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A Smart City is a Safe City First

February 7, 2018

IFTACH DRORI, DIGITAL MARKETING MANAGER, QOGNIFY // FEBRUARY 07, 2018

All over the world, smart city projects are being launched. What is notable about them all, is their difference and commonality. They vary from improving air quality via plant life and IoT technology, identifying gunshots and providing connectivity via internet kiosks. What they all have in common is their use of different types of electronic data collection sensors and interconnectedness.

Smart cities are all about capturing and collating data from citizens, devices, and assets to improve daily life – in much the same way that safe city technology does. So why does a smart city have to be a safe city? Because a smart city doesn’t really make sense without being a safe city. Here are three reasons why:

A Viable Smart City Strategy

The ultimate goal of a smart city is to improve quality of life by using technology. In a recent article in Public Sector Executive, author Eddie Copeland talks about how governments should be focused on addressing urban challenges. Of course, safety and security are always urban challenges, because they are always primary objectives.

According to Copeland, what makes a city smart isn’t the technology, but what it can do to better the lives of those living and visiting. The real value of a smart city is what it enables: a place where people and business can thrive, prosper and enjoy life.

Singapore. Photo by Sven Scheuermeier on Unsplash
Safety, security and smooth-running operations including critical utilities, transportation, and emergency services, are the necessary basics for any of those things that Copeland posits should be the goals of a smart city.

The Question of Privacy and Cybersecurity

A defining trait of smart cities is their interconnectedness. Unfortunately, the more connectivity there is, the less privacy we’ve got. This situation has been referred to as the “cost of luxury”. Minimizing that cost becomes an imperative so that the benefits of a smart city outweigh the potential vulnerabilities.

The potential risk of cyber breaches extends beyond those associated with personal privacy. Think of the consequences of a hacked utility or smart app that controls traffic flow; those could easily result in business disruption and potential physical harm to citizens. For example, the ShotSpotter smart city application initiative in New York City is a “gunfire detection system that can detect different types of weaponry as it is being fired.” The nefarious hacking of a system like this could have dangerous results.

A critical element of cybersecurity is physical security – they are interdependent. You’ve got to protect physical access to cyber assets in order for them to be secure. That makes many of the elements of a safe city necessary for not only the actual operation of smart city applications but also for their cybersecurity.

Moreover, as concerns of personal privacy increase, city governments and smart city app vendors will need to be able to demonstrate that maximum cyber (and thus physical) protection is in place.

Smart Use of Technology

So much of the technology that enables smart city apps are from or used in safe city solutions: video, sensors, analytics, information management software, communication tools and more. Based on the two reasons discussed above – having a strategic smart city strategy and ensuring privacy and cybersecurity –  it simply doesn’t make sense not to leverage safe city technology as a foundation for smart city applications.

Video as a sensor. Photo by Siarhei Horbach on Unsplash
Smart city traffic control applications can be extremely beneficial for an urban environment. They divert traffic in the case of an incident, keeping people moving and reducing the risk of additional incidents. The benefits of this type of application include saving millions of dollars in lost productivity, decreased carbon footprint, increased quality of life and more. The functioning of this basic smart city application relies on the much of the same technology that is used in safe city solutions: video, sensors, analytics, and others. Leveraging technology is both a strategic and efficient use of resources.

Safety and Security First

As in any new field, buzz words will keep coming out. However, when you strip out all the hype, the main objective of any smart city initiative is the value it provides citizens and governments. And there simply is no value to what could be the smartest application without it being based on a foundation of personal and public safety and security.

Call them safe, smart or safe smart cities, at the end of the day it’s all about making technology work to improve aspects of our lives – and safety and security are always first and foremost.