Safety in the age of the smart city

Urban planners, regional and state governments, and businesses welcoming this influx have to make important decisions about safety and security in the age of the smart megacity, writes George Moawad.

People continue to flock to urban centres. By 2030, the United Nations anticipates that 41 megacities across the globe will inhabit a whopping 410,000,000 citizens. Closer to home, our cities continue to accommodate the vast majority of Australia’s population growth with the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) showing that 79 percent of growth in 2017-2018 occurred in state capitals and Canberra.

George Moawad

Safe cities attract businesses, foster innovation, and provide countless opportunities. By working collaboratively, both public and private sectors can contribute to a foundation for the success of these great cities and their citizens.

But how do we construct and manage cities so that everything, and everyone, flows smoothly today and in the future – particularly ensuring a city’s resilience after a major incident, unplanned event or emergency?

Open communications

The resilience of cities depends on the open communication and connection between a wide variety of systems and organisations. Gone are the days when urban safety was the sole responsibility of law enforcement. Businesses, traffic control, public works, schools, transport, hospital administrations, etc., all have important roles to play and can add meaningful—often vital—input into city decisions and emergency response plans.

For example, the earthquake and Tsunami that struck Japan in 2011 destroyed one of the country’s main highways. Within six days of the disaster, as part of that country’s emergency plan, the highway was completely repaired, including road lane markings. Planning for road markings might not seem the obvious choice to prioritise during disaster recovery, but it absolutely helped facilitate the flow of disaster relief efforts.

Unfortunately, the meticulous advance planning and extensive collaboration this requires isn’t (at this point in time) the norm. Instead, business leaders, city planners, infrastructure leaders, Fire and Rescue and law enforcement can often end up working in silos, leading to breakdowns in communication, missed opportunities and lapses in city security. During an emergency, these silos turn into blind-spots and a lack of cooperation can create opportunities for criminal activity, making a city and its people more vulnerable.

Break down these silos, and great things can happen.

Technology binds

Technology plays a vital role in collaboration between the public and private sectors. Cities need solutions where video surveillance streams and data from IP sensors can be correlated, analysed and shared quickly with relevant parties. Having a complete picture can make all the difference, and advances in IP technology mean that video surveillance, access control, automatic license plate recognition (ALPR) and powerful analytics can now all work together to help protect cities.

Smart cities across Australia are getting on board.

Ipswich, in Queensland, is one of Australia’s fastest growing cities. Embracing the concept of open data, they’ve built a central city data platform “so anyone can access, use and share approved open data” from the city’s smart infrastructure. By integrating Council data with state and federal government data, as well as private sector and utilities data, they’re working to create a holistic view of the City employing 5D data modelling.

To create its own complete picture of what’s happening at any point in time, the City of Parramatta in NSW is reviewing a range of sensor options to collect relevant data to better inform the city’s decision making processes on congestion, health, heat, transport, safety, activation, events and community cohesion.

And further north, the City of Darwin is upgrading its existing lighting to new and smarter technology with individually controlled LED lights which amongst many other use cases, will help to reduce anti-social behaviour and increase insights for emergency services.

A life saver

From systems that combine video surveillance and incident response solutions to help law enforcement manage incident response flow, through to physical security systems which enable collaborative investigations by police, investigators and security managers, unified technology solutions can quite literally save lives.

Increasing communications and sharing data across the private and public sectors can improve security for everyone.

Balanced collaboration is the key.

*George Moawad is Country Manager ANZ, Genetec Inc

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