5 steps to smarter, safer cities

It seems that at every turn, there is buzz surrounding the Internet of Things (IoT) and the benefits it can bring to the world around us, says Mike Beevor, field chief technologist, Pivot3.

With the increase in the use of connected devices and other infrastructure, it is only fitting that global organisations are looking to leverage the data from these systems to improve public safety and quality of life for citizens through the creation of Smart Cities.

Safe City and Smart City initiatives are emerging as a reliable, efficient and cost-effective way to ensure comprehensive protection for people and property as well as more sustainable urban environments. But city leaders must take action to reap the benefits offered through the IoT when it comes to creating these spaces. Let’s explore five steps that can help create a Smart and Safe City.

Step 1: Take small steps

 There is a tremendous amount of planning involved in implementing a Smart City project. While the infrastructure utilised will vastly improve the lives of residents, no one wants to deploy a system for which the community is just not ready. Rather than being overly ambitious, city leaders must begin with a small project that has minimal cost or risk involved in which the results can be simply measured and demonstrated.

Step 2: Consult the experts

Technology experts are one of the best resources for a city looking to achieve Smart City status. By creating a small committee of those who have strong local ties to the city and possess knowledge in a variety of sectors, such as telecommunications, video surveillance, physical security, cybersecurity, data security and analysis, critical infrastructure operations and IT network design, experts can take the technical jargon from these various pieces and translate their benefits into layman’s terms. This can assist city leaders in identifying and narrowing down potential solutions, while also giving them an opportunity to work with engaged citizens who are willing to help the cities they call home evolve for the greater good.

Step 3: Involve the public and your own agencies

Mike Beevor

Involving the public and getting their buy-in for any Safe or Smart City initiative is critical. There are numerous examples of cities that have deployed technologies under the radar, particularly with video surveillance and facial recognition, that resulted in negative feedback. The community must be involved in the process and be made aware of the capabilities of technology and what city leaders hope to accomplish.

The formation of a public safety academy or committee is helpful in educating residents in a peer-to-peer manner about the benefits of Smart City infrastructure and technologies. It is also extremely important to engage with representatives from the various city agencies, such as first responders, police and fire, and commercial enterprises, to benefit from the extensive networks of information and various data points that are helpful for Smart City initiatives.

Step 4: Take control of your data 

Nothing can derail a project faster than issues regarding privacy. Whether it’s data generated from day-to-day operations or through the use of a new device or software program, city leaders must take complete control of data and have clearly defined rules about who can and cannot access it. Data must also be kept safe from cyber criminals and the public should be made aware of not only what data is being collected, but also what is being done to safeguard it. Now more than ever, the public is better educated on data privacy and security, and with cyber threats continuing to increase and evolve in sophistication, earning the public’s trust is paramount.

Step 5: Future-proof your city

Smart City initiatives can be used as a way to future-proof systems for the next wave of IoT innovation. For example, by deploying intelligent infrastructure that can manage the demands of IoT and is scalable in nature, Smart City solutions have the potential to grow and evolve to meet the needs of the city, while housing the petabytes or zettabytes of data that will be generated.

Mapping out a Smart City can be complex, but by taking these steps into consideration and continuously involving all key stakeholders, leaders can benefit from opportunities to improve public safety and quality of life creating safer, smarter spaces for those who call these cities home.

The author is Mike Beevor, field chief technologist, Pivot3.

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