Making Cities Smarter
Urban population is posing new set of complex security challenges
- By Bob Carter
- Apr 09, 2020
According to several predictions, urban areas will see
a population increase of 2.5 billion people by 2050.
When combined with the rise of smart and connected
cities, this growth in urban population is posing a new
set of complex security and safety challenges to city administrators,
urban planners, municipal governments and businesses alike.
How can they put systems and processes in place that keep
the population safe – while not restricting growth, commerce or
the fiow of daily life? How do expansive metropoles like Tokyo,
the largest city in the world, maintain safety while allowing their
population to flourish?
The Role of Technology
When it comes to enhancing public safety, and maintaining security,
having a complete view of your environment is critical. A
unified solution that provides a common operating picture enhances
situational awareness and allows better planning, detection,
response and prevention of incidents. These types of systems
combine public safety data and technology tools to bolster
Unified data and sensor visualization platforms offer cities the
tools they can use to improve overall public safety. And if they
choose a provider that offers the latest in technology, this solution
will make the city both safe and smart. A unified system
consolidates data from a variety of public and private sources
to enhance the overview for dispatchers and emergency responders
so they can make insight-driven decisions. By reviewing data,
institutions can make predictive changes to the allocation and deployment
of resources to improve and create best practices, plan
for the worst, determine any weak spots and shore up defenses.
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 IoT sensors can be correlated, analyzed and shared quickly
with relevant parties. Specifically, these unified systems can deliver
the capability to improve traffic and mobility operations.
For example, when you combine traffic systems with video surveillance,
it can help law enforcement better coordinate incident
response. This scenario would allow responders to better spot
incidents, communicate detours and respond faster – resulting in
smoother traffic flow and happier citizens.
Communication is Critical
Cities are made up of a diverse and complex mix of institutions,
ecosystems and infrastructure that are interconnected. This
means that disruption to one part of the system can cause failure
in other parts with far reaching implications. This makes assessing
public safety an extremely challenging task. A key factor in
improving public safety and security in cities is open communication
channels between the institutions and stakeholders operating
within it. In this way, when an incident does occur, they can
coordinate effort to get it resolved as quickly as possible.
For instance, when a tsunami struck Japan in 2011, among
the devastation was a vital highway that was left completely destroyed
by the subsequent earthquake. Amazingly, emergency responders
managed to coordinate an effective strategy and repair
the highway in a mere six days.
However, this is often not the case and stakeholders fail to collaborate
with one another. When business leaders, city planners,
municipal infrastructure leaders, flre departments and law enforcement
end up working in silos, it ultimately leads to a breakdown
of communication, missed opportunities and inefficiencies.
This gap in coordination and communication grows wider
when jurisdictional boundaries come in to play. These issues become
more apparent when silos turn into blind-spots that criminals
can exploit, leaving a city, the metro region and its population
more at risk.
Therefore, increasing communications and sharing data
across the private and public sectors should be a priority as it
will improve public safety for everyone. For instance, the city of
Detroit managed to curb its violent crime rate by 50 percent in recent
years with "Project Greenlight." The opt-in initiative enables
registered local businesses to share real-time footage from their
security cameras with the Detroit Police Department, giving law
enforcement better coverage of the area and local businesses the
peace of mind that police could quickly be on the scene should
an incident occur.
This collaboration improved crime rates by shortening response times, improving the accuracy of incident descriptions,
expediting the evidence-gathering process and acting as a deterrence
to any would-be criminals. It also had the added benefit
of allowing the local businesses that signed up to the program
to thrive. At its inception, the project was only active in a few
locations that were identified as crime hotspots, most of which
were at gas stations. Now, there are now hundreds of different
greenlight locations in central Detroit. At this scale, the power of
communication between different organizations, and its effect on
crime, becomes a far more tangible prospect.
Safe Cities are Cities that Flow
Livability is also absolutely essential to life in a city. Key components
of what makes a city livable include design, infrastructure,
and public safety. When these elements successfully converge, the
population of a city is able to move about freely, creating positive
and efficient flow. Maneuverability throughout a city informs our
decisions, from which route to take to work to what roads local
governments decide to build. It informs the design of safe spaces,
both public and private, to ensure that a city's circulation doesn't
stop at the exit of a subway or the entrance of a 70-story office
tower. The need to circulate unhindered prompts questions about
how we can move more efficiently and enjoyably, as well as more
safely and securely, about our cities.
Take city traffic, for example. Video surveillance cameras, automatic
license plate recognition and analytics can work together
to improve traffic. Law enforcement can identify incidents quicker,
allowing them to respond and clear the roadways faster.
When situations arise, police and local organizations can use
technology to communicate detours, resulting in better traffic
flow and happier citizens. These solutions can even work with
transit providers like subways or buses and can be configured to
notify riders in real time which route to choose based on traffic
Cities that have Incorporated Technology
to Improve Livability and Safety
Urban centers around the world have been incorporating technology
to improve livability and keep people and businesses safe
and running smoothly. Notable examples include Tokyo, Brisbane,
London and New York City.
Tokyo has been called the world's safest city. City leaders have
invested heavily in a public safety infrastructure that protects its
citizens. From tactile paving in the streets and walkways that are
designed to help the visually impaired navigate the city safely,
to well-lit roadways, side streets and alleys, Tokyo has worked
to improve safety and livability. Police officers are abundant
throughout the city and are stationed in more than 1,200 small
huts ready to be called upon in a moment's notice. These efforts
– coupled with traditional security components like video and
access control – combine to improve city life and keep things running
Brisbane in Queensland, Australia, has big ambitions. Affordable,
safe, and easy to get around, Brisbane is focused on delivering
a good quality of life to its growing population that looks to
double in the next 40 years. Huge infrastructure investments and
partnerships with commercial entities are helping the city provide
security and improve circulation.
The Queen Street Mall in Brisbane's central business district is
the largest and busiest area for pedestrians in the city. It also happens
to be one of the most safety-focused areas. Together, shop
owners and Brisbane City Council have created City-Safe, a network
of 100 CCTV cameras that monitor activity to ensure a safe
and successful mall. Pedestrians that travel along Queen Street –
one of the city's busiest areas – are safer and move about more
freely as a result of the increased security. Because the camera network
has helped them see where improvements can be made, the
city council has also invested in improving roads, adding new bike
paths, and creating green space to increase efficiency and livability.
London is known for its extensive video surveillance camera
network. It includes more than 500,000 units. Obviously, video
provides a great deal of information to combat crime and provide
assistance in investigations which is helpful in city operations. In
addition to video, London is also using another key element to
help improve maneuverability: public transportation data. To
get around London, travelers use a Transport for London Oyster
smartcard to pay for journeys on a bus, Tube, tram, rail and other
City managers use Oyster card travel data to monitor where
delays are and then notify the cardholder in real time of better
route options. This data not only provides information on how
Oyster card users typically move, but also allows for an intervention
that can instantly improve the travel experience.
Nestled within New York City is Hudson Yards. Located on
Manhattan's "new" West side, Hudson Yards is the largest-ever
private real estate development in the United States. Its designer,
urban planner Anthony Fioravanti, believes it's all about flow.
Fioravanti says flow of people is crucial to the success of projects
like Hudson Yards because "nobody ever enjoyed the time they
got stuck in traffic." It's also important economically since people
who can intuitively circulate will enjoy themselves and are more
likely to return.
Incorporating technology into city projects that facilitate way-
finding operates like a "giant smartphone" for residents. This not
only enhances flow but improves safety because a confused customer
is not a customer who feels safe.
The Bottom Line
In order to ensure that urban centers around the world can safely
and securely manage the increasing number of residents while
improving livability, it's essential for community stakeholders, including
those in government, law enforcement and corporations,
to leverage advances in public systems. The security of cities also
means the removal of impediments to their development.
Cities are expected to be an engine for positive development.
While advanced security systems are a cornerstone of city safety,
successfully securing a city is determined by how city administrators
pair these technologies with communication.
Improving communication and collaboration between siloed institutions
drives situational awareness and allows cities to better predict,
react and resolve situations more effectively. Making changes
in the way information and data is transferred
between urban stakeholders can have huge bene
fits on preparedness, public safety and can improve
the livability of cities around the world.
This article originally appeared in the April 2020 issue of Security Today.