Smart city security spells opportunity for integrators

James Hill, electronic security sales manager,
NG Bailey

“The UK capital performed well in the rankings due to its adoption rate for smart technologies, from street lighting to traffic management. But hooking up a few streets to intelligent systems does not make a smart city. As with all ambitious city-wide initiatives, security has a major, early stage role to play.” says James Hill electronic security sales manager, NG Bailey’s IT Services division

Broadly speaking, this role splits into two kinds of work: ‘onsite’ and ‘offsite’. The latter refers to the job of securing connected systems in publicly available spaces such as streets, parks and squares, while the former focuses on connected systems that serve a single building or campus. This distinction matters for all sorts of reasons. Offsite work typically requires a greater degree of remote access control. City-wide traffic management data, for example, as collected from street-by-street IP-CCTV installations, needs to be collated and analysed at a central source before decisions can be made on how to reduce congestion by redirecting the traffic. Typically (but not always) offsite work covers a much wider area and, as a result, requires more resources and a longer period of time to implement before its benefits are felt. Commonly, the objectives for offsite are also grander and more ambitious than those for onsite; ‘reduce the amount of litter on our streets’ (by installing smart sensors in public bins that will alert refuse collectors when full) is a good example.


Onsite work, conversely, comes with a different set of parameters. The connected systems are, by definition, confined so the required deployment timescales are usually shorter. That’s a good job too, since the objectives for onsite work are mostly commercial, which inevitably means greater pressure to demonstrate Return on Investment (RoI) at the earliest opportunity. But, on the flipside, these installations can also be more complex in nature.

When building and campus management systems are all migrating to IP including, amongst others, lighting, heating/air conditioning, CCTV and access control, a greater degree of converged and centralised management is enabled. This brings with it a dizzying array of data source combinations, each of which can be combined, parameterised and analysed to deliver new insights that can boost operational efficiency. Or reduce energy consumption. Or improve traffic flow. Or streamline systems maintenance. Or increase campus security…. The biggest challenge with ‘onsite’ is not in performing the installation itself, it is in identifying precisely what it is that you want to achieve with your new smart building’s systems.


But regardless of how modest or ambitious these objectives are, security must remain paramount. After all, in the wrong hands, the management systems governing a hyper-connected building, or worse, a city’s transport infrastructure, have the potential to wreak never-before-seen levels of disruption. With this in mind, system vulnerabilities must be identified and resolved from the word ‘go’.

This is a big opportunity for the UK’s integrators. With the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), millions of devices, appliances, machines and vehicles are now capable of sharing data. London’s population is 8.6 million and in 2014 it welcomed over 17.4 million tourists. That’s an awful lot of connections, and a massive user-base for the city’s onsite and offsite infrastructures.

How best to address the security challenge? A cohesive approach between security and IT professionals is both a sound and necessary starting point. Establishing a robust set of security standards, upon which connected systems can base future development will also assist in securing interoperability and data exchange.

Finally, first-hand implementation experience will count for a lot, especially in these early days when everything is being hooked up. NG Bailey’s IT Services division has already amassed a tremendous bank of specialist knowledge installing IP-converged security systems across the capital and beyond. These implementations migrate formerly standalone systems like physical access control, CCTV and site-wide floodlighting onto a centrally managed IT network, creating an automated system that increases both the safety of personnel and the protection of a site’s assets.

Our work to integrate other building control systems onto the same network, such as lighting, heating, air conditioning and machine fault monitoring is the next step on the road to the creation of truly smart buildings, and is already arming businesses with the potential to make significant dents in their energy consumption and overall carbon footprint.

Over the next five years, the impact of IoT and connected security will continue to bring profound changes to the infrastructures supporting smart cities like London. But both care and quality is needed from the capital’s integrators during this time of plenty. Get it right, and all the work to establish London’s hyper-connectivity will pay off; the wellbeing of its populace will increase, the performance of the city will be enhanced, and its costs and resource consumption will reduce. This is the ultimate prize.


This blog published by the author James Hill, electronic security sales manager, NG Bailey’s IT Services division

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