The notion of creating a smart and sustainable future may seem like a daunting challenge. Fortunately, the United Nations has created a blueprint for building that future with their Sustainable Development Goals. Central to these goals is the understanding that building a safe world is predicated on building sustainable cities. The idea of the smart city is aligned with these principles and is already showing how innovative and positive implementation of IoT technology can help realise the future we want.
Safety, resilience, and sustainability are critical values for any smart city today—and a well-executed smart surveillance system can offer value in all of those categories. Security is an important component of any smart city, and security applications can impact every layer of the smart city ecosystem. But while the efficiency advantages of an IoT infrastructure for utilities like water and power are obvious, it can be a bit more challenging to understand how smart security management solutions can impact sustainability. Fortunately, IoT-based security solutions tend to excel with both flexibility and scale to make sustainability within reach.
The core premise of smart cities is predicated on scalability — and that means that the tools being used for smart city security applications aren't functionally that different from the average smart surveillance system you might have in your home.
The IoT devices that make up a smart city's infrastructure will often be more rudimentary than what's sold to consumers. However, the biggest difference comes down to the sheer volume of data being processed. Hypothetically, a smart city's smart security grid could encompass surveillance and access systems on everything from residential to business to recreational areas.
Functionally, the demands of everyday life and the necessary complications of protecting privacy and ensuring accountability means security systems often need to be specialised and flexible in ways that utilities don't. There are already concerns that could lead to a surveillance state.
A good urban-level security system facilitates rigid protection and efficient response in an emergency while also offering the capacity to change security rules or infrastructure fluidly and deliver actionable data with accuracy. Moreover, smart security systems offer citizens and city operators significant advantages when properly utilised. Accountability is important, though, because a poorly implemented security plan can lead to ransomware attacks.
The emergence of the original gated communities is just a magnification of an unfortunate reality throughout the world: that peace of mind often requires a sizeable investment. But since smart surveillance systems are inherently affordable and scalable, they can create better community equity by providing efficient security to everyone.
But there's also a level of convenience that IoT can bring to everyone. The accessibility of cloud-based information lets homeowners and renters monitor, activate, and adjust their security system on the fly — but security applications can offer convenience that applies outside of the home as well. Seamless smart security can lower the hassle of navigating the office, streamline the check-in process for couriers and delivery drivers throughout a city, and provide a more effective response in the case of a disaster or emergency.
On a baseline level, smart security infrastructure offers the same advantages that smart utility infrastructure does. It dramatically reduces labour demands, provides a more appealing and immediate experience for consumers, and offers the capacity to quickly and cheaply scale security solutions and tactics to match circumstantial needs.
But the single biggest benefit of a smart security system may be the big data that comes with it. Whether you're looking for data on how best to situate your security patrols or provide a swift chain of command for emergency response systems, more data offers a more nuanced perspective on security and delivers more accurate results.
No smart infrastructure can work without the clever deployment of IoT devices, but the demands are particularly exacting when working with a security system. As with a more traditional security system, smart security comprises sensors and cameras. These two core security infrastructure components allow you to easily register attempted access into restricted areas with access control systems and archive more important information on how and why people access certain areas using surveillance cameras. At their most basic, these systems provide citizens with a binary representation of security violations and more precise but localised information provided through camera feeds.
Functionally, these two variables can be combined to offer a range of actionable data — but creative application allows smart security systems to take any number of different forms. A larger analysis of this combination of sensors and cameras can provide an exceedingly sophisticated analysis of criminal patterns. Still, IoT devices can be combined in far more creative manners as well. Discounting analysis of human crime can offer deep insight into the actions of wildlife in a specific area, and cameras have even been used to help document the growth or decline of endangered species. While sensors and cameras may be relatively rudimentary devices, how and where they're applied can dramatically impact the execution of a security system — and clever implementation can provide the specialised insight you wouldn't find with a more traditional security system.
Smart city security infrastructure can take several forms, from university campuses to industrial complexes to legitimate and thriving metropolises. But while the possible configurations may be broad, the use cases are narrower than they initially seem. Here's how smart technology backed by a smart city operations centre can dramatically improve your security measures in your smart city or smart space.
A smart surveillance system typically consists of a system of security cameras linked together in a unified command-and-control centre. The immediate practical purposes of a smart surveillance system are recognisable to all of us: documenting the circumstances surrounding a future security breach. But a unified smart security management system offers increased versatility and utility. Well-placed cameras can be used to document who comes and goes from an office building's lobby or provide accurate information when citizens drive through red lights. They can also document local animal populations or observe traffic patterns to streamline road systems.
Since these cameras are relatively primitive, they're affordable, scalable, and mobile. Once a city has access to these devices, they can reconfigure and experiment with them as the situation demands and have real-time data to back their decision-making. And if all of this data is connected to a unified smart city operation centre, city operators can gain deeper insights from that information using artificial intelligence analysis.
TPrivacy is an ever-present concern when developing a camera-heavy security management solution, but the visual insight that security systems offer can improve other smart services. The ability to get eyes on a potential utility issue from a smart city operations centre, analyse the effectiveness of public transit patterns, or examine pedestrian shoppers' habits can directly impact the services offered within a smart city.
Traditional office or apartment call boxes that sync up to the personal phones of tenants represent a long-lasting and low-tech example of access control. Keypads and fingerprint readers offer similarly automated methods for regulating entry into a specific building or area. But smart access control systems seriously improve the agility and functionality of these tried-and-true security management solutions. Smart versions of these existing access control systems still serve as the lynchpin for a smart access control system, bringing new insights.
Since they don't require visual identification, a smart access control system can be a more effective way of analysing the pedestrian traffic patterns of individuals — and there are often more insights to be gained since this type of smart security management often requires credentials. With more readily available information for analysis, city operators can have a lot more leverage to improve efficiency. And that information also allows for the integration of more sophisticated filters regarding who can and can't enter a given area.
Emergencies happen, but smart security management solutions can be utilised in many ways to mitigate the risk. Cameras can be used in conjunction with IoT utility hardware to predict mechanical failures on trains, respond more effectively to gas leaks, or isolate roadway features that increase the risk of accidents. While preparation is one of the best ways to prevent accidents, smart security management systems can also facilitate first responders when an incident does occur.
With careful and vigilant execution, smart security can improve transparency rather than obscure it. Access control systems built on smart tech can help firefighters determine who's inside a burning building, and smart surveillance can help smart responders quickly identify and quarantine fleeing criminals or those with hostages. And having a citizen-facing application means that transmitting this critical information to the overall population is easy.
Dystopian science fiction has warned of the potential dangers that come from surveillance and security systems for decades. Still, they also provide us with an important blueprint for avoiding pitfalls. A sustainable security system creates more equity and a better experience for citizens while supporting other smart grids in a larger network. There are over a thousand projects based around smart urban development worldwide, and the advent of 5G technology will only boost those numbers. Smart security will be an essential factor in all of these communities. Developing good habits can ensure that these tools create a smart and sustainable future.
Of course, smart applications bring their own security risks. Having everything connected via the Internet of Things means that any of them can be used as an access point for a larger scale criminal or terrorist attack, but that's why it's important to build solid infrastructure now. If we're to build a reasonable path forward, it will require some adjustments to our existing systems and infrastructure. That means establishing recognised international standards for smart security protocol, adjusting our existing training regimens for first responders to incorporate these new technologies better, and using security applications to deliver transparency in how smart city data is delivered to citizens.
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