prosperous and safe future for urban populations.

This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Security Today.

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