Making Cities Smarter
- By Bob Carter
- Sep 01, 2019
Half of the world’s population now lives in an urban
area. By 2030, 41 megacities across the globe will
house a whopping 410 million people. Urban planners,
municipal governments and businesses welcoming
this influx have to make important decisions
about safety and security. Safe cities attract businesses, foster innovation
and provide countless opportunities. By working collaboratively,
both public and private sectors can contribute to a solid foundation
for the success of these great cities and their citizens.
But how do we construct and manage cities so that everything,
and everyone, flows smoothly today and in the future? How can we
ensure that our cities will continue to succeed as they grow? After all,
a city that works is a city Americans want to live, work and play in.
A key indicator of success is a city’s resilience. We know that the
ability to get back to normal as quickly as possible following an incident,
unplanned event or emergency is essential as it makes citizens
feel safe and allows businesses to continue to thrive. And, since cities
are seen as hubs of commerce and leisure, heightened levels of
crime—or even the fear of crime—can call the very nature of urban
life into question.
The challenge then 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 their make-up changes?
Open Communication and Connection
Increasingly, the resilience of cities depends on the open communication
and connection between a wide variety of systems and organizations.
Gone are the days when urban safety was the sole responsibility
of law enforcement. Businesses, traffic control, public works, schools,
transit authorities and hospital administrations all have important
roles to play and can add meaningful—often vital—input into any
emergency response plan.
For example, the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011
destroyed one of the country’s main highways. Within six days of the
disaster, as part of that country’s emergency plan, it was completely
repaired, including its road lane markings. This facilitated the movement
of supplies and work crews into and citizens out of the affected area, thereby increasing their resilience.
While road markings might not be at the
top of anyone’s to-do list following a natural
disaster, the Japanese government and other
organizations were able to determine the best
course of action required to address very real
but not obvious problems through advanced
communication and preparation.
In many cities, however, and for a variety
of reasons, we see stakeholders who are
not collaborating with one another. Business
leaders, city planners, municipal infrastructure
leaders, fire departments and law
enforcement can end up working in silos,
ultimately leading to breakdowns in communication,
missed opportunities and lapses
in city security. This is felt most acutely during
an emergency when silos turn into blind
spots and a lack of cooperation creates opportunities
for criminal activity, making a
city and its people more vulnerable.
Fortunately, we have also seen that when we
break down these silos and share information,
great things can happen. As we have
seen in Detroit, a city can lower its crime rate
by connecting HD video from gas stations
and convenience stores with law enforcement.
This seemingly straightforward move
has the added benefit of improving public
safety while helping local businesses thrive.
As a result, a resilient city that embraces
these new technologies can yield stronger
and safer communities where citizens want
to reside and do business.
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. Because,
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 ‘every day’ possible via extraordinary
technologies and collaboration.
The Role of Technology
Advances in IP technology have brought
us better video surveillance, access control,
automatic license plate recognition (ALPR)
and powerful analytics. These elements can
work together to deliver physical security
that helps cities to protect urban areas.
Today’s technology can provide security
professionals and law enforcement with greater
situational awareness. When it comes to ensuring
public safety and maintaining a secure
environment, having a complete picture can
make all the difference. Cities need a solution
that can allow public organizations to work
closely with law enforcement to develop an
emergency response plan where video surveillance
streams, and other data from IP sensors
can be correlated, analyzed and shared
quickly with relevant parties.
Comprehensive unified security solutions
offer cities the tools they can use to
improve overall public safety. If they choose
a provider that offers the latest in technology,
this solution will make the city both
safe and smart. A comprehensive security
platform that combines video surveillance,
access control, ALPR, communications, intrusion
and analytics enables cities to work
smarter by providing that emergency preparedness,
enhanced situational awareness
and improved operational efficiency that is
so desperately needed.
Specifically, these unified systems can
deliver the capacity to improve traffic and
mobility operations. Traffic systems combined
with video surveillance and incident
response solutions can help law enforcement
identify incidents, communicate detours
and coordinate responses faster resulting in
smoother traffic flow and happier citizens.
Improved technology in physical security
systems can also provide the opportunity
for collaborative investigation management,
a boon to law enforcement. By using a safe
city-focused security platform, police officers,
investigators and security managers can
gather and have access to digital evidence
from a variety of sources and easily store,
manage, review and share it from within a
A smart security solution that breaks
down walls and freely shares information
(only with those approved to have such access,
of course) provides comprehensive response
coordination that can literally save
lives. An effective public safety strategy requires
more collaboration and connectivity
between agencies, cities and the private sector.
Using physical security components that
include video surveillance, ALPR and access
control gathering and consolidating data
from a multitude of sensors can provide a
dynamic—and unified—view to dispatchers
and emergency responders so they can make
insight-driven decisions during a mission.
In order to ensure that growing cities can
safely and securely accommodate the increasing
number of residents seen in urban areas
across the globe, it’s essential for community
stakeholders—government, law enforcement,
business—to leverage advances in physical
security systems. Physical security systems
that include video surveillance, access control,
ALPR, intrusion and analytics can produce a
powerful solution that can enhance emergency
preparedness, increase situational awareness
and boost operational efficiency. The
key is collaboration and balance. Increasing
communication and sharing data across the
private and public sectors
can improve security for
This article originally appeared in the September 2019 issue of Security Today.