Growing into a Smarter, Safer City
Technology plays an ever-increasing role in smarter cities
- By Pota Kanavaros
- Jan 01, 2018
As technologies and laws continue to evolve and more
people move into urban centers, cities are looking for
ways to become smarter — and safer. Today, more
than half of the world’s population lives in an urban
area. It is predicted that by 2030, our planet will have
41 mega-cities with more than 10 million inhabitants each. After all,
a successful city attracts businesses, fosters innovation and provides
incredible opportunities for its citizens. City officials are always seeking
ways to become more efficient and adaptable.
In order to evolve into resilient cities, technologies that are flexible,
connected and secure are needed to help stakeholders reach
higher levels of collaboration. Collaboration is key to becoming a
smarter and safer city that assists in improving the livelihood of communities,
tourists and businesses.
The challenge is, how do we put systems and processes in place
that will keep our cities safe while allowing them to adapt and grow
as populations increase and technology advances? How do we ensure
that our cities continue to be resilient, even as they evolve and grow?
The Role of Technology
Cities are using technology to break down siloes between key stakeholders
such as law enforcement, transportation departments, schools
and businesses. Together, these entities are collaborating and pooling
resources to become more resilient to unplanned events and fostering
a stronger sense of safety across the urban landscape. However,
becoming a smart city does not come without its challenges. While
most cities are taking leaps forward to work smarter, the realities of
budgeting, revising policies and dealing with bureaucratic red tape
can become overwhelming and taxing on resources.
In many cases, city agencies such as law enforcement, transit departments
and other public and private entities are still using legacy
analog technologies. These closed-architecture systems make it difficult
to break through existing siloes. For example, video surveillance
has its particular problems. Without the ability to securely
and remotely access or share video feeds, organizations are spending
considerable amounts of time retrieving evidence and taking a
more reactive approach to handling incidents. Internal conflicts only perpetuate this breakdown of communication between entities. Since
legacy technology has been disjointed for so long, the city departments
and businesses have been too.
While these challenges can be dissuasive, the fact that many cities
have successfully fostered cross-enterprise collaboration suggest
opportunities are plentiful. This is partly because numerous cities
and businesses are upgrading their systems to IP security technology.
It provides greater connectivity and access to new capabilities that
bridge once-divided public and private organizations.
From response to resolution, workflows can be simplified with
decision support features. New and improved IP technologies are
impacting the way cities function, flow and react, bringing police,
transit, retailers, community groups and local businesses together to
discuss common objectives. With new and improved support features,
dispatchers can locate an event on a map, share intel from video to
responding officers, push video to responding officers and record case
notes in a short period of time. Equally helpful is having all entities
with vested interest and permission securely access data.
For example, it could help a loss prevention manager collaborate
more effectively with police investigators, compiling evidence in a central
repository and closing cases faster.
Cybersecurity and Data Sharing
Increasingly, an organization’s resilience depends on the open communication
and connection between a wide variety of its own systems
and with other organizations. We have seen that it can be much more
difficult to get back to normal quickly when systems are not connected
or when stakeholders are working in siloes. With a single unified
system, they can easily access and monitor all their cameras both
locally and from their headquarters. They know that information
gathered at one location can be easily be shared with other locations.
This can be useful when it comes to both making business decisions
for the company and responding to unplanned events or emergencies.
Cybersecurity and data privacy are a big part of inter-agency discussions
as well. They are sharing ideas about technologies that help
them stay one step ahead of privacy issues and threats. For example,
police departments are considering new tools such as video redaction,
which blurs out people’s faces in video while the contextual environment
and background stays non-blurred.
Small businesses are looking at Software-as-a-Service models to
outsource the risks of cybersecurity to top-tier cloud providers. Others
are initiating conversations with vendors and integrators about
cybersecurity measures, learning how encrypted communications,
built-in data and privacy protection capabilities, strong user authentication
and password protection help them quickly adapt to new laws.
Tools for Smarter, Safer Cities
A lot of people wonder where and how to begin. What does it take
grow into a smarter, safer city? First, we need to understand the true
nature of our cities. Understanding what each one needs and developing
solutions is not always easy, as many stakeholders do not necessarily
know where potential pitfalls or answers may lie, nor can they
see how a solution or program that one group implements can help
or benefit another. More people are moving to urban areas, which
creates many infrastructure and security challenges for both municipalities
Because urban spaces are complex, a city’s resilience is dependent
on the successful connection and communication between many
organizations and stakeholders. This means that they must develop
networks, acquire new technology skills and stay current on changing
regulations. Only through close collaboration between police, city officials
and businesses can communities build the strategies necessary
for keeping citizens safe and creating the right conditions for true
Our task is to establish strong foundations that support and
maintain the efficient flow of people, assets and ideas in our cities.
These foundations must allow our city and community stakeholders
to communicate effectively both now and in the future. When given
the opportunity to share technology, resources and information, cities
can significantly improve the way they meet challenges and solve
problems, making an ordinary “everyday” possible via extraordinary
technologies and collaboration.
Taking advantage of the video surveillance systems that large and
small businesses already use to monitor activity inside and outside of
their premises is extremely beneficial. As part of a larger integrated
system, these same cameras can now drive business by helping to create
safer shared spaces.
Through collaboration with law enforcement, these cameras can
become essential tools for promoting public safety within a community.
High-quality, detailed video not only provides timely information
to responding officers but also simplifies the ensuing investigation.
Rather than having to wait several hours to transfer or grant access to
video, business owners will be able to quickly share a suspect’s image
with officers close to the scene of a crime, helping expedite the search,
investigation and resolution of the incident.
As we have seen, by focusing on the healthy flow of people, products,
information and ideas, institutions and organizations can provide
better experiences and greater accessibility. Ultimately, we see that
security can go far deeper than safety.
Where improving communication and collaboration across a single,
albeit distributed, organization can be relatively easy, connecting disparate
groups within or across communities can be more challenging.
When we consider the benefits, however, it becomes clear that overcoming
these obstacles is well worth the effort. The ability to respond effectively
to an emergency and return to normal as quickly as possible
is a key measure of success for both organizations
and governments. With the right tools, we can free
ourselves from siloed thinking and work to secure
a productive, smart and safe future for both people
This article originally appeared in the January 2018 issue of Security Today.